NGMA Junior Flight Program

NGMA Junior Flight Program

NGMA Junior Flight Program

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT

By Ron Gaynor Ronald.gaynor@gmail.com Photos courtesy of the author

During the 2021 Nall in the Fall fly-in in Woodruff, South Carolina, a dialogue ensued between TJ Klise, president of the North Georgia Model Aviators (NGMA) club in Dawsonville, Georgia, and Mike Deeds, product support manager for Horizon Hobby. Mike inquired, "TJ, what’s happening these days at NGMA?"

TJ responded, "Well, Mike, our club is actively seeking ways to introduce RC flying to a younger demographic. Like many other clubs across the nation, we find ourselves primarily composed of senior members, lacking the youthful energy (‘youts,’ as humorously phrased in the movie My Cousin Vinny) necessary to sustain and expand our club. We are thinking about starting a junior flight program." Mike replied, "I may have some scratch-and-dent airplanes that perhaps could be donated toward that cause. Let me look into this for you guys."

TJ Klise and Pedro Sanchez present Caleb Schneider with a P-47D from Horizon Hobby.

TJ Klise and Pedro Sanchez present Caleb Schneider with a P-47D from Horizon Hobby.

The club members observe as Tyler Thompson assembles his new Horizon Hobby E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet from NGMA.

The club members observe as Tyler Thompson assembles his new Horizon Hobby E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet from NGMA.

That’s when the spark of brainstorming ignited. Imagine how it would be if we could alleviate the initial financial burden of entering the realm of RC flying, ease the anxiety of crashing during the maiden flight by imparting aviation knowledge, and provide training through flight simulators and a buddy-box transmitter arrangement. We envisioned creating a supportive community of young pilots, enabling them to learn and enjoy their experiences collectively.

Before launching this fresh initiative, NGMA reached out to our community’s Atlanta Hobby store with a distinctive proposition. For each introductory aircraft the shop sells, we will provide a certificate entitling the buyer to a month-long trial membership at our club. Furthermore, our club will extend its assistance by facilitating the setup of the newly acquired airplane, arranging flight instruction with an NGMA flight instructor, and configuring a buddy-box system if necessary. The overarching objective was to ensure that their inaugural flight encounters become favorable and enriching.

Richard Barr teaches his granddaughter, Evelyn, to fly.

Richard Barr teaches his granddaughter, Evelyn, to fly.

Monthly, the NGMA club, overseen by a five-member board of directors and a three-member executive committee team, gets together in person or on Zoom calls to discuss the many topics of running and managing our club.

As is typical for most clubs, they tackle the routine tasks of club operation—organizing activities, sourcing event managers for club-sponsored events, tending to field and property maintenance, implementing flying safety protocols, etc. Yet, when the notion of crafting a junior flight program surfaced during a meeting, all ears perked up and eyes widened with interest.

Without exception, each team member embraced the concept wholeheartedly. It made perfect sense, given that the club’s mission centered on nurturing aviation growth and giving back to the community. Throughout the years, NGMA has orchestrated countless events aimed at educating and promoting aviation in local schools, engaging with STEM programs, and conducting demonstrations for senior citizen centers, to name just a few.

Hence, the blueprint for the program’s realization was set in motion. The initial task was to gain acceptance from our supplier, Horizon Hobby. We then needed to assess how to convert the scratch-and-dent Horizon Hobby aircraft into completed flying airplanes.

There were several airplanes for each model. Each team member selected the model aircraft they wanted to work on and took them home to assess and ultimately to rebuild them.

Parts from one aircraft were taken to help complete missing parts on another model. In the end, we were able to put together many complete airplanes to give away. Some models only required a few parts to be made whole, prompting team members to collectively contribute $300 for acquiring these parts directly from Horizon Hobby.

