Hi, everyone! By the time you read this, we will be feeling the cooler weather across most of the country. It’s time to think about winter building projects and what new models we want from Santa! For me, it will be my first taste of winter in the north. Guess I better get out and purchase a real winter coat!
I received a note from Dennis Grady in California telling me about the Mountain RC Fliers club in Calaveras County. I thought it would be good reading for you as well Here is his story and the pictures are by club member Don Johansen.
We were chartered in 1972 as Mountain Radio Control Fliers. We were a wholesome half dozen in number and our flying sites were an old lumber mill site, cow pastures, parking lots, and an abandoned runway at the county fairgrounds. These sites were suitable for relatively short periods. One ranch changed owners, another had a contrary neighbor who claimed that we were scaring the local bald eagles (no eagles had ever been seen there), and the fairgrounds site was rendered unusable by a nearby short wave radio operator who could literally blanket several of the 72 MHz frequencies at one time.
Many of the members developed a fondness for float flying and a number of local lakes and ponds were available. There was, however, a nearly constant search for an appropriate site from which to fly from the ground.
By 1982, the membership had grown to approximately 30. Experience levels and interests varied widely. A number of us had heard glowing accounts of cross-country flying whereby the pilot would sit in the bed of a pickup and fly an aircraft as the vehicle moved down the road (riding in the bed of a pickup truck was legal then).
It was decided that a search would be conducted for an isolated section of the county that had rural roads relatively free of traffic and large trees. A place to take off and land would also be necessary. The search soon narrowed to a region called Salt Springs Valley, a chiefly agricultural area in the western part of the Calaveras County. In the spring of 1984, we spotted a ranch with a small private runway and a couple of pampered Luscombe airplanes tied down there.
Our knock on the door was answered by James Coulter, a slightly built gentleman unaccustomed to visitors. We briefly stated our purpose for the stopover and after some thought, we were invited inside. There were several exquisitely built model airplanes hanging from the ceiling.
After a short but thorough examination, Mr. Coulter seemed assured that we weren’t handing out “watchtowers” or selling vacuum cleaners and negotiations began in earnest. We would be allowed to use his runway for our cross-country event but, in exchange for the privilege, we would be required to return and provide some instruction on flying his models.
Our event went well and we made some friends along the route, many of whom we visited beforehand to explain the endeavor and request permission to retrieve downed models should it be necessary.
Mr. Coulter—at this point he was simply Jim—was a licensed full-scale pilot with an extensive logbook, and therefore somewhat difficult to teach aeromodeling. He was an excellent builder and was determined to master the flying element of the hobby.
Jim became our permanent safety officer and took his job seriously. As funds and expertise became available we added some paving, built a shade structure, and secured a small trailer for storage.
Thus began a relationship with a family, a valley, and a hobby that began in 1984 and has lasted ever since. We lost Jim nearly a decade ago to complications from prostate cancer. He learned to fly models quite well and built a number of museum-quality, large-scale airplanes that are truly cherished by those who remember him.
We currently deal with his son, Jim, who has no real interest in modeling but is an experienced full-scale pilot and seems willing to honor his dad’s request that we be allowed to continue flying there. The arrangement has suffered some anxious moments, but thanks largely to unwavering support from the property owner, we enjoy an excellent site in an area that doesn’t seem to change much.
Until next time!