LAKELAND — Starting Thursday (Oct. 20), the skies above Paradise Field in Lakeland will buzz with radio-controlled replica warplanes, biplanes and planes of yesteryear at the annual three-day 12 O'Clock High fly-in.
With some wingspans exceeding 6 feet, these aren't department store models. On average weighing 50 pounds and having as much as 20 or more horsepower — and costing up to $30,000.
"These aren't your kids RC models," said event organizer and promotor Frank Tiano. "These are serious hobbyists."
And Tiano should know — he has been interested in the hobby since 1951.
He eventually joined with two other enthusiasts to form an adhesive company in 1979, a company that today continues to make various types of model glues. Ten years later, in 1989, Tiano felt his hobby should be brought to the attention of the world.
"And that was Top Gun," he said. "Today it is an international event with industry support. It remains the only scale aero modeling event in the world with cash prizes."
However, Tiano stresses, 12 O'Clock High is not a competition.
"It's a fly-in," he said. "That means this isn't a competition. They just come out for the camaraderie, to come out and fly together."
Tiano said 12 O'Clock High draws about 100 pilots with 220 airplanes and as many as 4,000 spectators.
Paradise Field is located on a portion of Lakeland Airport property at 3875 W Pipkin Road. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday (Oct. 20-22). Besides the airplanes, there will be a food court as well as numerous hobby vendors. Admission is $10 at the gate, which includes parking and a pit pass. Children under 12 enter for free.