Following is the history of our club as written May 23, 1980, by L. W. Griffin, MD, (known to all as “Doc”).
Dale Haley was club secretary at that time, and he published the following over a period of three months in order to save on postage. I scanned the original documents and converted them over to Microsoft Word so they could be edited and put on the Internet.
INDIANAPOLIS WEST SIDE RADIO CONTROL MODELERS ,INC.
May 23,1980, by L. W. Griffin MD
The group that originally organized the west side radio control modelers had their first meeting in the spring of 1957. The meeting was held at the home of Dr. L. W. Griffin and there were eight in attendance. The purpose of that meeting was for those of us who had an interest in r/c flying to band together so we could search for and obtain a suitable flying field. The present membership may know some of the original charter members. They were, (in Alphabetical order):
Elmer Boos (now retired Allison)
Dr. L. W. Griffin (still at Allison – Medical Director)
Ed Hughey (of model boat fame)
Leroy Mickelson (pilot – now in Texas)
Rolly Rhein (retired – Allison)
Tom Walker (formerly Ed Schacks Hobby Shops)
Bill Shank (of Bob Shank Airport)
Lloyd Wiillever (still at Allison)
The organization began to grow by leaps and bounds and in a matter of three to four months there were eighteen of us. We alternated meetings in the various members homes until the membership grew to eighteen and then was when we began looking for a formal meeting place and we were able to obtain a place at St. Andrews Church, (at Kessler and 38t St.) in 1953 and we’ve been there ever since.
We found a field — a field of our very own. The field was bounded on the North by 38th street, on the south by 34th street, on the east near High School Road and on the west by that new super-highway 465. That property was owned by a real estate company and they were just holding it for future development and they agreed to let us use it until some development was started. We actually had use of that field for about three years. In that field there was one large Tree, and I’ve known there to be as many as three planes in that tree in the same flying session. It attracted planes even though it was way on the north end of the field. We really didn’t have a closely mowed runway. We didn’t need one. You see at that time all planes were hand launched, with an escapement for rudder control and “quick-flip” for throttle. Rolly Rhein came up with a three-escapement plane with “kick-up-elevator.” We needed the tall grass to cushion our landings. (this field was used from 1957 to 1960.)
As time marched on and development started in that area we had to look for another field, and through a friend and fellow worker at Allison we were able to get an airstrip on private property in Lebanon from which we flew for two years, (1960 & 1961). But that was really too far away so we got an agreement with a farmer at Whitestown to use his private airstrip which we used for three years. (1962, 1963 & 1964). This was a very nice arrangement. He and his family liked model aircraft. There were no neighbors to complain about noise, and often he flew his tri-pacer at the same time we were flying our R/C models. He was also a qualified flight instructor for real aircraft and one day he wanted to expand and make his field an officially approved alternate emergency field so he installed radio gear and started construction of another runway. That was when the FAA stepped in and said that we would be barred from flying there if it became an alternate emergency field, so ended our good Flying site. It was really further away from us than we really wanted anyway. So our never-ending search for a flying site continued.
It so happened that two or three of our group had been going to Ben Davis high school and flying off their school yard land, so we decided to approach the Ben Davis School authorities and it was through the diligent efforts of Rolly Rhein that we finally obtained the official support of the Ben Davis authorities to use their property as our flying site. We were asked not to fly during school hours and to avoid flying over the football field and the baseball diamonds when they were in use. We flew off this field for several years. (from 1965 to 1969.) It was on this field that the first Masters Radio Control Contest was held, (circa 1968) . This was a joint effort between Citizenship Radio Corporation, the RCHIA. (Radio Control Hobby Industry Association) and the West side Club as host club along with the Indianapolis Radio Control Club, which contained many members who are now associated with the Hamilton County R/C club it was about this time that we began to realize that we would be wise to have an alternate field in mind just in case we ever lost the field at Ben Davis. Vernon McNabb the owner of Citizenship Radio Corporation offered us a piece of his property at Zionsville if we would develop and use it. We did. So we then had two fields and we used them both. (until 1969.)
