Graziella Conte and Kathryn Clyne, both 8 and both of...

Graziella Conte and Kathryn Clyne, both 8 and both of of Bethpage,construct their balsa wood model plane before competing against other teams at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. (Jan. 11, 2014) Credit: Barry Sloan

Joey Campise released the propeller and tossed the hand-built plane into the air.

After disappointing test flights in which the plane veered or fell short of the construction paper "runway," this time the balsa wood model flew straight and hit its mark.

Its creators -- a team of 10- and 11-year-olds -- scored eight points, pulling them into the lead of Saturday's model plane-flying competition at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.

The event was co-hosted by the Long Island section of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.

About a dozen young competitors built their own planes, then competed in a series of challenges, including how long the models could stay in the air and how straight they could fly.

Joey, 10, of Bellerose, and his teammates -- Eric Anderson, 11, of West Hempstead, and Justin Canas, 10, also of Bellerose -- were crowned champions.

"It was fun," Joey said after his team's victory. "I'd never done it before, so it was definitely a fun experience."

Joey explained his winning technique, taught to him by a member of the aeronautics institute who spent the morning tutoring third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

"Let it go first," Joey said. "Just let the propeller go first, and then give it a little shove, then it should go perfect."

Institute chairman David Paris said the organization, whose members largely spent their careers in aviation and many of whom retired from Grumman Corp. and Fairchild Republic, hope the annual competition sparks an interest in flight.

"We're trying to build an interest in aviation for the next generation," Paris said.

Joey's mom, Julia Campise, said the competition taught her son and his friends how to work together and take direction to accomplish a goal.

And, on a rainy day, she cited another plus: It kept the boys off the couch playing video games.

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