Lehrman to open model-plane exhibit

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JimLehrmanPlanesP1010013.jpg

Jim Lehrman of Goessel displays two of the model planes in his collection. He plans to open an exhibit of model planes in the old family-owned Lehrman Oil Co. building on Goessel?s Main Street.David Vogel /Free Press

Since he was a boy, Jim Lehrman has had a passion for building and flying model airplanes. And he enjoys sharing that passion with the experienced modeler as well as the uninitiated.

In August, Lehrman hopes to share his hobby with the local folks in Goessel.

Growing up in that community, Lehrman was introduced at a young age to the traditional model airplanes made of the balsa wood frame and a light covering.

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David Vogel / Free Press. Jim Lehrman has enjoyed model planes since his youth.

?When I was a kid, nearly every boy in town did model airplanes,? he said. ?I was kind of the youngest kid and all the older kids did it and my brother did it. I just joined the crowd.?

His modeling slowed after he moved to Wichita. Lehrman worked with the Raytheon Beech Aircraft Corp. and Learjet, both Wichita-based companies that produce airplanes for civilian and military use.

He moved back to Goessel about three years ago.

?For a while I didn?t do any modeling in the 1980s,? he said. ?Then I started again in the 1990s and have been doing it ever since.?

Although the popularity for youngsters to build and fly model airplanes has declined since the mid-1900s, through modeling organizations and competitions Lehrman has come in contact with many people of his own generation who enjoy it.

?There?s still a lot of people doing it,? he said.

As a member of the Wichita Historical Aircraft Modelers, and through his participation in the Society of Antique Modelers International?both organizations that are, according to the SAM Web site, ?devoted to building and flying antique, vintage and old-timer model airplanes??Lehrman has had the opportunity to attend many competi?tions.

?I like the competitions and all the people I come in contact with,? he said.

Lehrman enjoys attending the SAM Champs, a week-long tournament every fall for flying model airplanes. He recalled an incident that took place in Claremore, Okla., one year.

?It was real hot?110 degrees,? Lehrman said, ?so we were kind of keeping a watch on everybody. One guy had died already (from the heat).

?I was timing (a flight) for a fellow from Denver, and his plane went a long way. He went down behind a farmhouse looking for it and didn?t come back.?

Lehrman, getting nervous for the man?s welfare, told the contest director that he was going to go look for the Denver man. But before he left on his search, the guy returned in a pickup truck in good health.

?I asked him what happened,? Lehrman said.

?He said he knocked on the farmhouse door and no one was home, so he went behind the farmhouse and there was a swimming pool there. So he stripped naked and jumped in. He said it saved his life because he was so hot.?

In addition to meeting people, Lehrman also enjoys flying models and sometimes competing with models he has built.

?A lot of the planes I have come from kits,? he said. ?There are plans available for every plane that?s been designed from the 1930s through today.?

Lehrman said in order to make the model ?fly,? one must turn on the motor and start the propeller before launching it. After a few seconds, the motor shuts off and the model is left to glide by itself for two or three minutes.

Lehrman said he usually enters around five events each year.

?I enter different classes of free flight?it gets pretty involved,? he said. ?You need a different plane for each event, and a backup plane for each.?

Motioning to a larger red model, Lehrman said, ?This particular model was lost for three weeks in an Oklahoma farm pond.?

While flying it for amusement, Lehrman said the plane caught a thermal updraft and continued to glide straight up until he couldn?t see it anymore.

?The farmer found it and he fished it out, but he couldn?t carry it on his tractor. So he got the airport down in Perry, Okla., to come pick it up. He called me and I went there and got it back. It was bleached white by the time I recovered it.

?I had given up on it until the farmer found it,? he said.

The prodigal plane, as well as many other models from Lehrman and other local hobbyists, will be exhibited early next month in a model display Lehrman is coordinating.

The display will be located in the old Lehrman Oil Co. building on Goessel?s Main Street.

The family-operated gas station became vacant when Lehrman?s family closed it in the early 1970s. Now mostly a storage place for some of Lehrman?s models and trophies, he decided to invite others to display their models with his for the public to see.

?A lot of people have been asking about (showing their models) already,? he said. ?We?ll show whatever models they bring; anything from plastic display models to (flying models), and whatever else they do, like cars and boats.?

Lehrman hopes to open the display Aug. 1, and said if anyone is interested in contributing models, he or she should call him.

?I?m in the book,? he said.

?I?ve been modeling since I was a kid, and I?m still doing it,? Lehrman said. ?It?s just been a lot of fun through the years.?

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