The Future Looks Bright

The Future Looks Bright

The Future Looks Bright

Two different clubs with a common goal

By Greg Gimlick maelectrics@gimlick.com Photos by the author

As seen in the December 2022 issue of Model Aviation.

I’m fortunate to belong to two clubs: one is a park flyer group and the other is a traditional AMA club. Each field is roughly 15 minutes from my home. That makes it easy for a quick run to the field or even back home if I forget something—we’ve all been there!

They are two different clubs because one focuses on small, electric-powered airplanes and the other is mostly for Giant Scale gas-powered models with a few smaller glow/electric aircraft mixed in. The thing is, they both have the same goal: to promote fellowship through aeromodeling in our communities.

A Club in Transition

Clubs lose fields and things can become difficult (sometimes impossible) when that occurs, but what happens when a club is privately owned by the landowner and he sells the land? If you’re lucky, he protects the club. That was the case with the Southern Wake Aero Modeling Pilots Society, aka SWAMPS.

A view of the final approach of the SWAMPS club field in Duncan NC.

A view of the final approach of the SWAMPS club field in Duncan NC.

Ralph Tutor and I belonged to the same club in the 1980s and we lost our field. The club folded under the pressure and the leadership disbanded. Ralph took it upon himself to develop some land he owned and created a premier flying field in the area. He also decided to avoid club politics. He owned the club and chartered it with the AMA. Members of his family filled the club officer positions.

Since 1995, we’ve been spoiled with a great flying site maintained by the Tutor family, and all we had to do was pay dues and show up to fly. Oh yes, he and his wife also hosted an annual "pig-picking" (hog roast) for the members and their families. They’ve hosted AMA sanctioned fly-ins, fun-flys, and a host of visitors throughout the years.

Time flies, and Ralph is at the point where this is a huge undertaking for one person. A local quarry company has offered to buy the land and eventually expand in our direction. This is where it got scary, but only for a minute, until we heard Ralph’s plan.

As a condition of sale, Ralph negotiated a 15-year lease with a year-to-year lease following the end of the initial period. This allows us to retain the field and enjoy it for the near future. The caveat is that he also wants out of the club management business. Who can blame him after all these great years?

We’re in transition now—in our infancy, so to speak—as we develop a team of volunteers to be the leadership team. Many club members have never known any other club, so they have no experience in running one. Others of us have done it but are at a retirement point in life where we might not want to take on such responsibility.

This is a test of our mettle and I have no doubt we’ll pass with flying colors. We’ve never given mowing, edging, weed killing, bug spraying, insurance, liability, etc., the slightest thought because Ralph always handled it. We paid and we flew. Some are quite surprised at what it takes to look to the future and plan for these things. Others are showing some excitement at the challenge and the prospect of putting their own mark on our history and future. Time will tell how successful we are, but we’ve had an owner who put our interests right up there with his own as he prepared to sell the land. We’ve been in contact with the staff at AMA for some guidance on changing our charter, bylaws, and constitution.

Our future is bright because our past has been so. The friendships formed throughout the years bring us all together for a common goal, to continue the legacy of SWAMPS and welcome more new members to our fold. Visit us in Duncan, North Carolina, and see one of the finest flying sites you’ll ever experience. We owe this to Ralph and his family for establishing a great field, club, and atmosphere. Now it’s up to us.

The Skyhawks

The newly redesigned logo for the Holly Springs Skyhawks club.

The newly redesigned logo for the Holly Springs Skyhawks club.

My other club, the Holly Springs Skyhawks Radio Control Group, is a chartered Park Pilot club whose field is part of a local town’s park system. In 2015, Doug LeRoy and Jason Guetgemann had the idea of forming a chartered park flyer RC club in Holly Springs, North Carolina. They shared a common concern that the RC hobby was not being viewed in a positive way in the public eye. Modelers unsafely flying in open spaces in adjacent towns and a lack of organization and rules led to chaos and problems. Many municipalities were writing restrictive rules regarding model aircraft.

An Aerial view of the Holly Springs Skyhawks’ field before all of the grass matured.

An Aerial view of the Holly Springs Skyhawks’ field before all of the grass matured.

The concept that Doug and Jason envisioned was simple: Organize a club, charter with the AMA, and leverage the resources of a community-based organization to promote safe model aviation activities to the community. Newly chartered, the club’s next challenge was to figure out a way to build advocacy within the town’s leadership.

The Skyhawks participated in a local community festival by renting booth space, where the members were able to network with town leadership while promoting the positive message of the club and educating the general public regarding the virtues of the RC hobby. Leadership from the Holly Springs Parks and Recreation department approached the club officers to inquire if the Skyhawks would be interested in becoming a recognized club in town. The club eagerly accepted.

Partnering with the town meant that the Skyhawks needed to officially incorporate as a nonprofit organization. The officers of the club pooled their resources to quickly become an official nonprofit corporation. The club performs community service for the Holly Springs Parks and Recreation department and participates in park festivals throughout the year.

In 2017, the town of Holly Springs established a designated section of the Jefferson L. Sugg Farm park complex as an officially recognized RC model flying site. This has been a textbook marriage between a town and a flying club that others across the country have used as a model in their own communities.

The Skyhawks have also adopted a local charity to receive a portion of all proceeds from events, along with contributing to the town’s parks and recreation fund. Hats off to Doug and Jason for getting us where we are. The Skyhawks is an AMA Gold Leader Club.

The Future

The future looks bright for both clubs, and I’m fortunate to be a part of them. Several people are members of both clubs, and the Skyhawks’ leadership team has offered its help to the prospective leaders of the reborn SWAMPS club as it moves forward with the transition to club ownership.

This is what AMA membership is about: fellowship, cooperation, and a mutual love for a hobby that many of us have enjoyed since our early days. This is the AMA!

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