Model Aircraft Pilots Share their Sport with All


The rumbles and hums of model plane engines filled the skies at the Hastings Skylarks' airfield during their annual Fun Fly.

“This is where we bring in pilots from all over the place and get together for a day and just fly airplanes and have a lot of fun,” says John Van Brocklin, President of the Skylarks.

Pilots say they swap tips and check out each other's hardware, including new aircraft like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, more commonly known as drones.

“It basically flies itself,” explains Don Schmidt, as he pilots a DJI 550 Flame Hexacopter just a few feet away from him as model planes zip overhead.

“It's got GPS, autopilot, navigation, GoPro Hero 3 camera on it, do video and everything with it,” he says.

Stephen Foster, a pilot from Wood River, says the world of radio controlled model planes includes variety of crafts, as well as all ages and walks of life.

“Brotherhood of the fellow pilots, they're good guys,” says Foster.

It's also become a family affair for him.

“My son, [I'm] getting him into it, my dad, we both started flying about the same time - I don't know when that was, back in the 70's,” says Foster.

Van Brocklin says the fliers in attendance on Saturday come from their own club, Lincoln, Kearney, and many places in between.

“I wouldn't say the sport's growing in popularity, I would say we just are doing a better job of getting people together and getting the word out that we're having this event and I think people really like coming here because we're a very relaxed club,” says Van Brocklin.

The pilots say they welcome spectators. Some like Foster even bring training gear in case a rookie wants to give it a try.

“I usually carry one around with me, a trainer, not just because my son's learning how to fly, but if I'm out on the field and somebody shows some interest, I'll get that plane out and let them get their hands on the transmitter and see what it's like,” he says.

Foster says it's an underestimated sport, and that nearly everyone tries it before investing.

“Guys are doing it with the transmitter and using the sticks, it's the same thing as flying a real plane other than you're standing on the ground,” he says.

The Fun Fly also collected donations for the Wounded Warrior Project. It's the champion cause for the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which the Skylarks are a member of. ACA clubs around the country celebrated Saturday as National Model Aviation Day.

Van Brocklin says spectators are welcome to visit the Skylarks anytime.

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