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People: Joe Gilbert

Joe Gilbert is not a pilot, but he’s flown planes all over the country. When Joe was a child, his father taught him how to fly a Ringmaster, a stunt control-line model airplane, as it was something Joe’s father enjoyed doing. Today, Joe is a model plane hobbyist with over 40 model plans in his collection 𑁋 and he’s built about half of the collection himself. “I’ve flown a few of them so often their wings fell off,” Joe says, laughing.

Control-line airplanes can weigh between eight and 75 ounces and can fly up to 50 miles per hour. Joe knows lots of tricks, and one of his favorites to perform is the shape of an hourglass, where the plane dives to the ground and then is “pulled back up to complete the shape.”

Joe and his wife, Colleen, are frequent flyers and have attended over a dozen control-line model airplane competitions across the United States, including in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania. “The competitions are a reason to get together with [other enthusiasts],” Joe says. “There’s lots of camaraderie, and we all love each other like family.” 

Joe has placed 7th and 8th in a couple of competitions, and before the global outbreak of COVID-19, he qualified to compete on the United States control-line model airplane team in the World Championship for Control Line Aircraft in Poland. During competitions, Colleen helps Joe launch his plane, then she provides coaching throughout the flight.

“I’ll say, ‘Joe, fix your corner,” Colleen says. “Colleen helps navigate,” Joe says, adding that his wife’s direction helps him perform better. To win competitions, flyers participate in several rounds of flights until they’ve been eliminated or deemed the winner. “You must be able to perform several flights a day [for the judges],” Joe says. “It’s all about being able to consistently fly well.”

Even though the World Championship for Control Line Aircraft event, which was scheduled for August, has been cancelled, Joe and Colleen still have plenty of opportunities to fly. 

Joe is a member of the Tulsa Glue Dobbers Club, which is a group of members who share a passion for aviation and who enjoy building and flying model aircraft. Plus, Joe and Colleen regularly fly on the weekends. “We usually go Sunday after church,” Joe says.
That’s how two members of the We Are Sand Springs magazine team met Joe and Colleen: out enjoying a sunny afternoon in Sand Springs, their stunt control-line model airplane soaring high above them in the bright blue sky.

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