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Meet the Airplane Man

By Megan DeBruyn and Paige Reisman in Student News

Those of you who park or get dropped off at the bottom of the school every day have probably noticed an older man camped out on Knox street in his pajamas flying model airplanes over the expanse of grass near the Rec Center. Maybe you are not curious like us and mind your own business as you pass him by. Well kudos to you for not being the nosy, in-your-face type, but some of us can not rest until we get to the bottom of mysteries like Airplane Man. Or at least, that’s what we used to call him. This 67-year-old’s real name is Xiaoyu Li...but maybe he will still be referred to as Airplane Man.As we approached Airplane Man, he was up out of his chair, clutching his controller, toggling the joysticks with finesse, eyeing a small airplane that was growing larger by the moment, careening towards the grass. Finally the plane touched ground, perhaps a little more roughly than Xiaoyu intended, as a small piece broke off the nose of the plane.

This three year veteran to Fairview’s ideal aviation location wasn’t perturbed by the damages; he recovered his 5 foot long Easy Glider Pro* model airplane. He intentionally flies a plane made of foam rather than wood in order to minimize the costs of paying for damages. He also prefers planes of a smaller size (5 feet is on this end of the spectrum) due to their acrobatic abilities. When asked why Fairview High School proved to be the best location for flying, all Xiaoyu had to say was, “The view!”

He also cherishes the quiet of the morning, (interrupted occasionally by nosy reporters), as well as the crisp, windless weather, ideal for flying. Xiaoyu has harbored a love for airplanes for many years, and taught himself to fly model airplanes 15 years ago. After taking some years off from his hobby in order to focus on raising his kids and working he returned to flying indoors at the South Boulder Rec Center in the winter of 2009. He then moved his hobby outside to our very own frisbee golf field the following spring.

For the most part, Airplane Man tries to keep a low-profile. However, one incident he reflected upon involved a suspicious parent calling police forces to inspect a man who she claimed could be a terrorist. With the attacks of 9-11 nine years prior, this said parent was worried when she saw an airplane circling Fairview High School. The police questioned Xiaoyu and realized, just as we did, that he is simply a quiet, friendly, older man who likes to fly airplanes, and disregarded any further complaints about his presence.

Worse than being called a terrorist, Xiaoyu has had to deal with rescuing his plane from trees on three separate occasions. The first two times he managed to get his plane down by using a ladder and a large metal pole, however, on the most recent incident, he had to hire a tree-climbing specialist to help with the rescue.

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