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Model-plane club controls skies over old airport
Group planning fundraiser for armed forces
Club prez Lew Watdrop with model F-22
Blazing Angels RC Squadron club President Lew Waldrop prepares to fly his model F-22 during a club gathering at the old Liberty County airport, where the model-airplane club members often meet to fly their aircraft. - photo by Randy C.Murray

A remote-control model airplane club has brought new life to Liberty County’s old airport. The Blazing Angels RC Squadron club members now are wowing spectators with aerobatic maneuvers by model aircraft.

"We started the club nearly three years ago," said Lew Waldrop, the club’s president and a former Army helicopter pilot. "There was a lot of interest in starting a club but no place to fly. Now we have someoneout here just about every week."

Waldrop said getting permission to use the last 1,000 meters of the old runway was not as easy he as he had thought. Thanks to help from Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, he said they finally got permission to share the runway with Savannah Technical College’s truck-driver training school.

He said they only have to keep the grass cut for their area of responsibility. The club’s 18 members purchased lumber and built a series of tables used for assembling and repairing their model aircraft. They also installed a covered shelter used as a temporary hanger for the larger planes.

"It’s a hobby, basically," explained Lewis Cook, a retiree who said he was looking for something interesting to do. "For less than $500, you can have a nice plane with a good transmitter."

Club member and mobile-home manager Donald Borte agreed.

"They’re just so darn fun to fly," Borte said, explaining the cost for a plane could run from $100 to $5,000.

Waldrop demonstrated a cardboard model F-22 that he said was a $65 total investment. A loose tail wing caused the model plane to crash on take-off, but with a few minor repairs, it was ready to go airborne.

His plane, which had a small motor near its mid-section, zoomed like a real jet while club member Ricky Bennett’s model plane buzzed the runway like a World War II fighter plane.

The two planes strafed other club members who watched the mini-air show with enthusiasm. Borte said any time they’re flying, a small group of spectators usually gathers, though many just pull off Dorsey Road and watch the show from their cars.

Waldrop said the club is planning a benefit air show Sept. 13-15. The event will raise money for charity and support the men and women of America’s Armed Forces. In addition to food and drinks, spectators will see RC aircraft of all sizes and models, from 1-foot wing span to over 10-foot wing span. Cook added that the aircraft will include those of club members as well as 50 or more members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Gliders, helicopters and military-style planes representing World War I and II up to present day will be part of the air show, he said.

As the men talked about plans for the air show, club member and Safelite windshield-repair technician Hector Marrero prepped his plane for take-off. It was a basic plane with a 3- or 4-foot wing span. It soared through the sky, doing rolls and overhead loops.

Club member Dr. Dan Green demonstrated two types of aircraft. His red-and-white model plane had black stripes on the fuselage and a black checker board on the tail. His plane was as big as a compact car. He had to tie it down while he tested the engine, which sounded like a lawn mower.

Once airborne, the plane did loops and barrel rolls and even flew upside down, often with white smoke trailing behind it. His other aircraft was a helicopter, which he could manipulate to fly backward.

Waldrop said anyone interested in the hobby should call the club at 884-4154 or 977-1961.

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