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LI expo thrills model airplane fans

Allan Frank of Plainview (holding remote) demonstrates an

Allan Frank of Plainview (holding remote) demonstrates an indoor radio controlled airplane. The Seventh Annual Flying Model Expo was held at The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. (March 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

Bob Grassick took one look at "Fuddy Duddy," a remote-control version of a World War II-era B-17 bomber, complete with gunner's turret, and was filled with admiration.

"That took thousands of hours to build," he said.

The Babylon man should know: He's built dozens of remote-control planes, starting at age 8.

Grassick was among hundreds of hobbyists attending Saturday's Flying Model Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.

"Look at the detail on the control panel," said Grassick, moving on to a miniature Fleet Pipe biplane featuring hand-painted cockpit gauges and a tiny goggled pilot.

Most of those who came to the expo to ooh and ogle were in their 30s or older, a fact that bothers model-plane enthusiasts like Grassick, 60. He organized the event seven years ago in hopes of introducing a new generation of children to the hobby.

"Our numbers are declining," he said. "Thirty years ago, the hobby was booming. Kids now never go outside. They're playing video games, playing with their computers, texting."

As if illustrating the point, Chris Mantzaris, a restaurant owner from Hicksville, pointed excitedly at the remote-control planes as his 14-year-old daughter trailed behind, texting on her phone.

Mantzaris, 37, though, sees potential for a video game crossover.

"With all the time they spend playing on flight simulators, they're going to be really good [model airplane] pilots," he said of young gamers. "You have to have really good eyes and depth perception."

Ten model airplane clubs from Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens participated in the expo, setting up informational tables. About a dozen planes were displayed.

John Akios, 38, of Bellmore, a music teacher at South Salem Elementary School in Port Washington, enjoys the thrill of building a plane and seeing it soar.

"It's like seeing your artwork in the sky," he said.

"Yeah, said Dennis Oslik, 63, of Westbury, a retired television producer who heads the Meroke Radio Control Club. "Until you crash."

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