The Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography Courtesy Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club
On clear, sunny days, just outside of Chatham, you might hear them.
The razor hum of wings slicing through the air with the precision of finely tuned blades. The reverberating, bone-rattling buzz of compact, powerful engines. The whooping laughter of the pilots as their RC planes dance through the white clouds above them.
They are a tightknit, passionate group. And, according to President Kurt Brown, they are always open to new members.
Kurt Brown first discovered The Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club early last year thanks to everyone’s favourite bottomless time sink: YouTube.
“I was watching YouTube videos with my son,” Kurt recalls. “I was unemployed at the time. But I have a bit of the background of mechanics. My son Sterling and I had come across these videos on a channel called Flight Tests. They make these RC planes out of paper foam you can get at the dollar store. So, I said to my son, ‘Hey, Sterling! I can make one of those! Do you want to make one with me?’”
After making his first plane, Kurt dis-covered the Chatham Aeronauts Flying
Club—an organization that provides a safe environment for the enjoyment and
advancement of radio-controlled model aircrafts.
“I was pretty good at it right away,” Kurt admits. “Before long, I had a collection of gas and nitro powered planes. Large ones. Small ones. I have some pretty cool stunt planes, too.”
Founded in 1955, the Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club flies several different types of planes, including flying scale and sport aircrafts, sailplanes, helicopters and drones.
“We have all different types of planes,” Kurt states. “Some that look quite realistic. And we have all different sizes. We have some pretty large stuff, including some with 160 CC engines. Most of our stunt planes are 8 to 10 feet wide and weigh 30 to 40 pounds. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but when you see these planes in person, you can’t help but be impressed by them.”
The Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club race their planes at speeds reaching 140 miles per hour.
And aside from model planes, the Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club is currently developing an exciting new project.
“One of our Flight Instructors, Art Reaume, is restoring an old Spitfire that was given to the club years ago,” Kurt reports. “He ended up finding a really nice engine for it. It’s a 150 CC 2-cylinder engine. The wing was 115 inches wide. He’s been doing a lot of custom work on it. The way we fly, we need to make sure we can handle whatever we throw at it. He’s been working on it for about two years. It might be ready to fly this summer. And when it does, it’s going to be amazing.”
Kurt describes the sensation of flying one of these planes as unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
“For me, it is something completely different,” Kurt explains. “I’ve had RC cars and nitro trucks in the past. But this is something else. One mistake and you can crash your plane and be out thousands of dollars. That said, once you get the hang of it, you’re in for a lot of fun! Once you conquer it, the sky’s the limit!”
And one of the best parts about learning this new skill, Kurt stresses, is figuring out how to do tricks with these stunt planes.
“There’s a move called a knife edge spin,” Kurt states. “What you do is you go straight up, really high and start rolling the plane. Then, I kick the tail and elevator to get the plane up on its side—as its spinning! And it’s doing all this as its coming down towards the ground! After that, it comes out inverted and flies away!”
Kurt’s enthusiasm and talents has not gone unnoticed. After only a couple months, right before the pandemic started, Kurt had, as the expression goes, greatness thrust upon him.
“When COVID happened, we decided to temporarily shut down the club,” Kurt explains. “So, I got in touch with the municipality about whether or not we were allowed to be open; if we were allowed to have a couple people outside, in the middle of the field, with social distancing. And it turns out we were allowed to stay open. After that, the previous President didn’t have as much time for the duties of the role, so they said, ‘Why don’t you be President?’”
Kurt’s response was characteristically deliberate.
“I said, ‘Alright, then,’” Kurt recalls.
The Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club is an inclusive, welcoming community. The club has several qualified instructors for both fixed wing and rotary wing aircrafts. Aside from the annual membership fee, free instruction is available for all student pilots.
“If anyone wants to learn fly, we do provide lessons for free,” Kurt states. “We even have an aircraft to teach people on. And we’re always happy to teach people. We support people that want to get into this hobby. We want to help out as much as we can.”
And communities, Kurt discovered, have a way of giving back. The winter Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club meetings are held at RM Auto Restorations in Chatham. A couple of the members even work there. And after spending some time with the group, Kurt was offered a job.
“I was unemployed when I joined the group,” Kurt explains. “Now, I get to work on all these pretty sweet cars! All from learning how to fly planes! Messing around with these RC planes turns out to have been the best decision I’ve ever made!”
More information about the Chatham Aeronauts Flying Club is available at chathamaeronauts.com.
“If the weather is nice, we are always out there,” Kurt states. “You don’t need to fly solo. If you’re looking to learn to fly, I recommend doing it with the group. Don’t just try and fly at a park somewhere. Learn from my mistake—it doesn’t always end well!”
Kurt concludes our interview with one last piece of advice: “As we always say: ‘Taking off is optional. Landing is mandatory!’’”