Incidentally, it was Vernon McNabb, who is known as the father of Radio Control flying who first obtained radio frequencies for radio controlled aircraft. He was also the one individual who made it possible to obtain a license for these frequencies without an FCC examination. R/C flyers today, though they may not know it, owe a debt of gratitude to Vern McNabb. (Vern was a member of our club until he moved to Pompano Beach, Florida in 1981). It was about this same time that Indianapolis acquired a new parks director, Lee A. Burton, who came from the parks system in St. Louis and was instrumental in developing the fine R/C field in that city. Mr. Burton was a neighbor of nine, so along with me and other members we approached Mr. Burton on the feasibility of the park system providing us a field. He was agreeable and he tried hard to get the field ready for the Masters Tournament but it was not to be. Mr. Burton had great plans for the R/C flyers. He said that he wanted national contests to be held in Indianapolis. He said further that if we showed enough interest and care to develop the field on our own that then the park system would take the field over, build us a picnic shelter, rest rooms, parking area, and paved runways, and an underground fuel storage tank. Also an area for U-Control flyers was developing at the same time, in the same area of Eagle Creek Park. Our joy in our new found flying site and benefactor was short lived. For political reasons, Mr. Burton resigned his position as park director, and about that time a person who lived in that area wrote to the star, and. her letter appeared in the letters to the editor section. In this letter she was making all sorts of accusations against the flyers and the park department. She also wrote to the Park Department reporting the dangers of flying, the noise from the planes, the nuisance of the planes, the dangers of sight-seers and visitors and the traffic congestion all these complaints even though she was nearly a mile away from our site by the road. The newly installed park board members decided that we should be off the field (which was located on the perimeter of Eagle Creek Park on county line road, where the golf course is now), so we were ordered off by the city administration. They refunded us what we had spent in developing the field. It never ceases to be a source of amazement to me how politicians feel that the average person is just a dumb voter who can be fooled into believing most anything. The park department said that they couldn’t stand the unfavorable publicity and that our flying and that upset the Hendricks county residents. They had several letters from people demanding that we get out of that area. (Incidentally, one of the letters was from a protester who lived several miles from Indianapolis, but the main complainer had gotten her to write this letter as a favor.) Now, we had heard rumors that the Park System was going to use that area as a golf course. We also knew that an Influential group of wealthy residents along the eagle creek area had meetings and had gone to Mayor Lugar, requesting that we not be allowed to use that area of their “front yard” as a flying site, so the park department was happy that the complainer had complained, because they could use her as a pawn and tell us that it was the complainer that caused us to be thrown off, when in reality it was for the construction of a golf course for another self interest group, the golfers and the local residents. There were more voters in the golfers and complaining group than in the R/C group. (All of our losses at Ben Davis, Zionsville, and Eagle Creek occurred in 1969) On top of our loss there, the field at Zionsville was getting to be less popular because of distance and the Ben Davis officials had some complaints from neighbors about noise and danger. But the real problem was due to one of our own members who were flying over a Little League Baseball game being played on a diamond east of our field. This one member flew over that group; the member was cautioned about it. He said he couldn’t see his plane in the West because of the sun, so he flew over again, lost control (radio failure claimed), and his plane struck the ground in front of the pitcher. When he went over to salvage his plane a few harsh words were exchanged between the flyer and the parents of the ball players. You know who lost that field! But Ben Davis was sympathetic to our cause, and they offered us a piece of property that they had bought many years before in case expansion would ever be needed. That is why we started flying at 34th street site, west of 465, and there we stayed until we moved to our present site on 56th and Reed Road, and I might add not a day too soon because of complaining neighbors (noise Again), and also due to the fact that Ben Davis had made arrangements to sell that property. Now there is a housing development on the 34th St. flying site. (Actually this was on the east of the new school property). We obtained this site in nov, 1971. At first we had a grass strip. Then we stripped the grass off and made a dirt strip. A year later we had a narrow, and short, asphalt strip.
During the winters of 1975 and 1976, we flew off a paved road, [with a ditch on both sides] at Stout Field, located at Minnesota and Holt Road. Most present members have never experienced the agony of being without a field or the frustrations of looking for a field. We all have a tendency to take the field for granted. That is just a benefit of belonging to the club. Many members possibly resent the necessity of paying what they consider high membership dues. Those of us who have lived through leaner times know what it Is like to look for a field. We know what it is like to find a field that we could lease but no money in the treasury to pay for the lease. Consider how lucky we are to have access to our present field at 56th and Reed Road. The Hamilton County Club has to pay nearly $1,000 a year for lease of their field, plus maintenance, upkeep and improvements. We can be thankful for our blessings; thankful that those in charge had foresight to establish a reserve fund and especially thankful to a few of our members who were instrumental in obtaining our present field. Especially the club owes thanks to Ken Carter, Ray Dehn, Steve King, and others who negotiated with the Park Department for the use of the field. (located at reed road and 56th street.) 1976 was the first full year of usage of the present field. The field was laid out and actually brought into being by our members’ diligent labor. We had it plowed, harrowed, and leveled. We all got out with our rakes and leveled the field. We removed rocks. We fertilized, and we sowed the grass seed. One of our illustrious former members, Sam Golden, even hooked a drag back of his Mercedes and drug the field using his car as the tractor. Believe me, it was a cooperative effort that brought the field into being. It has become progressively better since its inception through our cooperative efforts, and to keep the field it will continue to take our cooperative efforts. Sometimes we never realize how much we should appreciate something until that something is lost. We must cooperate with one another, with the gardeners and with the Park Department, and we must all assume responsibility for safe and courteous flying so that we do not lose this field because of bickering among ourselves, fighting with the gardeners, or antagonizing the Park Department. Think of all these things when the time for paying club dues rolls around.
