Can’t fish? Take to the skies!

By Jeff Whitten


Can’t fish? Take to the skies!

Derrick Taylor flies a model airplane he built. Staff Photo by Jeff Whitten

Elementary School teacher Derrick Taylor, of Leapwood, began building and flying model airplanes because he was having engine trouble on his boat and couldn’t fish.

He came across some youtube videos by accident of people making and flying model airplanes and decided to try it for himself.

“I thought, ‘that’s pretty neat.’ I didn’t think it was something that I could necessarily accomplish because I thought it was quite a complicated process,” he said.

However, he downloaded plans from the internet and watched some videos on how to make the planes.

He then built one and flew it “for a few seconds.”

“Then I tried again and tried again, crashing it after about a day,” he continued.

After crashing about three planes, Taylor purchased simulator software.

“Playing with that simulator for four or five hours made all the difference. You can wreck it over and over again and learn from your errors,” he said.

“I practiced flying on the computer and it didn’t cost me anything when I wrecked a plane,” he explained.

Taylor started with a “three-channel” plane, which is one with a rudder and an elevator. The rudder makes the plane go left and right and the elevator makes it go up and down. 

Once he mastered the three-channel plane, he moved on to a four-channel one, which includes ailerons. 

“That allows you to do the tricks like barrel rolls and knife edges. That’s when I started getting more tricky and since I’ve done that I’ve gone back to wrecking more planes,” he chuckled.

After figuring how to build and fly these planes, “Now I am able to build a plane and keep it for a while before I have to build a new one because of a wreckage,” he said.

“Now it’s pretty rare for me to crash one, unless I’m trying something new, some trick or something like that,” he said.

At first he thought “everything had to be just perfect” but then started using the “looks about right method.”

“I learned from mistakes, making an adjustment in the length of a wing or a fuselage. There are slight things you have to think about like the center of gravity. That’s one of the most important things you have to think about because if you get too much weight in the back of the plane, it’ll fly tail-heavy. When you get your fuselage too short, you’re constantly wavering in the air,” Taylor said.

When asked how many people engage in this hobby, Taylor said that there is a club in Jackson and he has heard there is also one in Shiloh.

Though Taylor’s planes, like most, have an electric engine, “there are a few real good pilots, we call them, old-timers  who are still flying with gas engines.”

Taylor was briefly interested in this hobby when he was a boy, but “when I looked into the gas engine prices and the prices of buying a nice plane, it was just astronomical, but with the new technology of small electric engines, kind of like the motors that are in a CD Rom, you can buy those for $5 apiece. Crashing a motor or bending a shaft is not such a big deal if it only costs $5-6 to replace it.”

Less expensive engines and the internet allowed more people to participate in this hobby, according to Taylor. 

“On the internet, there’s a whole culture of R/C (radio control) foamie flyers. Of course, that’s what we make our planes out of (foam insulation),” Taylor explained.

The most expensive part of the plane is the transmitter and receiver, Taylor said.

“It has kind of inspired a little, slight desire to really fly a plane,” he revealed.

In some ways flying a model plane is more difficult than flying a regular one because the orientation changes depending on whether the plane is coming toward the “pilot” or going away from him.

“You have to mentally put yourself in that little plane, so when you’re changing directions, your  mind can interpret the correct direction,” he explained.

Taylor said the biggest plane he ever built was one with a wingspan of about eight to nine feet.

He explained that he built that one to carry a high-definition video camera.

When asked what is the largest airplane that could be built, “the skies the limit.”

He said he found one model plane on the internet, dubbed “Pink Floyd” because it is made out of pink insulation, that is about the size of a “normal Cessna.”

Taylor pointed out that the larger the plane, the easier it is to control because the larger the wings, the more lift there will be.

However, the bigger the plane, the bigger the motor and the controllers for the wings and rudders will have to be. This will cause larger planes to be more expensive.

Taylor grew up in Manchester, in middle Tennessee. He attended Freed-Hardeman University. He teaches fourth grade at Beech Bluff Elementary School in Madison County.

His wife’s name is Sonya and they have two children, Zane, who is 11 years old, and Elva, who is 9.

His hobby comes in handy in his work as he sometimes takes a plane to school to illustrate the laws of physics.