Northwest Florida Modelers, Inc.

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Written by Tony Stillman Flying Site Assistance Column As seen in the December 2018 issue of Model Aviation.

In a recent “Flying Site Assistance” column, I wrote about a new flying site that was obtained by the Northwest Florida Modelers, Inc. (NFMI) in Pensacola, Florida. This is my “home” club, where I have been a member since 1971. On September 15, 2018, the club hosted a grand opening event at the new field, and I was invited to attend. The main organizer for the club was Frank Papasavas, who provided this report: The grand opening of NFMI’s new Fallen Heroes Memorial Radio Control Flying Park near Jay, Florida, could not have gone better. We had a significant turnout with people from five adjoining counties showing up. Sam Helmich and I made an effort to get as many people in the community involved in the event as possible. We asked the local ambulance service to come out with an ambulance for people to see as well as the local hot rod club, the sheriffs’ K-9 unit, and U.S. Navy personnel from Whiting Field (the primary training flight base for all Navy and Marine pilots). Many club members attended the event.
(L-R) Walt Mathews, NFMI vice president; C.J. McMahan, NFMI president; Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker and son; Frank Papasavas, NFMI member and site founder; Tony Stillman, AMA flying site assistance coordinator; and Gary Lee, NFMI secretary.

Mark Dill, Charlie Squires, and Tim Kallam put on spectacular flying demonstrations. Galen Moffett provided his popular candy drop, which all of the kids enjoyed. Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole seemed to like it more than the kids! We provided lunch for all who attended free of charge, with a donation only suggested to cover our costs. The cooking skills were provided by club president CJ McMahan; vice president Walt Mathews; and club member John Brodowski. John also provided door prizes from several vendors that he had contacted. Our club secretary, Gary Lee, brought out his enclosed trailer with a built-in big-screen TV dedicated to a flight simulator, which was a big hit at the event. After Galen, Jeff Lee, and I put considerable effort into developing the site, along with Santa Rosa County funding and grading last year, we managed to get a one-year initial agreement and some initial funding from the county to put in a US Fabrics US 230 geotextile runway. Because Santa Rosa County was unfamiliar with RC flying, I knew we needed to establish a good rapport with the county officials right from the start.

The club’s intent was always to seek enough funding to have the runway paved, add carport-type shade structures, electricity, water, and porta-potties, thus turning the park into a fulltime dedicated RC flying park. After our first year of operation, we signed a five-year agreement, which can be extended after the initial agreement is up. The grand opening went a long way toward helping us meet our goals. County commissioners Bob Cole, Sam Parker, and commissioner-elect Dave Piech attended the event. Commissioner Don Salter would have been there, but he apparently was ill and could not attend. He initially helped us put the park plans together. I hoped they would like what we had accomplished, and I was correct—they all seemed to love the new park.

There is a Sunshine Law in Florida, which precludes the commissioners from speaking with one another about anything involving public business. The individual commissioners explained to me how to proceed with a request for funding and development of the park. The next day, I sent out thank-you emails to our commissioners and to Ron Hixon, the head of the environmental department, who also worked with us to put the project together. I received a phone call from him shortly after I sent my emails out, asking me to compile a list of things we want to incorporate into the RC park.

Ron told me he was asked by the county administrator to prepare a detailed proposal and provide it to the county board of supervisors. He suggested that we could make an additional presentation to the board after his proposal was provided. The project will be a joint effort between Santa Rosa County and the Northwest Florida Modelers, Inc., with the county supplying the lion’s share of the funds and the club providing labor. Our proposal is ready. I believe we have the support of all five county commissioners and by April 2019, we should have our dedicated RC flying park finished. Thanks for the update, Frank! I enjoyed my visit with the club and was able to speak with the commissioners who attended as well. I believe they are pleased with what the club has done and are ready to move forward with the mentioned improvements. This will be a nice flying site when all of these additions have been completed! It will serve the model fliers in the area well for many years to come. -Tony Stillman

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