Lee Ray, Academy of Model Aeronautics
In 2017, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and attended my first EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. I’m not a certificated pilot so I went all in and drove up solo 1,200 miles from Texas to Wisconsin in my Suburban carrying clothes, camping gear, all my camera and video equipment, a bicycle, wagon, and one other item I was excited to bring along: a radio-controlled model airplane.
As an avid RC pilot and a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) for more than 40 years, I was pleasantly surprised to read on EAA’s website that RC flying was scheduled in the evenings on the Pioneer Airport runway behind the EAA Aviation Museum. I’ve never heard of this being allowed at any other full-scale air show. This was a great opportunity to fly my model airplanes surrounded by hundreds of vintage, warbird, commercial, military, and experimental aircraft.
On my first day at the RC flying area, several people were already at the site, and fun flying was in full swing. This wasn’t a group of only RC modelers; there were also full-scale pilots who brought their airplanes with them and a lot of onlookers. Horizon Hobby, a nationwide hobby supplier that sponsors the RC flying activities, was on-site offering demo flights on trainer airplanes to both young and old beginner pilots. I felt like a kid because I was grinning ear to ear once it was my turn to fly, and that smile was stuck on my face for the rest of the week! I’m not sure how I can put it into words, but while flying, it felt like I was one of the scheduled performers putting on an air show for other guests at AirVenture. It’s a memory I’ll never forget.
Last year, I was able to bring my sons and let them experience the same thing their dad felt back in 2017. It was neat to see them enjoying themselves out there and watch as they taught other beginners to fly and assist with repairs and battery charging. My father and I shared a similar bond flying model airplanes together when I was growing up. I’m glad I get to do the same thing with my boys at such an amazing aviation experience like EAA’s AirVenture.
The AMA hosts evening RC flying next to Pioneer Runway (behind the museum) between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Aircraft must be electric and weigh less than 6.5 pounds. RC pilots must be current AMA members. Non-AMA members may purchase a 3MT (three-month trial) membership for only $5 through their partnership with EAA. Pilots must also take FAA’s TRUST exam. Assistance with AMA registration and the TRUST exam will be offered by AMA staff and EAA volunteers. Hope to see you there!