Taking to the air: Radio control airplane club finds Silverton home

March 2021 Posted in People
Don DeYoe holds Jerry Hall’s F-82 during a test run at the Holden/Bevens Flying Field on Old Mt. Angel Highway outside of Silverton.

Don DeYoe holds Jerry Hall’s F-82 during a test run at the Holden/Bevens Flying Field on Old Mt. Angel Highway outside of Silverton.

By Brenna Wiegand

It is no picnic for an RC airplane to find its place in the sun these days.

“Our situation is so special,” Bob Bevens, founding member of Keizer Radio Control Association, said. “We need a certain amount of land for flying; we’ve got to park and at times accommodate the public.”

When the club needed a new home several years ago, Silverton nurseryman Verl Holden stepped up to help. They scouted his property and found a spot.

“It was all blackberries, but we could see that it would work,” Bevens said. “We set up a land use agreement and unless we really goof up, we’ve got it for the next 100 years.

“Verl was so kind,” Bevens added. “He loaned us equipment when we needed it; he’s just a good guy.”

Bevens took on the three-year project and last July 4 the Holden/Bevens Flying Field was officially opened.

“We spent some money on it,” Bevens said. “We built a 60-by-400-foot runway and put in all new irrigation … our biggest problem is the gophers and squirrels.”

The club currently has about 16 members from all over the area and is part of the national Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). The group, founded in 1982, at one time boasted about 130 members.

“A lot of the gentlemen were from World War II and they were really into it,” Bevens said. “Many of these guys had to drop out for health reasons.”

Still more folks cut out when the Federal Aviation Association stepped in.

“The FAA is starting to restrict the airspace,” club member Jerry Hall said. “This includes having to pass an online test before you can fly – just a lot of new regulations.

“A lot of people didn’t really want to deal with the FAA and clubs lost a lot of members,” Hall said. “Clubs that had over 100 people dropped down to maybe 30.”

Hall spent 22 years in the Air Force, including a two-year stint on ground crew with the Thunderbirds, the elite air demonstration squadron.

“Not very many people get selected; it is a unique unit; a special duty assignment,” Hall said. “That was a lot of fun.”

Though Hall wanted to fly RC planes since he was a kid, the sport just isn’t on the radar for most of today’s young people. That is something the club would like to change, possibly by reaching out to schools once COVID regulations allow.

“We don’t want the hobby to die,” Hall said. “It’s not just about flying airplanes. There is the sharing of knowledge, the building of these planes, the camaraderie and that type of thing.”

The hobby has always had its perils.

“When I first started, we had FM radios and you ran your airplane on a certain frequency,” Hall said. “[B]ut when you came to the field everybody else could be on the same frequency, and you could crash another airplane.

“You’d have to take a pin off the board and put it on your antenna to show you were on a certain frequency and that everyone else should stay off it.

“And then probably ten years ago, they came out with 2.4 megahertz radios with frequency hopping for RC planes,” Hall said. “When you are transmitting, it hops over frequencies for just a nanosecond at a time.”

This technology was developed during WWII, conceived to prevent radio signal jamming of torpedoes.

“When they were flying they could actually talk to command and it would be a secure voice because you are constantly hopping from frequency to frequency,” Hall said.

Gas and nitro engines have given way to electric planes and drones, and the learning curve can be steep and spendy for those expecting to learn on the fly. The club encourages anybody new to the sport to start by installing an RC flight simulator and practice, practice, practice.

“You can crash hundreds of times and just hit the reset button,” Hall said.

RC flying is different than being behind the controls in the air, as discovered by airplane pilots who show up expecting to take wing their first time out.

“The main difference is that, when you’re taking off, your controls are just as you see them,” Hall said. “You want to bank left, you move the control to the left, etc., but when the airplane is coming at you it is the complete opposite.

“You’ve got to be able to switch your mind around right away and practicing on a simulator helps you get that muscle memory so you don’t even think about it.”

Hall is also a trainer at the field, where they use “Buddy Boxes” that allow an instructor to take control should a student find himself in a nosedive or tailspin.

“Things have changed so much over the last 15 years,” Hall said. “There are airplanes out there right now that you can set up to where you can take off and play around and then you can hit a button and it will come in and land itself. That’s how far the technology has gone.”

The club is looking forward to being able to host the public and other clubs once more and has planned three flying events this spring and summer.

The April 17 Fun Fly will include demonstrations, competitive events and opportunities for instruction.

July 4’s event takes place later in the day with dinner provided. It will feature night flying and the field is situated with great views of both the Silverton and Mount Angel fireworks displays.

The club also looks forward to being active during Homer Davenport Days for the first time in about
seven years.

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