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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Aviation: Where Crashing Your Toys is Helpful

August 29, 2011

It was a typical hot and sunny Fresno afternoon but unusual out-of-classroom training was happening between hangars with SJVC Aviation Technology program director Richard Simmons and Instructor Smith.

As he bent over Aviation Maintenance student Raj Winder’s temporarily crashed model helicopter, Simmons said, “This is what flying [model aircraft] is all about.”

“Fixing stuff,” agreed Winder.

Program Director Richard Simmons talks with student Raj Winders about his model helicopter

“Until you get used to flying,” Simmons finished.

Although flying model aircraft may seem more like after-school fun then in-class learning, Simmons claims it is a practical outlet for both.  Because model aircraft are made in the same style as real-life aircraft, they contain the same working parts that need to be fixed when they crash.

“And when students are just starting to fly model aircraft, they crash a lot,” says Simmons, effectively ensuring they learn while they play around.

Although starter model aircraft have fairly nominal price tags, the more sophisticated models can cost thousands of dollars and fly as fast as 300mph.  Smith, an aviation instructor at SJVC, says planes do much of the higher speeds while helicopters are more about stability and control.

“I had a lot of confusion about flying,” says Winder, “but Mr. Simmons helped me to see it with the models.”

Because of the direct practicality of repairing model airplanes, Simmons, Smith and students like Winder have discussed forming a club for more organized flying.  After a successful meeting this month, they hope to have one in place shortly.

Stay tuned at for more insights into a day in the life of our Aviation students!

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