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Supplement to “Flying with Feet on the Ground”

Just like the aircraft that use it, the model aviation flying field developed and used by the 50 members of the Somerset Model Airplane Club looks and performs just like the real thing, according to Randy Thompson, safety officer of the club. Nestled on 50 acres of land on the grounds of East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s Cooper Power Plant, the flying field consists of a 526-ft. by 40-ft. asphalt runway, a parallel grass runway of the same dimensions, and a 404-ft. by 40-ft. grass cross runway.

According to Thompson, members of the Somerset club worked with East Kentucky Power to obtain permission to use the land—a former sludge pond for the Cooper Plant—and, with additional help from the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), began runway construction in February 2004. By early April, the field was open for club members’ use.

“Club members did the work to construct the ‘airport,’” Thompson says. “The construction was funded in part by a $1,500 grant from the AMA.”

In fact, according to Jay Mealy, program director for the AMA, the Somerset club is not alone in its decision to develop its flying field on public utility-owned land.

“It happens quite frequently,” Mealy says. “We work with the clubs to obtain permission to use the land, and then we support them with grants. The Somerset club’s facility is among our newest.”

According to Mealy, the AMA’s membership—which includes astronauts Neil Armstrong and Willie McCool, the late commander of the space shuttle Columbia and professional baseball player Javy Lopez—is drawn from among members of 2,500 model airplane clubs nationwide, including 33 clubs in Kentucky that fly in competition and for pleasure. The AMA supports local clubs throughout the U.S. and its possessions, including Puerto Rico and Guam, by working with them to identify local sites for airports, and helps establish the airports with construction and development grants.

In addition, he says, the AMA offers aviation and safety education programs for model aircraft pilots, as well as for the public in communities where clubs and airports exist. The organization also sponsors and hosts the National Aeromodeling Championships, the largest single national aeromodeling competion, held each July in Muncie. They maintain the National Model Airplane Museum and are responsible for overseeing the administration of the Model Aeronautic Hall of Fame contained within the museum, also located in Muncie.

To read the Kentucky Living August 2006 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Flying with Feet on the Ground

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