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Daily Journal
     August 11, 2021      #65-223 KDJ

Model airplane club celebrates 50 years 

By Chris Breach

Dave Boudreau likes to fly planes — both the radio-controlled model and the real thing. A licensed pilot and a U.S. Air Force veteran, Boudreau said there’s no difference piloting the two.

“These are just smaller,” he said, referring to the RC model planes that take flight every day at the Kankakee Valley Model Flyers’ airfield adjacent to the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena just off River Road in Kankakee. “They fly the same way. The aerodynamics are the same, you’re just on the ground instead of inside it.”

The Kankakee Valley Model Flyers will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with an open house and airshow from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the club’s field at 1601 River Road.

It’s free admission to the open house and everyone in attendance receives a ticket for a chance to win a ready-to-fly RC model plane. There will be a food vendor, demonstrations and instructions on how to fly an RC plane.

There are 24 members in the club, most are retired, and Boudreau, of Bradley, has been in the club the longest, having joined in 1972 not too long after he got out of the service.

“I came back from Vietnam and was stationed on Forbes Field in Kansas, and my wife and I came back in ‘71,” he said. “But I didn’t actually get in the club until ‘72. ... A lot of those members have passed away. I was young then. I was 23, now I’m 73.”

The Kankakee Valley Model Flyers are associated with the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which was founded in 1931 in Muncie, Ind. It began chartering clubs in 1971, and the Kankakee Model Flyers is club No. 257.

“They have chartered over 5,400 clubs, and there are still 2,500 of those active,” said Ken Larson, who joined in 1987 and his been the president off-and-on for the past 15 years.

The local club has been a sponsored group of Kankakee Valley Park District since its inception, and the KVPD provided them with the open field the club still enjoys.

“I remember when there wasn’t anything out here, just this field,” Boudreau said. “We had our own little private drive to come in, cornfields on all sides.”

The park district and Kankakee Community College has grown up around the airfield, but the club members still enjoy their little respite where they can enjoy their hobby.

Boudreau, who’s been flying model airplanes since he was 12, has accumulated about 25 planes and is a regular at the airfield.

“It’s been a good club here,” he said.

“The guys are always friendly, welcoming,” said Fred Schultz, of Bradley, who has in the “neighborhood” of 20 planes. “And to me, one of the fun things about this is being able to share. I come out and I’m flying, and somebody I know who is a good pilot, I’ll say, ‘Here, you want to fly it.’ And they’ll do that for me at times and it’s just a great camaraderie.”

Schultz, 67, said he had a friend who was in the club back in the ‘70s in high school when he couldn’t afford the planes. But he said it’s still a great hobby and is much more affordable.

“It was real expensive in those days,” he said. “We’re paying the same price for radios now, they were then, and they are so much more sophisticated.”

There are the old gasoline-powered planes, electric and then the glow-fueled machines that are the most popular. Glow is a synthetic mixture. The club members like to mix it up on the airfield as often as they can.

“We have members from [age] 12 to 92,” Larson said.

Larson, 74, got interested in the model airplanes when he was a neighbor to Glen Davis, who was one of the original members of the club.

“[Davis] lived right next door to my in-laws, and my oldest son [Joseph] got the bug,” he said. “He’s still an active flyer. I got involved, and I was his mechanic and builder for a while and then he went to college and I had to learn to fly.”

Larson credits the local founding members such as Davis, Robert Gross, the club’s first president, and Andy Zoph for sparking the local interest in radio-controlled airplanes.

“You can get into it for as little as a couple hundred dollars,” Larson said. “You can spend as much as you want. There’s actually real carbon jet models. These are real aircraft, they’re just small.”

Anniversary open house, airshow

WHAT: Kankakee Valley Model Flyers celebrates its 50th anniversary with an open house and airshow.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

WHEN: At the club's airfield at 1601 River Road. It's adjacent to the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena.

COST: Free

DETAILS: There will be a food vendor, demonstrations and instructions on how to fly an RC plane. All attendees will receive a ticket for a chance to win a ready-to-fly RC model plane. 

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