Falcon RC Club takes to the air over Hill Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Jason Smith
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Hill Air Force Base's runway is usually busy with launches and recoveries of sophisticated machines flown by some of the world's best aircraft pilots. There's a second, little-known runway on Hill AFB where some of the base's best, and worst, pilots get together to fly missions that have nothing to do with defending the nation.

Members of the Falcon RC Club can often be found flying their radio-controlled airplanes in the skies over the grassy hills on the west side of the base. The facility, located to the east of the 1200-series buildings on Jonquil Lane, sports a new, bigger runway. Club president, Master Sgt. (retired) Scott Barnhart, said he hopes the improvement will attract new members.

"Last week, we finished the addition that made the runway 450 by 50 (feet)," said Mr. Barnhart. "That allows faster and heavier airplanes to land easier."

Mr. Barnhart said RC airplanes typically don't have brakes, so they have to roll to a stop. Even experienced pilots need a runway long enough to keep their planes from rolling off the end of the strip and getting damaged.

The runway renovation was made possible by a gift of asphalt to the Falcon RC Club from Granite Construction, according to Mr. Barnhart.

"It's been a goal to have a longer runway for a long time," said Master Sgt. Michael Hibbetts, 388th Equipment Maintenance Squadron and RC Club treasurer. "Hopefully people with bigger planes won't be scared to use the runway now."

In addition to attracting people with bigger airplanes, Mr. Barnhart said beginners are welcome to take up the hobby that so many enthusiasts in the club already enjoy.

"For a beginner to get all of the basics would cost about $300-400," said Mr. Barnhart. "Getting started is actually the hardest part. There are five or six people in the club who are willing to help. We'll take you out and show you what to get and how to fly."

Once a beginner learns the ropes, something as complex as building an airplane might be undertaken.

"I have two planes I made myself from plastic downspout and sign board," said Sergeant Hibbetts. "It's no big deal if I crash them as long as the engine doesn't get damaged. They only cost me about $5 to build."

The average airplane flown at the airfield here runs between 60 and 70 miles per hour. The F-16 Fighting Falcons coming and going here fly a lot faster. Although no Air Force pilots are current club members, Mr. Barnhart said they are always welcome to show some of their skills with the model planes.

"I've had two or three pilots on buddy boxes (radio-controlled training device) before," said Mr. Barnhart. "They did great while flying the plane away, but flying toward themselves got difficult. They still picked it up real easy."

Mr. Barnhart recommends flight simulator software for those looking to hone their skills. He said one particular program simulates RC flying, and even professional fliers use it to try new maneuvers without damaging their planes.

People who want to check out the club before joining have three big opportunities to do so during the year. Mr. Barnhart said in February the club holds an RC swap meet in Ogden, Utah. In May the club hosts static displays at the Base Exchange coupled with a fun fly, a chance to try a plane for free, at the airfield. In the fall the club holds another fun fly event.

In addition to events held to attract new members, the club holds some events for current members to take the hobby to a higher level.

"We usually have an egg bomb drop for our members," said Mr. Barnhart. "People fly their planes with a cup rubber banded to the top and an egg inside. They try to turn their planes over and drop the egg on a target."

The club currently has about 30 members. They've just completed an area adjacent to the airfield where RC cars and trucks can run. Membership dues are $25 per year, and members must agree to donate 10 hours to help the club in some way. For more information contact Sergeant Hibbetts via e-mail at michael.hibbetts@hill.af.mil.