Signed: L.W. Griffin, MD May 23, 1980
(“Doc” moved to Hendersonville, NC in 1981. He passed away some time in the 1990’s.)
“The following addendum to our history was written by Rolly Rhein, sometime in 1987. He starts out talking about the Fishback Road site. I am almost positive the asphalt runway at the Fishback Road site was put in during June, 1983. I think we got this site officially August 1, 1982” – Ken Carter.
Well here we are firmly situated in our new field with facilities that would have some clubs in seventh heaven. We have a good all-weather parking lot, access by members only, although AMA members are welcome to fly as club guests, a tarmac strip, smooth and level, and a site seemingly remote from anything. The field needs further improvement, taxi strips, and leveling in some spots, weed control all things that can and will be done with a little time and effort. It may even be possible that the landlord would consider some tree removal in the swale to the south of the field. One factor in our move to a new site is that of expectations. We moved from a site (Reed Road) with several potential problems, heavy automobile traffic, nearby housing, gardeners, local airport traffic pattern, but we had unlimited flying hours and practically unlimited flight restrictions. I don’t believe that any of us anticipated any restrictions in our present remote site. Wrong! We have neighbors with keen ears not attuned to our engines. The initial time limit: 7 am to dusk weekdays and 12 noon to dusk on Sundays seems o.k., but in the case of 7-10 members who fly only on the Sat, and Sun, mornings, their time is halved, the time of 8:30 shoots down the Dawn Patrol, another 7-10 people. Some of the Patrol can reschedule and its not quite a total loss. Quieter engines may allow an earlier starting time but this will be a subject of much discussion. At any rate the engine noise is in the wind, and the writing is in the sky about engine noise. The present rules on mufflers still stand, but the climate is such that an expenditure or a power producing “bellowphone” with a higher than “stock” noise level doesn’t seem sensible at this time. Also muffler mods should not be done. If you have stock mufflers on hand, you should see about reinstalling. I want the club to have unlimited flight time, if possible, but I will be the first to support and enforce any sensible limitation required to protect and maintain our present site. Oh by the way, watch out for the tarmac, it eats propellers and wing tips.
Signed, Rolly Rhein No date, sometime in 1987(Rolly passed away Feb. 23, 2001.)
Ken Carter, Spring, 2002
Well, we did lose our ideal site at Fishback Road in Oct. 1990, mainly due to one person blocks away, in another county, who made all kinds of erroneous claims. Once again, one person, who knew the mayor, who told the Park Dept. to, “close the field”, won. So back to our old site at Reed Road and 56th St. But by now it was becoming even more congested, and one neighbor to the West was even more determined than ever to stop us from flying there, so the never ending battle continued. We managed to hold on until, May 21, 1997, when we officially closed the site and moved to Fuller Airstrip, located in Hendricks County at the intersection of county roads 150N & 125E. Months earlier, Mack Blackburn spearheaded a search for a new field and that is the reason we could move to another flying site so quickly. Once again we had a new site, but all the work to put it into shape to provide a good strip with pit areas etc. loomed ahead, this is where Wayne Jones stepped forward and started working. He certainly was not alone and at the risk of not mentioning someone and hurting their feelings I will leave out individual names and say many club members put out extraordinary efforts to put Fuller Field into a nice flying site with a very nice grass runway. Maybe too nice—Mr. Fullers kids liked it so well they wanted to build a home on it. We lost the field March 2001. We were given warning about the closing of Fuller in the summer of 2000, and once again Mack Blackburn came up with a new site, Terry Airport. We started flying there Mar. 12, 2001, and we are still there. Sometime during this period we also lost our meeting site at the church on Kessler Blvd. I think it was Dale Haley who found us a nice meeting room at the Public Library in Eagledale, on 34th St, where we stayed until 2000. We are now meeting at Robin Run Village on W, 62nd St., thanks to the efforts of Carl Sams and Norm Ashcraft. As I read back over this club history as Doc and Rolly and I have written it, it dawned on me that all of the above is really a story of our lost and found flying sites over the years. Following are some brief notes on what we did as a club during these years, which will help to enlighten you as to additional club activities during the past years.
