When some people think about retirement, they think about traveling and seeing the world — you know, adult things.

When Richard Despain entered his retirement years — a couple of decades ago — he thought about flying model airplanes, driving remote control cars and racing them down the hill with his friends like the 6-year-old child he once was.

Every morning for the past 20 years or so — minus Sundays — Despain and his buddies have met at various locations, most often Falcon Park in Sandy, to race their cars and fly their airplanes. Some even meet at local ponds to race boats.

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All year long, rain or shine, this group of friends from all walks of life — some of whom are actually retired airline pilots — get together to tell jokes, laugh, and of course, race their toys. They have even named themselves The Falcon Park Flyers, to commemorate their daily dose of fun.

"The thing is, we're in our 80s, but we act like we're 6 years old," Despain joked as he chased his monster truck down the hill. "When you get old, there's only certain things you can do, and this is one of them. We also sit and talk. We're great talkers."

There is a story behind all this, John Nelson said as he held tight to his remote control.

"Many, many years ago, I was flying model planes in the '60s — you know, the ones that used wires before they came out with the radio control?" Nelson said. "Then the parks all shut it down because they didn't like the noise of the motors or the gas killing the grass, so it kind of died down. Somebody developed an electric motor, and battery technology has increased to where we have these powerful batteries and we can run airplanes and cars off of them, so now (flying planes) have built back up again."

The Falcon Park Flyers laugh and talk while driving and flying their remote controlled cars and airplanes at Falcon Park in Sandy on Wednesday.
The Falcon Park Flyers laugh and talk while driving and flying their remote controlled cars and airplanes at Falcon Park in Sandy on Wednesday. | Laura Seitz

Nelson spoke about flying model planes being a lifelong love for most of them, and his friend Paul Viehweg agreed, adding that he enjoys watching the next generation of remote control vehicle enthusiasts.

"Little kids will run after us and chase the trucks," Viehweg said. "Most people love us, and some homeowners think we're insane. There are a lot of parents who come with their little kids, and the kids come to play with us. We can't have any gas; they're all electric. The gas will kill the grass if you spill it."

The group of retirees does most of their flying at Falcon Park because it is one of the only parks that will allow it. Because of that, the men say they make sure that they are good stewards of the park.

"Sandy City has allowed us to come here, so we're very protective of this park," Nelson said. "We don't fly when soccer players are here, and we don't block the sidewalk."

There are some days when weather doesn't permit the men to get to the park, and some days there are events when the park is occupied, and that's when they take their fun indoors.

This hobby, however, as most are, isn't just a morning endeavor, Viehweg said.

"I think I have 38 planes at home, and they're hanging everywhere around the garage, and the basement, and the car," Viehweg said. "We crash a lot. We come and fly in the morning, and we build and repair all night. If I was home all the time, I'd probably be driving my wife nuts."

And so it comes full circle. Retired or not, once a child, always a child. Everyone needs a chance to get out of the house and play.

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