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Johnson City Radio Controllers Club provides fun, flight

Amanda J. Vicars • Jan 27, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Piloting an aircraft has long been a feat that few have mastered in their lifetimes, that is, until now.

Model aviation is on the rise due to technological advances in the creation of fully-functional, small-scale aircraft -airplanes, helicopters, rockets and lighter-than-air machines - which in turn, have expanded the market, lowered prices and generated an exponential interest in the (now) affordable diversion for people of all ages.

Clubs have formed nationwide to promote the practice and circulation of the fast-growing radio control (RC) model aircraft hobby and the Tri-Cities is no exception. The Johnson City Radio Controllers Club (JCRC) is a non-profit group “dedicated to educational and recreational use of model aircraft for the people of the Tri-Cities region.”

The club’s over 100 members, who range in age and demographics from an 8-year-old elementary student to an 89-year-old WWII veteran, share their love of flight through demonstrations, public events (indoor fly-ins, cookouts, etc.) and free training for any potential scale flight enthusiast.

“It’s more about the people than it’s about flying,” said 10-year JCRC member David Collea. “Being around other people with the same interest is the main benefit of the club.”

The radio control club’s openly-professed purpose is “to further the interest in and enjoyment of all RC model aircraft and the exchange of ideas pertaining thereto.” For this reason, JCRC hosts six to seven annual events at which, according to Collea, existing members share “new aircraft or aircraft ideas,” and interested onlookers and entrants are welcomed with open wings; free flight training with members’ aircraft is offered at JCRC’s airfield, a carefully-maintained and city-approved closed landfill located just off of Eastern Star Road.

With RC flight, education is key. Hobbyists new to aero-modeling and seeking assistance from JCRC are taught from first flight through to solo. Buddy controls allow flight instructors the ability to take over piloting an aerial vehicle at any time. No pilot is allowed to fly solo until they’ve proven they can safely fly an “unmanned’ model aircraft within their line-of-sight and the boundaries of the airfield.

“One of the things I enjoy the most is teaching people to fly,” admitted Ed McEntire, a nearly 8-year member of JCRC and former board member. “I’ve had a lifelong interest in flying... I like to fly all different types of airplanes.”

“Most people focus on flying; I try to do building and flying,” JCRC president and aircraft modeler Anthony K. Hall said. “I like building stuff.”

JCRC is chartered with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), a self-supporting, non-profit organization founded in 1936 which promotes “the development of model aviation as a recognized sport and worthwhile recreational activity.” A nationally-recognized leader in aero modeling, AMA has been charter to more than 2,500 model airplane clubs and supplies insurance and safety guidelines for everything concerning model aviation-for a detailed list of member services and coverage visit www.modelaircraft.com.

As a sanctioned scale aviation association, JCRC requires that club participants maintain yearly membership with AMA - the fees amount to $3.35 a week - and adhere to their policies and procedures alongside JCRC’s own rules.

The scope of JCRC has broadened in recent years. Outside of hosting public events, members provide community support in multiple ways including: helping local Boy Scout troops earn their Aviation Merit Badge; introducing an after-school model rocketry and aviation program into Bristol City Schools; teaching Air Force JROTC high school students to fly; and currently working with RC 4 Heroes, a local veteran-owned and run recreational therapy organization.

Members also attend national RC events like U.S. scale jet competitions and Senior Pattern Association (SPA) competitions. For more information on JCRC, visit www.flyjcrc.com, search flyjcrc on Facebook or call 423-915-9468 from 4-8 p.m., Monday through Friday.