During the early 1970’s some of us were very active with members of the Hamilton Club. We would meet regularly at the Antelope Club for lunch and discussions on R/C, what else. Among the eight or ten that came regularly was Bob Godfrey, Larry Snedeker, Leo Dickey, Ray Dehn, Steve King, and myself. It was from some of these meetings that inter-club activities started. The Citywide Contest we know today started as an annual contest between our club and the Hamilton club. We won the first two contests in 1976 & 1977, and the battle was on. These contests were similar to the ones we hold today except they varied from year to year somewhat and consisted of such events as balloon busting, both tethered and released; taking off and carrying a given number of beans in shallow containers around the field once and landing, the greatest number of beans left was the winner; rest put on by the Hamilton group, who at the time had many active R/C members. A number of members of the South side club were also contest oriented and came to these annual Fun-Flys. From all of these gatherings, the “Citywide” was born.
Sometime during the mid seventies our club was asked to put on a show for the public during a Speedway anniversary celebration. This is the only time, that i know of, that anyone ever flew legally off the Coke property. It also the day I learned that my Aeromaster Bipe could fly in strong winds. Of course we had unlimited options so we could take off and land directly into the wind.
Also during 1979, we purchased a Public Address system, which really added to our contests, and shows, as we always had spectators at our field and it helped them to understand what was going on. We used the PA when we would invite the children from New Hope for a show we would put on just for them. These shows were not to show off flying skills as much as they were meant to be entertaining. Parachute drops, balloon bursting, smoke trails, glider towing and releasing from a given point, starting your engine, taking off and landing and running back to the stating point to stop clock. Shortest time was the winner. There were many more similar crazy contest dreamed up, all in the intent to create fun events. Of course the usual timed flights. Limbo, spot landing and such were also mixed in. During this same period of time a good number of our club would participate in contests, and always ended with a wrapped candy drop so the children could go on the field afterward to see what they could find. The members, who participated, got as much out of these shows as the kids did. The last show for the New Hope children that I found documentation on was Sept. 19, 1982.
There are probably many more tales to be told about our group as a club but until something jogs this poor memory of mine, I cannot write about them. Any input or changes to this document can now be made and I will be glad to make them for the club as they are brought to my attention.
Darryl Barr, Winter, 2008
This is an update to Ken’s last submission back in 2002. Our club is still flying out at Terry Airport, although there have been some changes over the years to our arrangement with the Airport. In 2000, Terry Airport became a full service Fixed Base Operator and changed names to Indianapolis Executive Airport. Since that time, Dan Montgomery (President of Terry Airport) has lead the airport through a series of upgrades, expanding their facilities which include a new terminal building, dual corporate hangars, an all weather Jet Canopy, and expanded personal service hangar space. These changes led to several runway changes over the years. Today, the airport is known as Indianapolis Executive Airport.
Keeping with the club’s theme for loosing airfields, the club was forced off the paved taxiway we’d been using when the airport started expanding the personal hangar space in 2004. We moved to an area to the South-West of that paved strip that was still on airport property, but muck closer to CR 1100 East. Our Airstrip ran North/South and we faced to the East. We were limited on space here as there was a farmer’s field to our South and a large/deep drainage ditch to our North. There was another farmer’s field to our East (on airport property) which made our field somewhat cramped when corn was planted. We made due with this field until the summer of 2006 when it was decided to move the runway to the East, effectively taking the drainage ditch (affectionately known as “the crater”) out of play. Bill Russell was very active in making this new runway, as he planned it out and it was his nephew that drove the heavy equipment to grade the land into a 500′ North-East to South-West runway. The new runway was created 5/6/2006. We all flew off dirt for most of that spring, but by July the grass had come in and we were flying from grass; amazingly, the grass did come in quite well. We were all very pleased with the new runway and felt like we were set for years to come.
