Up, Up and Away!

Bend Aero Modelers master desert flight

If you happen to be exploring the Oregon Badlands and Horse Ridge about 18 miles east of Bend, listen for the sound of airplanes. Dedicated to the sport of building and flying Radio Controlled (R/C) model aircraft, the Bend Aero Modelers (BAM) fly on a stretch of BLM land in the high desert by way of a land lease. The remote location is not only perfect for a designated flying field but enables folks to fly year-round whenever time and weather conditions allow. “Most often we fly on weekends,” says Bend Aero Modelers club president Greg McNutt. “We typically try for mornings because the wind is much more cooperative.”

As a non-profit radio-controlled aircraft club, BAM’s goal is to promote and encourage others to become involved in what is fast becoming a very popular sport. According to McNutt, it’s not unusual for bystanders who happen upon the airfield and see the planes in the air to comment on how they have always wanted to learn to fly, since they’d experimented with balsa-wood planes as kids.


“Many people are getting into this sport because it’s long been a desire that comes from inside a person,” says McNutt. “To some degree, the thrill of flying the plane from the ground is the same as actually being inside one. The technology related to radio controlled aircraft has advanced to the point where people of all ages are discovering it’s much easier to live that dream.”

BAM members are a group of 66 enthusiastic flyers whose aircraft include a range from airplanes and helicopters to multi-motor system types, and who are committed to helping others get their own aircraft off of the ground. Past president Waldemar Frank joined the club in 2007 after moving to Bend from Seattle. “Our club offers a welcoming and friendly culture, which makes it unique,” he says.

Tom Rose was a benefactor of that mentoring. He began flying radio-controlled model aircraft at the beginning of 2015, fueled by a love of flying after taking a one-week course on model plane aviation at Central Oregon Community College, which offers the class on a quarterly basis and includes computer labs and computer-based flight simulator training. But even after the formal training, Rose found that he needed some help. “Flying was more difficult that I thought it would be,” he says. “Members of the club were very helpful. They pair you up with an experienced pilot equipped with a buddy box, which enables the instructor to take control of the plane if you get into trouble. It’s only been a few months since he started, but Rose is has taken to the sport. “Before I started, I had no skills whatsoever. Although I’m still a beginner, I’m now flying on my own.”


To get started in flying radio-controlled aircraft, McNutt offers one solid piece of advice. “Don’t spend any money,” he says. “Go out and take a buddy box ride. Our club offers a 60-day program where you can come fly with us at no expense whatsoever. This way you have time to decide if you want to become involved in the sport.”

It’s not unusual to see BAM members out and about in the community, educating people about the joys of flying. “We react to opportunities,” says McNutt. “Through the Bend Parks and Recreation District, we’ve offered summer programs for kids, which include an afternoon at local parks showing them how to fly. We also work with the Prineville Airport for their annual ‘fly in,’ setting up a booth where people can try out the flight simulator and see different models of planes.”

If you’re interested in flying, BAM is the place to start in Central Oregon. Head out into the desert on any given Saturday and listen for the sounds of planes. “We encourage people of all ages and abilities to give it a try,” says Frank. “Our passion is helping those who want to fly fulfill their dreams.”

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