High flyin’ fun

BALDWIN — For a first-time event organized by a club that is less than a year old, Baldwin’s radio control airshow was considered a successes by organizers and participants alike.

During the weekend, the Lake County Modelers and Fliers Association held the first-ever West Michigan Radio Control Expo and Air Show at the Baldwin Municipal Airport. The air show, and highlight of the weekend-long event, was held on Saturday, and it was estimated that 300 visitors were in attendance at a time.

”Everybody told me that (the air show) was really great,” said Len Todd, LCMFA president. “It was actually a little bigger than we had up in Thompsonville and the one we had in Empire.”

In all, eight other clubs from around the area participated in the show, and a total of 33 pilots came with more than 100 airplanes. In addition to airplanes, pilots brought jets and helicopters, while others drove RC cars.

Todd formed the LCMFA late last year to bring together other hobbyists interested in building and flying RC flying machines. By November, the club had 15 members. Now it has grown to 25 and includes members from as far as the Chippewa Lake area in Mecosta County.

For the beginning, one of the the club’s goals was to bring an air show to Baldwin.

For the club’s first show, Todd said the turnout was good. It not only introduced a new hobby to local residents and children, it brought visitors into the area who shopped, lodged and dined.

On site, the air show also featured model and food vendors.

“All the pilots came out and said, ‘Hey this is a great event. We are going to be back next year,’” Todd said. “My vendors also said they will be back next year.”

Dave Crysler, of Walker, is a pilot and a member of the Wolverine Skyhawks club. He came to the show to participate with his club, but also because his parents grew up in Baldwin and he has a cottage in the area. He also is a member of the LCMFA.

Crysler has been building and flying RC airplanes off and on since the mid-1970s and recently got back into the hobby. For him, building and flying RC airplanes is about a fraternal camaraderie. However, it’s also about purely enjoying the hobby.

“You build these things from the ground up and they are fun to build,” Crysler said. “Aviation is just one of those hypes. You’ve got this little guy on the ground, you crank up the motor and head down there, and all of sudden it’s in the air and it’s doing what you are telling it to do with the radio. When it all comes together good it’s a good feeling.”

Pilots from different groups performed aerial acrobatics for spectators on Saturday, but the show also featured an RC car track where nine drivers competed in different races. At the end of the air show, and on Sunday, amateurs were allowed to flying their machines. Some had purchased their craft earlier in the day and were flying them that night, Todd said.

By holding events like the air show, Todd hopes to attract more people, especially children, to the hobby. He hopes to establish a modeling club at Baldwin Community Schools in the fall.

Todd also hopes to draw attention to the Baldwin Municipal Airport as an asset to the community — one that could thrive and grow. The club already established a new RC park there that includes two 400-foot-by-75-foot intersecting runways and a small RC car track, something Todd thanks the Village of Baldwin board for allowing.

Crysler described the park as “amongst the ultimate” he’s seen.

The show and park also grabbed the attention of the Academy of Model Aeronautics — a sport organization that supplies memberships and liability insurance to pilots and organizations. The AMA vice president of the region, Tim Jesky, also attended the show.

Looking forward, LCMFA members have identified areas where they can improve the show, and plan to make it larger next year. In the meantime, club members will continue to work and fly their crafts at the airport and get others interested in the hobby.