Flying high while firmly planted on the ground
The Sparta Area Model Club got a visit this week from the boys and girls attending the Deke Slayton Space Camp. Club members gave the kids a morning full of demos, flying the model airplanes.
The kids got to see the members fly everything from Raptors, to Twin Otters, F.E.5s, T28s, a Senior Telemaster, Sportsters, Tundras, Spitfires, an Edge 540 and more. Club members kept something in the air continuously.
“The nice thing with these kids is they’re not sitting home on a couch. They’re learning things hands on,” club member Lynn Sanders said. “It’s hard to get kids involved in this anymore because it’s too easy to sit home and do it on a video game.”
The club has seen a decline in young members, however, one young man, Cullen Bendel of Westby, has been training with club member Jerry Burckhardt this summer.
“These young kids, they learn a lot faster than us old guys,” Sanders joked.
One thing club members will emphasize is these are not toys. They are miniature aircraft and if flown incorrectly can lead to injuries, which many of them can attest to.
Howard Von Ruden has been with the club since the 1970s. He was in the U.S. Navy in the flight program and now owns a model of the airplane he was learning to fly.
There are about 20 members in the club, which meets every Wednesday, with about 10 that are active on a regular basis. A handful of them meet at the field at 18313 Ideal Road in Sparta just about every day there is decent weather with no rain and very little wind.
Some of the club members’ planes came already assembled while others opted to build them from nothing. Sanders joked, “We’re all getting lazy going towards the ones that are really easy to assemble.”
Sanders, who was an over-the-road truck driver for 31 years, didn’t get into flying model airplanes until after he was retired.
“When I retired and my wife passed away I had time on my hands,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun once you get into it. It keeps us out of trouble.”
Most of the planes fly electrically on lithium batteries but a few have internal combustion engines powered by nitro. Club members use radio controllers, which can program up to 250 airplanes, to control the aircrafts.
“These fly with an elevator, and rudder and everything just like an actual airplane,” Sanders explained. “It’s basically just like flying a real airplane.”
Members of the public are invited to observe and/or join in the fun as long as they abide by the club’s regulations and there is a club member present.