11th Annual Kalkaska Fly-In and A New Appreciation for RC Planes

11th Annual Kalkaska Fly-In and A New Appreciation for RC Planes

Some may be surprised to find out that the little village with a population of 2000 people about 30 minutes out of Traverse City has it’s own airport, let alone it hosting events where you could come out and see a bunch of cool planes, cars, emergency vehicles, and even get a pancake breakfast from Kiwanis. I know I was quite excited. Yeah, it’s no Blue Angels (a Traverse City Cherry Festival staple every other year.) But I was definitely pumped to get up close to some cool planes and talk to some fellow enthusiasts. For I don’t just love travel, but the transport that takes you to the destination as well.

Excited to head out and see some cool planes, I planned to be there bright and early…Unfortunately, that is the day my car decided it was having oil issues. So, one trip to the mechanic later, I was on the road to the Kalkaska Fly-In, and arrived at the airport at 10am.

When I got there, there were only three planes and a helicopter. At first I was  a little disappointed, but decided to go check it out anyway. After speaking with someone else there, I was sad to find out that most of the planes had already left for the day as there was bad weather coming in and they didn’t want to stick around. Seeing that these are little guys like Cessnas, I don’t blame them.

Kalkaska fly-in airport sign
Signage leading into Kalkaska Airport

After checking out the few airplanes there, I decided to check out the RC planes they had on display. I didn’t know much about RC planes, but I thought they looked cool, and there was quite the variety.

Now, normally you cannot fly any drone or RC Plane (which I learned are also classified as a drone) anywhere near an airport, but they had received special permission for the Kalkaska Fly-In and were quite excited to be able to fly the planes on an actual runway.

A short walk out to the runway they had picnic tables set up and I sat and watched. After the wind picked up they didn’t want to fly their planes and risk damaging them. Things seemed to be wrapping up for the day so I decided to walk back and take another look around before heading back home.

Walking along the display of planes I decided to strike up a conversation with one of the owners. I asked him about kits vs home-built, what the planes were made out of, and if he felt that the “drone” craze had a positive or negative impact on the hobby. He was more than willing to fill me in.

There is a good mix of both store-bought kits and home-built planes. Most planes are built out of light materials like Styrofoam or balsa wood with different coatings. The gentleman also advised that the “drones” themselves did not have an impact on the hobby, it was the people. He stated most of the groups in the hobby are self-governed and keep an eye out for each other, it is a handful of bad eggs that result in the tighter restrictions like the FAA regulations.

For any drone over 1/2 a pound they have to be registered with the FAA. You go online and fill out a form and get a registration good for any equipment you own.

I also asked him how one would get into the hobby. He stated one of the best ways was to get in touch with a local club. They can get you in touch with resources, and even let you practice flying planes with “dummy” controllers, where you can fly the RC Planes, but if trouble arose, another person could take over. He also stated most learn on a RC Plane flight simulator before taking out an actual plane, which is not a bad idea seeing they start around $100 for the equipment.

Member of the Kalkaska Area Model Plane Society working while airplane takes off in background.

The gentleman pointed me towards a trailer they had at the end of the line, and said if I wanted to try it out they had a setup in there. I thanked him for his time, and headed over.

The guys there when I asked if I could give it a go were very enthusiastic, and their mood was catching. They sat me down with a USB version of the radio controllers and gave me a lesson on how the controllers worked and what to look for. He guided me through the whole process, and let me tell you, it was fun!

It took a few tries to get the hang of it, but soon I was flying digital plane around the screen with vigor. He asked me if I wanted to try to land. He guided me about lining up with the runway and decreasing throttle…and then I crashed into the ground.

“That’s ok” he said as he set me up to try again. This time I got the plane lined up, started to bring her down leveling her out, cut back on the throttle slowly, then cut it as the plane glided to a stop on the runway!  The gentleman was quite impressed, even calling his buddy over to check it out, and high-fives. Needless to say, I was starting to get hooked. (And full disclosure, the third…fourth…fifth..landing, I was not so graceful.)  We worked together for quite some time playing on the simulator. Little corrections, just tapping the controller, it was all it took.

Sadly the time came to an end, and I thanked them profusely. I had quiet the grin on my face. I came for the planes, and walked away with a newfound appreciation for the RC plane hobby. I want to give the Kalkaska Area Model Plane Society (K.A.M.P.S.) members a big shout out for not only putting up with my naive questions, but showing me a great time.

So next year, you bet I will be showing up bright and early to the event, and who knows..maybe next year I will have a plane of my own.  Interested in checking out the Kalkaska Fly-In yourself?

You can find all the info at: http://kalkaskaflyin.weebly.com/