LINDEN – Down a dirt road south of Route 220, on a small grass-covered runway, a gas-powered engine starts. A radio-controlled airplane makes its way into the blue sky, soaring over a corn field and another filled with pumpkins.
A club of radio-controlled flying enthusiasts has been gathering on this field since 1996.
Called the Wings of Williamsport, the club has about 40 members who fly a variety of types and sizes of radio-controlled (RC) model aircrafts.
The field is leased from local property owners and is designated by signage that guests can see when they drive in.
It features launch pads, benches for the aircraft and pavilions.
According to club President Keith Bauer, most members come from Lycoming and Clinton counties, but some from even further away.
“There are people here every day of the week. We have retired members that come in (and) fly a lot,” he said.
Mostly on Saturdays and Sundays – with Sunday being the most popular day – members gather to fly and just hang out at the field.
“Members’ backgrounds are all across the board. It doesn’t matter what your job title might be. It’s all a love of aviation,” Bauer said.
That love unites them all, as does the thrill they get to sit and talk with their friends and do some flying.
“It’s about the camaraderie we have with one another,” Bauer said.
Walter Zeigmann, of South Williamsport, has been flying RC models for many years. An Air Force flight engineer for eight years, Zeigmann now flies smaller versions of planes.
“We can’t afford to go into a full-sized scale plane, so we do it this way,” he said.
Following in his footsteps is his son, Kevin, and Kevin’s son, KC, 11, both of Mill Hall.
“I have always been an aviation buff, always loved airplanes. This is a cheaper way for me to fly without having to get in an airplane,” he said, adding that he doesn’t mind.
KC is the club’s youngest member, the next being Ben Trippoli, who is 17 and flies model helicopters.
Being a member in the club, Kevin said, not only allows his son a positive experience but a way to spend time with him.
“I enjoy coming down to the field, hanging out with my friends and bringing my son along,” he said.
KC has been flying for about two years, whereas Kevin has 25 years of experience.
The two spend time building and repairing the planes together, too.
KC received the plane he is flying now, a trainer, two years ago for Christmas. It was a gift from his dad.
“We spent the day after Christmas working on it together and got it ready to fly and, by Memorial Day of 2012, he flew his first solo flight,” Kevin said. Since then, he has done really well.
KC plays sports and has a few other hobbies on the side, but he said he really enjoys flying.
“It’s a really fun thing to come and do and just hang out with my dad and, after he taught me this, it became one of my awesome hobbies,” KC said.
Bauer said it’s very hard to get young people interested in the hobby.
The club goes out into the community during public events and promotes flying, to get new members interested. He said it’s a struggle to keep clubs like this going.
Bauer said there are two other clubs in the area, one in Lock Haven and one in Muncy.
Wings of Williamsport has a three-day event called Wings Over Piper every August, held at the Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven. The annual event is held to gather radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts from all over.
Through its “buddy box system,” the club offers an open invitation to anyone in the area who may want to try to fly a plane. The system allows someone to be introduced to the hobby and to train before taking a solo flight.
It’s a great way to check out the hobby, Bauer said, see what’s available and what it’s like to fly a plane.
Those interested must contact the club via its website – wingsofwilliamsport.org.