Unfortunately, our club’s heritage of loosing fields would once again come into play. Seemingly without notice, the Airport embarked on a runway upgrade project that included making arrangements to handle a 100 year flood. “The Crater” would have to be enlarged in order to accommodate this new plan. Along with about a 50% expansion of the crater, came a “feeder” drainage ditch into the crater. This new ditch intersected the middle of our newly created runway and along with the crater’s expansion rendered our beautiful runway a memory. Heavy construction equipment invaded our field in the fall of 2006 (September) and completely destroyed our old field. Fortunately, they made quick work of the crater and ditch and by March/April of 2007 we were flying from a makeshift dirt field next to the access road that the construction vehicles used to access the interior of the airport. Based on discussions with Dan Montgomery and Carl Winkler (GM of the Airport), we went ahead and planned for a 700′ East-West runway (pilots facing North). There were many discussions during club meetings (still at Robin Run) regarding runway orientation, size, length, etc. during those months when we had no field. We decided to take advantage of the construction equipment and asked the Airport if they could grade out the field for us. They agreed and said they’d seed our field as well (nice gesture given how abruptly we lost our field to their expansion). Unfortunately, that nice flat space of freshly leveled land looked real good to the farmer we share space with. Unbeknownst to us, the farmer planted corn through about ½ of our 700′ runway. It wasn’t until the corn started coming up that we even noticed it had been planted! Imagine our shock and disgust when we discovered tiny little cornstalks rising out of our field! After discussions with the airport, we reclaimed a portion of the field (we mowed down the tiny stalks with the lawnmower) and shortly afterwards the airport planted seed for us. Looking back, the gesture was nice, but the seed took to only 50%-70% of the runway and we were left to battle a rough field for all of 2007 and 2008.
Outside of the roughness of the field, our flight pattern changed drastically from what we were used to; going from a North -South pattern to more of an East-West pattern. We no longer had to contend with the Sun for the first ½ to 2/3 of the day and because of our Northern latitude location only had to contend with it in the early mornings. We did have to worry about flying over (West) CR 1100 East. We had several member’s planes get away from them and end up across the street in the trees (thankfully our neighbors are understanding).
The airport also erected a 7′ metal sign at the base of “the crater” warning people not to swim (you have to appreciate the irony here – there’s never any water in this, so posting a sign gives a great example of the litigious times in which we live). This sign became a plane magnet. I don’t recall anyone actually hitting this but we had several near misses over the summer. We eventually took the bull by the horns and removed the sign during one of our weekend events. The next weekend, it was back! I guess we’re going to have to contend with it (it should be noted that by Spring of 2008, the sign was nowhere to be found)!
During the Winter of 2007 the club decided to ask the airport for more runway space to the East. We wanted to move the runway a bit, more re-orient it, in order to remove the sign and 1100 East from our pattern. During January of 2008, several members worked with the airport sharing plans of our intent to re-orient our space a bit to the east and angle the runway to about a 290-110 degree heading. Although there was some initial discomfort within the membership, it lasted only long enough to actually fly the new pattern. To an individual, people appreciated the reduction of air traffic over 1100 East and to my knowledge, we didn’t have a plane across the street all year.
The 2008 flying year was filled with many great days of flight as well as heated discussions on the runway. Although we now feel that the runway orientation is correct, the physical condition of the runway has left much desired. We basically fly from a semi-maintained farmer’s field. Our airstrip is haphazardly filled with weeds and field grass – some spots have more grass than others and the spots without grass are effectively divots for our planes to contend with on takeoff or landing. For most of the Summer the members simply coped with the state of the runway – likely just thankful that we had a place to fly. The more we broke props during taxi, or snapped a landing gear during a landing, the more the members grumbled about the condition of the airfield.
During late Summer (September) it was suggested that we look to bring in fill dirt and seed during the fall in order to attempt to smooth out the field and expedite grass growth for the following Spring. As the club membership was still quite small (around 30 members), the board decided to ask the members for a voluntary donation for field maintenance. To my surprise, the generosity was overwhelming and we had more than $1800 donated to the project. We used these donations to hire a local landscaping firm to bring in 6 truckloads of fill dirt. This was spread over the existing airstrip in hopes of filling in the divots and low spots of the runway. We didn’t anticipate getting a level runway as a result, rather we expected the dirt to fill in the small holes and divots. Once the dirt was spread, we seeded the entire field and hoped for mother nature’s assistance.
As I write this in early December, the results have been mixed . The percentage of rock mixed in with the loads of dirt was high and likely caused some challenges in terms of grass growth. That, coupled with very little water during the germination period for the seed and we’ve still got patches of grass to contend with … nothing we can’t overcome in the spring with some additional seed, some well placed dirt, and some fertilizer.
Until then, we’ll keep our chins up and dream of warmer weather.