Community

RC Flyers gather in Chilliwack this weekend

The Fraser Valley RC Flyers welcome every kind of remote-controlled vehicle at their Ballam Road field, including airplanes, helicopters, trucks, boats and 3D flyers.  - Submitted
The Fraser Valley RC Flyers welcome every kind of remote-controlled vehicle at their Ballam Road field, including airplanes, helicopters, trucks, boats and 3D flyers.
— image credit: Submitted

Rick Samuels spends most of his free time standing in a field.

It’s a very nice field. The grass was seeded three years ago and is growing in well. It’s bordered on one side by a pond and on another by a line of trees. In the distance, rolling hills rise gently above farmland.

But of course the field isn’t as important as what flies above it.

While Samuels stands in the field, a handful of remote-controlled (RC) airplanes and helicopters wheel and soar above him.

Samuels is the president of the Fraser Valley RC Flyers, a club that has called this Fairfield Island field home for the last three years. They welcome any sort of RC vehicle; the pond occasionally doubles as a landing pad for miniature float planes, and the club is in the process of finishing up a dirt track for RC cars, trucks and buggies. One of Samuels’ favourite vehicles is the 3D flyer, which can maneuver and hover in the air like a hummingbird.

“Everyone is welcome,” Samuels says, quoting the club’s motto. “I don’t care what you have—if you’re interested in remote-controlled vehicles, you are welcomed here.”

The club is a mix of all ages, and Samuels describes it as something that appeals to everyone. Young people get the hang of it easily, which he attributes to increased hand-eye coordination developed by video games. The hobby also draws a sizeable demographic of seniors and retirees.

“In the mornings we get this huge group of retired people who come in. They just want to fly and talk to the people who show up there,” Samuels says with a laugh. “We have one—his name is Elmer—he drives in from Gibsons Road on an electric scooter with planes tied to the back. And he’s been flying planes for 30, 40 years.”

Once a person catches the RC bug, it stays for life. Samuels says a fair number come to the hobby as kids, and even if they get distracted by other hobbies (“or girls!” Samuels says with a laugh) as teenagers, they still show up at the field once in a while to fit in a few hours of flying here and there.

Just about anyone can pick it up with time and practice. RC vehicles have become less expensive and easier to find over time. Several hobby stores in town carry a variety of vehicles, from trucks to helicopters, and the club members are always willing to lend a guiding hand.

“What we recommend, number one, before you buy anything—we recommend that they come to the field. You basically show up on any nice weekend, watch the guys fly, and we’ll look at what you want to get into,” Samuels says. They have a system of linking two controls together, called “buddy-boxing,” so novices can try it out but have an experienced flyer step in if they get nervous. Flight simulator programs are also useful, Samuels notes, to help build up hand-eye co-ordination and get a feeling for how a plane or helicopter will react in real life.

“Like anything else, if you stick at it and put the time into it you’ll eventually get it,” Samuels says. “I’ve never seen someone who wasn’t able to fly when they put the time into it.”

Welcoming new flyers is part of the Fraser Valley RC mantra; Samuels says a lot of clubs start to die out because of an “old boys’ club” mentality, which is a real shame—and something Samuels wants to avoid in the Fraser Valley.

After all, community is at the heart of the club. When their old flying field sold, another member stepped up to offer a piece of his farmland. They’re putting together a clubhouse from an old cabin, donated doors and windows, and a whole lot of volunteer elbow grease and love. As a group, they’re rebuilding a giant plane with a 14-foot wingspan, which they plan to bring out for big events and hang in the clubhouse the rest of the time.

Passion brings and keeps the members together, and that’s something Samuels strives to pass on to new members.

“You’re made to feel welcome,” he says, “and when you feel welcome, it’s like a second home to you.”

• Their next big event, the Spring Fun Fly, is this weekend (May 24), but anyone interested in the club is welcome to show up at the field at 47117 Ballam Rd. in Chilliwack any weekend with good weather. For more information, email president Rick Samuels at rsamuels@telus.net or visit www.fvrcf.com.

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