Radio Control Plane Club Gets its ‘Fix’ in Bigfork

By Beacon Staff

BIGFORK – On a rainy Sunday afternoon, the Bigfork High School gym is abuzz. Literally. Inside, a few members of the Bigfork R/C Club pilot tiny radio-control aircrafts through the sky, either to a soft, uneventful landing or a dramatic crash to the floor.

Thanks to durable material, the small planes and helicopters can take quite the beating and when one crashes, the fun isn’t over. Lee Peters hopes more people discover the fun through the Bigfork club, which started about two years ago.

Peters, an architect in Bigfork, first fell in love with aircraft when he was 8 years old and his mother let him ride in a two-seat plane at a local airshow. Sixty-two years later, that interest hasn’t faded.

“It was just the most fantastic thing and ever since then I’ve been sold on airplanes of any type and size,” he said.

Peters spends much of his free time constructing model airplane kits or making his own. Just recently, he built a pedal model of a World War II P-51 Mustang Fighter plane. The model took nearly 100 hours to build and is currently on display at the East Shore Smokehouse Restaurant along Montana Highway 35, near Finley Point.

Many of the club’s members are older and got into model planes as kids. Jerry Weber of Columbia Falls has been interested in the hobby for nearly 30 years. While he mostly enjoys larger radio-control model planes, which must be flown outside, during the winter months he joins other club members in the high school gym to fly smaller helicopters.

“You can get tired of sitting inside and watching television all the time,” Weber said.

On a recent Sunday, Weber was flying a large helicopter that cost a few hundred dollars. Peters said the hobby could be as expensive or as inexpensive as someone wants. He also said it’s great for kids, although few are interested these days. The club hopes to change that.

Lee Peters holds a small model helicopter in Bigfork. Peters says for less than $100 someone can get started in the remote control aircraft hobby. – Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.

“Kids are so into video games, but there is a joy of making something yourself that works and when you see one of these planes, it’s so worth it,” Peters said.

Club members hope a current project may be a catalyst for getting more people interested. Next spring, the club plans on building a 400-foot-long outdoor runway in Bigfork. The space will give members plenty of room to fly some of their biggest models.
“It’s totally amazing and (the big planes) can go as far as you can see,” Peters said.

Surprisingly, the larger the aircraft, the easier it is to fly, according Carl Henry. During the winter Henry comes down to the gymnasium to meet up with others, but doesn’t fly much. Everyone agreed that the hobby is as much about friendship as it is aircraft. Henry also said the models are a great alternative to the real thing.

“I’ve always wanted to fly the real thing, but I can walk away from this when it crashes,” he said, laughing.

For more information about the Bigfork R/C Club, call Peters at (406) 837-1199. The club usually meets inside the Bigfork High School gym every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

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