Photos, story by Fritz Busch
Dale Cordes says he's been interested in aviation since his father Herb took him to the New Ulm Airport near what is now the New Ulm Country Club for a ride in a two-seat plane about 60 years ago.
"I was about eight years old then. I've always been interested in airplanes since then," Cordes said.
Dale Cordes has built and flown many RC airplanes including one he designed himself to carry a video camera in front of the rear-facing engine.
Soon after that, he began building rubber-band powered, balsa wood free flight planes. He read about some of the first RC airplanes in magazines in the early 1950s.
As a teenager, Cordes worked at a downtown New Ulm gift and hobby shop that sold model airplanes and cars.
Joining the U.S. Air Force, Cordes won his first RC contest, winning a free flight gas contest while stationed at El Paso, Texas in 1959.
His military job involved armament and electronics pre-issue for B47 bombers - long-range, six-engine, jet-powered medium bombers built to fly at high subsonic speeds and high altitudes.
Cordes served four years in the Air Force before coming back to New Ulm.
Last month, he re-connected with the military at a Mankato air show that included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team.
The owner of many RC airplanes, Cordes took one of his favorites to the Mankato air show and took turns flying it with Blue Angels pilot Lt. John Hiltz.
"Lt. Hiltz said he never flew an RC plane before, but I was surprised how well he flew it," Cordes said. "He did a loop and flew perfectly straight coming out of it. Then he did a roll. Hiltz said the only thing that would be better than what he did would be flying in formation, which is what the Blue Angels do."
Cordes said he enjoys flying World War I biplanes the most of any antique aircraft because of the challenges they present in maintaining control.
He's built and flown many types of gas-powered and newer electric engine aircraft made of hollow-out styrofoam that are designed to be flown indoors.
During the winter months, Cordes enjoys flying the smaller, ultra-light RC planes with friends in Vogel Field House in New Ulm.
"I enjoy electric planes because they're more quiet, easier to start and don't pollute," Cordes added.
Some of his other flying sites include Evan, Cottonwood, Sioux Falls and as far away as Winnipeg, Los Angeles and Lake Charles, La.
Cordes enjoys mounting tiny video cameras on some of his larger planes. He's even designed his own video-equipped plane with a camera-mount in front of the engine.
A ham radio operator for more than 20 years, Cordes has a private pilot's license, although he hasn't flown a real airplane in many years.