Almost everyone has something that they enjoy doing ... a hobby.
If that were not the case there wouldn't be places such as Hobby Lobby, Game Stop, public libraries, and Marler Music Center.
For a group of local men, a hobby of flying RC planes has become almost a lifestyle in the last 47 years.
RC planes are radio controlled planes that are flown by someone on the ground using a hand-held radio transmitter. RC planes come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. Scientific, government, and military organizations often use RC planes for studying weather, various experiments, and aerodynamic testing.
In the winter of 1972, Dave Cosby and Terry Vandiver met at the Fredericktown Airport for the first time after being put in touch with each other by Linus Boehle who owned the Bonne Terre Hobby Shop.
“It was a cold winter day,” said Cosby. "It had snowed the night before and there was about two inches covering the runway and parking lot.”
It was so cold that Vandiver said he had to start his airplane with lighter fluid.
Vandiver had learned to fly RC airplanes at Buder RC Park in Fenton and was flying on his own. Cosby was just starting in the hobby and needed help to learn to fly on his own.
Cosby said that he doesn’t remember if they flew anything on the 1972 winter day, but a friendship developed that still runs strong today.
“We flew together every weekend, weather permitting,” said Cosby. Vandiver quickly learned to fly on his own and was soon teaching others to fly. Others soon began joining us because they heard about us through Boehle at the hobby shop.
Cosby said that it was fun to meet up with all of the wanna-be-pilots each week and have the opportunities to fly various types of aircraft.
Cosby also said that not every aircraft always went home intact. Crashing is a part of the hobby and keeping spare parts on hand is always a necessity.
“In 1976, we began tossing around the idea of forming an official Academy of Model Aeronautics club,” said Cosby. Later that year, 11 men formed the Mineral Area Radio Control Society (MARCS) which in a few years was changed to Mineral Area Modeling Association (MAMA). The group first had their meetings in the back room of the Bonne Terre Hobby Shop.
As the years went by, as is often the case, people came and went from the club. Some moved off, some lost interest, and in later years, members passed away. The club initially met at Fredericktown Airport for flying, later moved to Potosi Airport, and then Bismarck Airport.
When the state of Missouri acquired St. Joe Lead Company land and began to develop St. Joe State Park in 1976, radio controlled flying was found to be a suitable park activity. Thanks to one of the members of the club, they were able to obtain a grant and an RC airstrip was laid at a field in the park.
In the early 1980s, Vandiver and Cosby began to focus on RC helicopters and spent time traveling to other clubs to promote this new part of the hobby.
Eventually, many of the original MAMA members left the area for jobs or military commitments for some 18-20 years while the club lived on.
“Flying an RC aircraft stays in your blood,” said Cosby. After many years, some of the original guys began to return to the area. Cosby said that even though it had been 20 years, when they got back together it was like it had only been a day.
At this time, 47 years later, there are six members of the original group who are still active and flying at the St. Joe RC Airfield.
There are three clubs who currently operate at the St. Joe field. MAMA, the original group, still operates and also provides the liability insurance on the strip. WACO and RCA are clubs formed in recent years and also operate out of the field.
“These clubs and many independent pilots enjoy the benefits of the state-provided air strip,” said Cosby.
RC planes have the same control features as a real aircraft. Pilots have ailerons, which control “roll” (this will change the flight path of the aircraft), an elevator that controls pitch (up and down), a throttle to increase/decrease speed, and a rudder or “vertical stabilizer” (left or right).
The United States Academy of Model Aeronautics is divided into districts across the county. Missouri falls into AMA District 6 which includes modelers and clubs in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.
The AMA says that they welcome aviation enthusiasts of all backgrounds, and encourage members to grow and educate themselves and others, on the safety, mechanics, history, and science of model aviation.
In 2015, the FAA began requiring all model airplane pilots to register. Registration is good for three years and the identification number, unique to each pilot, must be placed in or on all aircraft that a particular pilot uses.
Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration
Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership.
Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years and is $5.
At least twice a year, MAMA and WACO join together to have what is called Fun Fly Day. Cosby said the purpose of the day is to just spend a day flying, eating good food, and having good times. Often times the Breezy Hill Club from Chester, Illinois will join in the fun. Fun Fly Day is scheduled for April 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the St. Joe Park RC Field.
“The goal of this day is to attempt to get more people involved in the hobby,” said Cosby. “During Fun Fly Day, we invite everyone in the community to come out and watch, ask questions, and even do some simulators or try flying a real RC plane (with dual controls of course)."