AMA News: Flying Site Assistance - First Weedwacker’s paving and grand reopening

Written by Tony Stillman Flying Site Coordinator Monthly AMA News Column First Weedwacker's paving and grand reopening As seen in the October 2016 issue of Model Aviation.

Bonus video

Weedwackers 2016 Membership Drive from AirvidsSC on Vimeo.

Keith Miller, club president of the First Weedwacker Aerosquadron, submitted the following report.
The First Weedwacker Aerosquadron operates at the Ron Smith Memorial Flying Field in Lakeside, California. With 145 members, we’re afforded the luxury of operating atop a retired landfill, in cooperation with the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation. The cost and effort of maintaining the field lie solely with the club, as I’m sure is the case with most clubs. Our runway was originally a paved pad used in the 1960s for truck access to an asphalt mixing plant. Since the club gained use of the site in 1977, we’ve maintained the runway with various layers of asphalt, slurry, and seal coats. Throughout the last five or six years, it became apparent that we were losing the battle to deep cracks that slurry coats simply can’t fill. Rather than pouring cash into maintenance costs, we pocketed what would have been spent with the intent of saving for a complete repaving job. During those five years, the existing surface degraded significantly. Quotes in excess of $3,000 deterred us, as our club treasury was only half of that. Finally, early this year, a sinkhole opened at one end of the runway that could swallow a small car. The county agreed to excavate and fill the hole for us. However, despite all of our efforts and pleading, the county declined to help us with fresh paving. We couldn’t even get an asphalt patch over the sinkhole. It was left as packed decomposed granite. Although that left us an operable runway, it was clear that now was the time to push hard for a fresh layer of asphalt. Led by Butch Weiser, a few of our dedicated members started a campaign to find local pavers and gather quotes. The projected cost was daunting! Then we discovered that one of our members had a nephew in the business. He offered a generously reduced rate. Butch laid out a paving map that covered about 50% of the existing runway, which put the total cost within reach. In May 2016, the club approved Butch’s motion and plan to fund the project through a combination of three-year dues bundles and straight donations. Our treasurer created a five-year spreadsheet projecting how much we had to bring in up front that would ensure a stable treasury over the next five years.

Within a week of approval, member contributions far exceeded our minimum trigger point, raising more than $10,000! Three weeks later we had a new runway covering more than 80% of the existing pavement. Shortly after that, a team of members gathered for a striping party to paint the new lines and circles. In August we held our grand reopening!

The lesson I learned from Butch is that the club exists for us to enjoy flying our models. And to do that, we need a runway. We can put aside our high-end raffle prizes and annual award banquets. Those niceties will come when funds permit. But we fly airplanes, helicopters, and multirotors. And those need a runway (at least the airplanes do). And the First Weedwacker club now has the finest model airport in Southern California, thanks to the hard work and generosity of our members.

Being past the 2016 AMA Flying Site Grant program deadline, we’ll submit for the 2017 program. If we’re fortunate enough to be a grant recipient, we’ll have a foot forward toward our first maintenance seal coat due in a couple of years. Another club member, Lance Edmunson, from AirvidsSC, produced a fantastic video that presents our membership and the renewed field. The video can be viewed at We invite fellow modelers and guests in the area to visit us at the field or on our website at

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