For Gilbert’s Izard family, electric radio controlled model airplanes are more than just a hobby: They’re a family tradition.

Three generations, from Grandpa Sam Izard, 80, to his grandson, Taylor Izard, 14, participate in the activity, making a day of flying a day spent with family.

Over the coming weekend, Taylor will participate in the Arizona Electric Festival, where more than 200 pilots will demonstrate their radio-controlled aviation skills.

Taylor, who has previously attended the event with his grandpa and brother, Andy, 17, will be participating for the first time.

“It just looks like so much fun,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to do that; it’s so exciting to watch them fly.”

Taylor will be flying some of his family’s five electric airplanes at the event. The Electric Festival includes the flying of electric helicopters, on-site vendors who will answer questions and sell models and supplies, and special events, including flying combat sessions.

For Taylor, he’s often the youngest person out at the flying fields. But being in the minority is something he enjoys.

“It’s fun to be with some older people,” he says. “They have a whole lot of interesting stories and different techniques of flying, and they build their own airplanes. That kind of thing really interests me.”

The age demographic leans toward the older crowd due to the expense of the models, but the activity has a lot in common with what some young people spend much of their time doing.

“I guess it’s like video games,” Taylor’s brother, Andy, says. “It’s real similar as far as having the little thumb-sticks.”

But unlike video games, when you crash a model airplane, you don’t wait for the game to reset itself and start again.

“It’s not like just going, and ‘Yeah, we’ll do some loops and rolls, and we’ll just mess with it,’ ” says Andy. “It’s like, ‘Wait a second, this is my plane, I have to pay for anything that goes wrong.‘”

For Taylor, it’s more than just a hobby that teaches him responsibility; it’s the gateway to a career. He’s been flying with his dad, Brian, most of his life and has what his brother calls “the flying bug.”

“I want to do something with aviation, whether it’s being a pilot or doing some other kind of aerodynamic designing or something like that,” Taylor says. “Maybe NASA. I’d love to do something like that.”

“He’s gone from helicopters to small planes and models,” Andy says. “He’s probably 10 to one going to have a career in aviation.”

That’s not something that’s uncommon out on the airfields. The boys’ father has a pilot’s license, and many others have aviation experience.

That experience makes for a number of good stories.

“One of the people I’ve flown with, he’s a Navy pilot,” says Taylor. “It’s really interesting to just hear him talk.”

But what really makes flying model airplanes so fun for the Izards is that they get to do it together.

“Going out and flying by yourself, it would be a lot of fun,” says Andy. “But when you get the whole family and go down to the flying field, it’s just kind of special.”

• Preston, a junior studying journalism at Arizona State University, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or

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