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Radio-controlled aircraft soars across sky

About a mile west of Highway 93 off the beaten path, sits one of Lake County’s smallest airfields. But you can’t buy a ticket or even catch a flight. 

The airfield, located at the corner of Minesinger Trail and Farm Road, is home to the Mission Valley Model Aviators (MVMA), a group of operators of radio-control model-aircraft who can be found virtually every nice weekend putting their planes through loops, barrel rolls, figure eights and low passes. 

Recently, a handful of club members and visiting RC pilots spread their collective wings and took to the skies for an impromptu air show.

“I love flying,” said visiting RC pilot Jeran Cookston, of Middleton, Idaho, as he watched his scale replica of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk taxi down the grassy 600-foot runway.

“I was always fascinated by airplanes and anything that flies,” recalls Cookston. “My grandpa had a Cessna and we flew around a lot when I was a kid.”

Cookston’s plane zoomed by and soon became a dot in a nearly cloudless sky.

“I have always been into flying and full-scale airplanes. So, this is the alternative, since I can’t afford the full scale right now,” said Cookston.

The club was founded about 12 years ago and has a membership of 16 local RC pilots.

Most members fly gas-powered piston engine planes, but they have an increasing number of members flying electric planes, helicopters and turbine engine jets.

Owning more than one plane seems to be the standard.

Cost for an RC plane varies widely. Prices can range from $100 for a hobby shop starter plane to thousands of dollars for a lifelike scale model plane.

An average RC plane cruises at 20 to 50 mph, while some that are built for speed can easily top 110 mph.

They also can soar to impressive heights, up to 1,000 feet.

“But the rule is you have to be able to see it well enough to control it,” said club flight instructor Eric Kendall. Kendall also noted that the FAA and the Academy of Model Aeronautics have set a 400 feet altitude guideline for all RC flights, “We don’t let it go any higher than that.”

“‘Safety first’ is a requirement for all our members,” he added. 

The MVMA offers a welcoming environment while emphasizing safety through instruction. 

The hobby is challenging and can be discouraging. To help prevent new pilot frustration, the club has an introductory pilot program that provides lessons and support to anyone who wants to learn.

“Beginning pilots are put on a buddy box,” explained Kendall. “Buddy boxes link two radios together, so at the flip of a switch, an instructor can take control of an out-of-control plane to prevent it from crashing.”

“Once mastered, flying is a lot cooler than video games. It’s real, not on a tv screen,” said Kendall.

The MVMA is hosting a Fun-Fly and Swap Meet out at the St. Ignatius airport from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15-16.

Spectators are welcome and encouraged to come out, talk to the RC pilots, check out the planes and watch the aerial acrobatics.

For more information about the club or the event you may call Erich Spidel at 406-552-5815.


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