The "Platter-man"

Obituary: Bill Osborne, 89, model airplane enthusiast, dies
By Susan McDonough, STAFF WRITER
ALAMEDA -- The Bill Osborne Model Flying Field was quiet Monday until Jim Ogg showed up with his Gotcha 550 model airplane.
A little gasoline in its engine, and pretty soon the wooden plane was zipping through a perfectly blue sky, trailing a puff of white engine fuel behind it.

Osborne, a model airplane enthusiast and the airfield's namesake, died Saturday in his sleep. He was 89.

A longtime Alameda resident, Osborne had moved to a Southern California nursing home with his third wife, Mary Alice Osborne, in December to be closer to family, Osborne's sister-in-law, Pat Osborne, said Monday.

Mary Alice Osborne died in June.

Bill Osborne's health had been failing in recent months, Pat Osborne said. Her brother-in-law will be cremated and interred locally with his first wife, Kay, who died more than 20 years ago, she said.

Osborne, a former aeronautic mechanic at the Alameda Naval Air Station, was among a group of local model airplane hobbyists who conceived the idea for the park, which has been located across from Chuck Corica Golf Course here since 1947.

Osborne taught thousands of local kids to fly the tethered airplanes and until recently he was at the field every Sunday morning, friends said. He picked up litter and readied the place for control-line pilots who crowd the park on weekends with their foam-board airplanes and engine-powered toys.

"It's like dancing," said Ogg, who built his first model airplane at 16 and rekindled the hobby a few years ago after retiring as an engineer.

He met Osborne on the field a few years ago.

Old timers around the field have always said building the field kept Osborne alive, Ogg said.

The sun-drenched park received a sprinkler system recently, and sure enough, Ogg said, "the field got completed and he died."

Osborne taught lessons on building model airplanes and flying them for years through the Alameda Recreation and Parks department. A 1990 article about Osborne said he spent some $2,000 out of his own pocket for benches and flight pads for the city-owned field.

The Osborne Model Flying Field is one of the oldest in the country, and has given countless kids something more to do than play video games, said Herman Lee, a Bill Osborne protege and successor in the Aer-O-Nuts, a flying club Osborne started and led for years.

"He did a good thing," Ogg said

with the kids

Bill assembling a new "Platter" for some newcomers.

Kevin Antaki and Eric Reed with  control-line legend, Bill Osborne.

To find him, look on a AAA map of the Oakland/Alameda area and you will see a pin size circle at the north-east corner across from the golf course off of Doolittle Drive near the Oakland Airport. The name on the map says it is the Model Aircraft Flying Field. Actually it is the Bill Osborne Model Flying Field as it reads on the sign. The field is too small to fly R/C, but we do fly another form of gas-powered model airplane that is even more fun and just as rewarding.

Every Sunday morning at 8:00 am, Bill himself is out there picking up the litter, readying the field for the children who'll come to learn or fly their airplanes. He was solely responsible for procuring this site from the City of Alameda. That?s why the field is named after him. Bill, who is in his 80's, is attempting to revive a hobby that is just about non-existent to the younger generation. It?s Control-Line Model Aircraft or sometimes know as C/L or U/L for U-Control.

Bill welcomes kids of all ages to come to the field. He will teach them how to fly on a Cox PT19 trainer. If they are interested in model aircraft, Bill will give them a form to join the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics). A junior membership is only $13.00 a year which will cover their liability, plus they get a subscription to a monthly magazine Model Aviation. When they receive their AMA card, Bill will give them an airplane kit and an engine absolutely free.

A couple of times a year, Bill sponsors a class with the Alameda Recreation and Park Department. He donates his time and money making model airplanes for youths in this class. Each student receives the"Platter", a foam-board airplane designed, built and tested by Bill. He has provided hundreds of these planes for our club, the Aer-O-Nuts  and the Alameda Recreation and Park classes.

 Although, Bill suffers from pain in his knees and back, and his hands shake from Parkinson disease, he still enjoys teaching the kids to fly. He just wants today?s youth to get excited about the field of model aviation instead of staying at home playing video games. Model aviation will teach them skills in science, physics, math and construction. It will also improve their physical skills such as timing and coordination. Most important, they will have fun and learn something.

Field Improvement 2001

Aer-O-Nut founder, Bill Osborne was honored at the WAM 2001 "Parade of Champion" banquet, for his effort in teaching and promoting Control Line Flying.

Bill, promoting control-line model flying at one of many airshows.

Bill on the U.S.S Hornet



Bill died quietly in his sleep, Saturday, October 11th, 2003.


Heman Lee