Heart of Clark: Flyer hopes to inspire next generation

Published 9:33 am Friday, July 5, 2019

By Nacogdoches Miller

Sun Intern

Striving to keep an old hobby afloat, the Central Kentucky Float Flyers have been taking to the skies since 2000.

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Amid the heat and insects and weather permitting, the Float Flyers try to meet up four times a month —when they are not working fundraisers or trying to inspire the youth — to swoosh and zoom across air and water in their hand-made planes.

All of the club’s members have had a love affair with flying from a young age and say once you get started it becomes an addiction.

Dan Thompson, president of the Central Kentucky Float Flyers, said he has been flying radio-controlled models since 1962.

“I like airplanes,” he said.

Thompson is also one of the “25 percent” of model flyers who holds a pilot’s license.

Wright built his first plane with a kit put out by Comet which consisted of a stick and tissue paper material with a rubber band propeller.

Wright said his first real interest in planes began during World War II, when Wright was about 8-years-old, because his first cousin was a B24 pilot and was the family’s hero.

Though not quite boats, Thompson said the water planes “act like a boat” on the water.

Thompson said they are thankful to have access to the lake at the Winchester Municipal Utilities property on Van Meter Road, which they have had access to since 2011, because in the years prior flying required more traveling.

Roy Foushee, vice president of the Central Kentucky Float Flyers, said it’s easier now for people with an interest in flying to get started because the technology is cheaper and easier for people to get into. Like any hobby, people can start to throw as much money into it as they like, but a person can get started in flying with a small electrical plane for under $200, or a part flyer, which requires minimal assembly, for around $100.

Float Flyer Lee Wright said he recommends people interested in more advanced flying to join a club which can offer trainings.

The Float Flyers offer a trainer for those who might not be sure how committed to flying they are yet, giving them a hands-on chance to fly and an opportunity to see if flying is something they want to do before investing

“Once they get a taste, it’s kind of like you get the fever, like a new car fever,” Foushee said, “So, once you get a taste of doing that you go, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

Unless someone intends to fly a commercial drone, there is no need to worry about a license to fly, though, Thompson recommends flyers to join the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the Float Flyers’ national organization which offers insurances for flyers as well as representation in Washington D.C. and costs about $75 to become a member.

The group laughs when they say accidents, which are rare, happen.

“Usually it’s equipment failure not pilot,” Foushee said. “A battery goes dead, or the receiver dies on you.”

The flyers all said at some point they’ve crashed a plane as it’s expected in the hobby.

The flyers, comprises of about 20 members age 30 to 80 and above, are also trying to get children more involved outside and exercising their minds, Wright said, especially at a time when children would rather stay inside and play video games.

Wright said it is hard to compete against video games as youth don’t even have to leave the house.

“It is very difficult to get young people interested in this hobby,” Wright said. “Because it takes a lot of time, there is some money involved in everything.”

The skills it takes to build the model planes they fly were more commonly taught in vocational schools, Wright said.

Now, students are learning those skills in STEM classes, where students learn more about geometry, chemistry, science and some basic electrical skills.

Though, building planes don’t require as much skill as it used to. Once upon a time, hobbyists had to purchases plans in kits requiring complete assembly to fly. Now, would-be pilots can buy “almost ready to fly” planes or (ARFs) which only requires having to bolt the wings and tail on before being ready for take-off.

“ARFs have made it much more convenient for the hobby,” Foushee said. “But the skill of the older folks, actually building them from scratch, you have a big set of plans and you set there and build them off the plans. That’s kind of a lost art right now.”

Wright said the flyers work with schools to revive that lost art, offering youth a hands-on experience with the planes, hoping the next generation will pick up the hobby and skills.

“We’re dying away,” Wright said. “The people that came up building models like I did through most of their life. We’re all passing away.”

But in the meantime, the Central Kentucky Float Flyers will keep taking to the skies.