Planes, drones and an airport of their own

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  • Ron Anderson prepares his radio control airplane to taxi onto the runway during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    Norm Crum’s sport plane buzzes the runway at the Libby RC airport during the Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    Norm Crum loads the battery into his sport plane during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    A variety of radio control planes set out between flights during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    Sam Scheer gets his racing drone ready for a flight during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • Ron Anderson prepares his radio control airplane to taxi onto the runway during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

  • 1

    Norm Crum’s sport plane buzzes the runway at the Libby RC airport during the Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    Norm Crum loads the battery into his sport plane during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    A variety of radio control planes set out between flights during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

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    Sam Scheer gets his racing drone ready for a flight during the annual Kootenai RC Flyers Fun Fly July 14 at the RC airport off Champion Haul Road. (Ben Kibbey/The Western News)

The Kootenai RC Flyers had a little more laid back Fun Fly this year on July 14 after skipping the event last year altogether.

Club vice president Sam Scheer said that all the production of past Fun Fly events had made it too much work for the few members of the small, casual club. In fact, with just being able to hang out, fly and enjoy themselves instead of working, many members indicated they enjoyed this approach a lot more.

With around 17 current members, club president Ron Anderson said that the membership in the 8-year old club fluctuates a bit.

It’s not an incredibly formal organization — aside from the handful of scheduled events, outings are planned on the fly with phone calls — and there aren’t a lot of expectations or pressures on members to enjoy the airfield on Champion Haul Road in a particular way.

The club is even open to people who just want to fly drones, he said.

Scheer had two of his own drones there for the Fun Fly alongside his radio controlled airplanes.

It’s a very different experience, he said. With the drones, the pilot wears a virtual reality-style headset that gives them a first-person perspective, as opposed to radio control planes that are controlled based on observations from the ground.

For some, it’s dissorrienting, and a few members will sit rather than stand when flying their drones, Scheer said. But it doesn’t matter what kind of way a member likes to fly.

Norm Crum is a flying instructor with the club, a duty he undertakes for no charge for anyone interested in getting into radio control flying.

The club even has “trainer” planes they keep just for that purpose, with controls that allow the trainer to take over if an inexperienced pilot has problems.

People can underestimate how difficult flying by remote can be, Crum said.

“It Takes 100 percent of your concentration,” he said.

The requirement for attention span can make it mentally exhausting, he said. Even a split second of distraction can end with a crashed plane.

To receive the lessons, the club does require a potential member to join the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Crum said. The Cost is around $75 a year, but also gives the RC pilot liability insurance coverage, which is very important in this day and age.

For anyone under 19, the membership is actually free, Scheer said.

And there is no age requirement for joining the Kootenai RC Flyers, he said. His own son joined when he was born, and is now a four-year member.

The club does do some minor upkeep on the field, a part of their arrangement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the airfield, Anderson said. The County Commission also helps from time to time with major needs since it is both a local recreation area and even draws in outside visitors who value the very low winds the field usually experiences.

A person can usually get involved in radio control flying with a basic plane for less than $300, Scheer said. And drones aren’t the only way technology has changed what flying is.

With the exception of a few who just prefer the formerly common gas-powered planes, most flyers use batteries these days, Crum said. With modern batteries, a plane can stay in the air for up to ten minutes, compared to the two minutes a battery-powered plane could manage only a few years ago.

And it may sound short, but with the challenge of keeping the plane flying, it’s more than enough, he said. “When you’re flying, 6 minutes is a long time.”

More information about the Kootenai RC Flyers can be found at Facebook.com/KootenaiRCFlyers. Or, those interested in finding out more about the organization and the Academy of Model Aeronautics are invited to stop by Scheer Bros. Hobbies on Mineral Avenue in Libby and ask for Steve.

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