Editor’s note: This is part of our monthly Club Hub series highlighting the community service and social clubs operating in the Herald-Standard readership area.
Model aircraft soared over Mon Valley Radio Control Airfield at Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver Township as the Mon Valley R/C Club hosted their recent Giant Scale Fly-In.
Mon Valley members, who come from Allegheny, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, mixed with other clubs and the public for an event that attracted more than 400 people and showcased beautiful model aircraft performing an array of skills.
It’s one of many ways Mon Valley members share their interest in radio control model aviation.
“You have a great bunch of guys who will train you, teach you all the aspects you need to know of model aviation: how to build a plane, balance a plane, electronics,’’ said Mike Eiben, of Baldwin, club president. “So many people will help you out. There’s so much to learn.’’
Chartered in 1960, the club meets year-round on the first Friday of the month: 7:30 p.m. from October through April at the Rostraver Township Municipal Building and 7 p.m. May through September at the airfield. The club also hosts picnics and a Christmas party.
Members can fly their aircraft daily at the Cedar Creek airfield, which they help maintain, although members are quick to thank and show appreciation to park, township and Westmoreland County officials for their support.
The club gives back by annually donating to Westmoreland County’s March for Parks fundraiser that supports park and trail projects.
“They built a new shelter for us last year,’’ Eiben also noted. “We paid for the materials, and they built it with some help from club members.’’
Some long-time members participated in the fly-in, such as Ron Doctorick, of Pleasant Hills, a 42-year member. He works for PPG’s corporate aircraft department and flies a model aircraft that bears the PPG logo.
Lew Marascalco, of Pleasant Hills, a 40-year member, flew a 3-foot drone, turning his back to the aircraft and using first-person video goggles: “What I see is like I’m sitting in the drone.’’
Marascalco’s drone flew with a smaller drone operated the traditional way by Jeff Sumey, of Uniontown. Sumey has been flying radio controlled aircraft for 50 years and has been a club member for 25.
“It’s the challenge of it,’’ said Sumey, an associate professor at California University’s Dept. of Applied Engineering and Technology. “Everything is brought together - aeronautics, physics and electronics – and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great hobby.’’
The club encourages youths to join.
“It seems they learn this hobby so quickly, I guess because of video games they play,’’ said Nick Carrozza, of Speers, contest director. “I’ve seen youngsters start this hobby and after three months be better than 30-year old timers.’’
The fly-in also featured two AMA announcers: Greg Poppel from Columbus, Ohio, and Leo Rodriguez, formerly of New Stanton whose work has taken him to Michigan where he’s an aeronautics technician for Whirlpool’s Business Travel Center.
“This hobby turned into a career for me,’’ said Rodriguez, now an honorary Mon Valley member, who noted the club’s camaraderie, “the way it brings people together and a sense of family.’’
“People who come out are the best in the world,’’ said Poppel. “Nobody cares what you do for a living. We all have the same love of airplanes.’’
“Everybody’s very friendly,’’ agreed Eiben, a member since 2001. “This is where your friends are.’’
“We all share a love of flight,’’ said Trevor Waligura, a club member who sells aircraft at his Get A Hobby shop in Uniontown. “It gives everybody a place to come and have a great time with this hobby.’’