, Newburyport, MA

January 2, 2013

Model airfield too valuable to be shut down

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I went out to get the paper from my driveway a little late today. It was cold and wet, the plastic was covered with a film of sleet. As I brushed the sleet off the cover, I saw the headline “Model plane club grounded” — it was a cold day indeed, but not due to the weather.

We often lament that our children are scholastic and cultural victims of video and computer games that trap them indoors, and that our schools are not educating, which causes widespread ignorance and a myriad of sociopathic behavior. We are dismayed that our science and engineering matriculation rates are dismal compared to the developing world. Who else but we are to blame? We elect our government. We run our schools. We create the environment in which we live and rear our children.

Model planes have been a part of my life and millions of others. It is still an unequaled way to learn and apply mechanics, physics, aerodynamics, electronics, robotics and wireless communications. It takes serious construction skill, patience, eye-hand coordination and practice to successfully build and fly a model airplane. No other hobby combines as many aspects of engineering, science, physical and mental skills in one completely creative activity. It also develops strong social camaraderie from the learning and interaction to solve design problems, as well as through competition at all levels (see

Best of all, it takes place outside in the very real world! Model aircraft require space to fly, and they can make a bit of noise (sometimes), but we should in no way deny this valuable activity to any person, young and old alike. Flying fields are the most precious resource the activity has, and enthusiasts travel many miles in order to fly — without a field it is all meaningless.

Shutting down the model airfield in West Newbury because of one complaint and the coincidental unearthing of a legal technicality that has not been a problem for 18 years just seems a little too convenient. Why does it always have to work this way now? Activities that have been bringing real value and pleasure to many people for years suddenly irritate a few (or even one?), so a legal instrument is found and used in an unintended way to force the power of the government upon the said irritant.

Regardless of outcome, this action may just illustrate that we are ready to abandon the very things that have made us who we are and retreat deeper into the social solitude of our homes — further eroding our society. When we allow the government to increasingly intervene in our livelihood and become the final arbiter of our relationships, we have truly lost our sense of community and the freedom that has always ensured our success as a nation. If a bit of noise on a few summer weekends when the weather is good is the problem, are commissions, councils and government intervention really the only answer?

Lew Burridge