This proposed program was brought up in discussion during one of our quarterly club meetings and it was unanimously met with full support. Several of our club members came forward to say, "I have an extra transmitter I no longer use and would be happy to donate it," or, "I can donate several receivers to those airplanes missing them," or "I have a few batteries and chargers I no longer use." You get the idea … the club members were wholeheartedly behind this effort and embraced it! Our club members wanted to be a part of what they also believed to be a program that totally embodies the spirit of our club’s mission statement.

With airplanes now ready to give away, a set of guidelines was formulated to determine program eligibility and instructional methods. A public relations campaign to promote the program within the community was also in the works. As of this writing, the team is in the process of finalizing these plans. The envisioned approach involves hosting a promoted event at our field for parents and their kids to learn more about this program.

TJ, president of the NGMA club, provides flight instruction to Kaden Wnetzak.

TJ, president of the NGMA club, provides flight instruction to Kaden Wnetzak.

TJ, president of the NGMA club, provides flight instruction to Kaden Wnetzak.

TJ, president of the NGMA club, provides flight instruction to Kaden Wnetzak.

There will be several learning stations that the kids must attend before moving on to flying an airplane on a buddy-box setup. One station will address aerodynamics, control surfaces, and how to use the transmitter to control an RC airplane. Another station will be designated for discussions about the different types of RC models, building materials, gas-versus-electric engines, etc.

We will have a table set up with a couple of RealFlight simulators for kids to practice on. Finally, there will be multiple flight stations set up with trainers on buddy boxes so that we can discuss how flight training works.

Upon completion of the training stations, participants will engage in actual flying using buddy-box systems. An enrollment sheet will be accessible for those interested in further training. Upon enrollment in the club and the flight training program, participants will receive a complimentary RC airplane suited to their skill level and flying interests, ranging from basic trainers to more advanced warbirds and small EDF jets.

NGMA has already granted airplanes to several young pilots who recently joined the club, including Tyler Thompson, Wyatt Strayhorn, Chase Flynn, and Caleb Schneider. These young pilots have demonstrated immense enthusiasm and gratitude for the program.

As one NGMA member aptly put it, "When these kids come out to the field to fly, they individually log more flights in a day than the collective flights of all the other pilots!"

Although junior club membership is mandatory for participation in the Junior Flight Program, this first batch of targeted youngsters allowed the club an opportunity to test the program’s reception within the existing membership.

The program’s central goal is to attract and support young, aspiring pilots and immerse them in the excitement of this hobby. Additionally, NGMA hopes to inspire other clubs nationwide to consider launching their own junior flight programs.

The process can commence with club members donating unused airplanes, thereby helping others embark on their RC flying journey. In return, these donors can free up space in their hangars, making way for future acquisitions!

Given the inquiries that came in before the program’s external rollout, we believe that we have a winning combination for engaging with today’s youth and getting them busy learning about aviation, specifically the best hobby around—flying RC!

TJ presented Kaden with the E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet.

TJ presented Kaden with the E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet.

Tyler assembles his new E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet from the NGMA club and Horizon Hobby.

Tyler assembles his new E-flite Viper 70mm EDF jet from the NGMA club and Horizon Hobby.

Caleb with his Carbon Cub S 2 1.3m.

Caleb with his Carbon Cub S 2 1.3m.

About the Club

NGMA originated as a derivative of the club previously known as Georgian Model Aviators, which faced the loss of its urban land lease back in 2017. Commencing operations in 2018, we embarked on this journey with an empty treasury and a mere handful of dedicated enthusiasts. Throughout the course of the past half decade, our collective efforts have resulted in the mobilization and allocation of more than $100,000, channeling these resources into the development of an exemplary RC field site within our region.

NGMA holds the distinction of being both AMA sanctioned and a certified 501(c)(7) organization; however, what sets NGMA apart and renders it truly exceptional is the vibrant community of more than 100 members who constitute its essence. Our identity is underpinned by a profound ethos of camaraderie and harmony, thus fostering an environment devoid of conflicts, where mutual respect and harmonious interactions are paramount.

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