WAVERLY – The Lincoln Sky Knights is a club facing rising adversity.
Sky Knights Vice President Ric Feldman said new technology has been both a boon and a nagging hindrance. Regulations have caused the 65-year old club to move repeatedly.
Yet, the radio-controlled aircraft club that calls Waverly its base of operations remains strong as changing times bring new challenges.
The Sky Knights’ flying season begins in spring. Just north of Waverly at the intersection of 134th Street and Waverly Road, you can find the Knights flying at their state-of-the-art air strip. The club starts every flying season with its Spring Fun Fly, where its members can all meet for a day of fun, food and flying. This year the club ran another event in conjunction with the Spring Fun Fly called “Takeoff and Grow.”
“Takeoff and Grow” was the brainchild of Sky Knights member Kolbe Villa. Villa secured a grant from the Academy of Model Aeronautics that enabled the club to put on the event that catered to people looking to try model aeronautics for the first time.
“(It was) one more way for LSK to give back to the community,” Feldman said.
The Spring Fun Fly/TAG event was the first of two major events the Sky Knights will hold at its air strip, Feldman said. The other will come in the fall as the flying season ends. But there are several chances for the public to get out and see the club in action and even give flying a try.
Every Tuesday evening, from May to September, the club hosts free hands-on training.
Feldman said the club is looking to increase its profile around Waverly and the surrounding area. The club boasts a membership of over 100 members and interest remains strong despite growing frustrations.
One of those frustrations has been the advent and proliferation of what Feldman calls quadcopters and are commonly known as drones. Easy to buy and fly, quadcopters have become increasingly problematic when used by a general public not aware of proper procedures and ethical standards.
“The magnitude of people buying these aircraft has grown exponentially over the last few years. This has affected our hobby greatly,” Feldman said. “The FAA is being forced to pass down even more rules and regulations.”
Rules and regulations that clubs like LSK has tried diligently to follow, even moving the club outside of Lincoln due to FAA regulations concerning flying RC aircraft within proximity to the Lincoln airport.
The news hasn’t all been bad for LSK though. The technological advances that brought on the headaches of the drones have made model aeronautics much easier for a beginner to try.
Through the AMA grant in advance of the TAG event, LSK was able to buy several “buddy boxes.” These allow a veteran pilot and a beginner to co-pilot a model at the same time. The two control boxes are synced to a common frequency with the veteran pilot able to take control of the model if trouble arises for the beginner.
New and relatively inexpensive simulators can give a new model aeronautics enthusiast hours behind the controls without the risk of losing an expensive model or spending the time to fix it between every crash.
“All you have to do is push a button and you’re back in the air,” Feldman said about the simulators.
The simulators make it easy to keep skills sharp during the winter, Feldman said, out of the cold and high winds of winter on the Plains.
The quadcopters have also brought six-directional gyros. In the past, model aeronautics used three-directional gyros which helped keep the aircraft stable in flight but still required a skilled pilot at the controls. Now, with the six-directional gyros, it’s easy for a beginner to maintain flight with little risk of crashing.
If you are interested models, aeronautics, engines or flying, Feldman said he encourages anyone to come out to the Sky Knights’ air strip and see what the club is about.
Those interested won’t find a greater resource than the members of the club, Feldman said, and the camaraderie is one of the things that drew him to the club about 10 years ago.
“We love helping others in this fantastic hobby,” he added.