Model aircraft soar at expo in Garden City

Plainview resident Vincenzo Ianni, 12, looks at The

Plainview resident Vincenzo Ianni, 12, looks at The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at the Cradle of Aviation Museum's Eighth Annual Flying Model Expo in Uniondale. (May 18, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

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Dozens of model aircraft, from World War II-era bombers to foam-based planes shaped like Iron Man, were exhibited Saturday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, as builders, hobbyists and novices gathered for the largest showcase of its kind on Long Island.

The ninth annual Flying Model Expo featured more than 75 radio-controlled aircraft, many of which were paired with the museum's full-sized counterparts.

Micro planes zipped through the museum's lobby while others took a spin outside on the grounds of the former Mitchel Air Force base, once the center of Long Island aviation.

Event organizer Bob Grassik spent years in his basement building a 1934 Taylor Craft, a two-seat, single-engine civilian plane. Grassik, 61, of Babylon Village, said the hobby defies age, spans generations, and often unifies father and son.

"Once it's in your blood, you can't get it out," Grassik said. "It's a passion. An obsession."

Archie Defendini, 66, began crafting model planes when he was 11 growing up in Haiti. His collection now includes more than a dozen planes at his home in Farmingdale.

"It takes you back to a different time," said Defendini, a retired math teacher who built a Mitsubishi Zero, a long-range fighter plane used by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.

The expo attracted nearly a dozen pilot clubs from Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn and a host of extra visitors. But the builders acknowledge the hobby has failed to catch on with a new generation, who grow up more comfortable flying military jets on video game systems.

To attract a younger demographic, organizers hosted demonstrations with digital and electric-powered planes as well as flight simulators.

"If we don't get young people involved, it will die off when we die," said Richard Green, 74, of Lindenhurst, president of the Long Island Aero Modelers Association.

The expo will continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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