For Justin Drake, flying and building model airplanes is more than just a hobby, it is a passion that has stuck with him for most of his life.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old,” the Clearspring resident said.
Drake is vice president of the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles, a group dedicated to flying model airplanes and educating the community about the hobby.
On March 12, the group conducted its annual exhibit at the Seymour library, where patrons could walk through and see the members’ planes, learn about the hobby and test their skills on a flight simulator.
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“We also have door prizes and stuff for kids to take home,” Drake said. “We’re trying to give patrons of the library and the public a chance to see what this is all about and see what we do as a group.”
The group meets every Saturday or Sunday afternoon at Freeman Municipal Airport in Seymour to fly planes and share ideas on how to make repairs, build or anything else.
“A lot of guys have strengths in some areas, while the others have their strengths, too, so it’s a good chance to see things in action and also learn,” he said. “We are out there about any given Sunday when the weather is nice.”
For anyone interested in joining the group or trying a new hobby, Drake and club members recommend purchasing a trainer plane, which is a standard model that is fairly easy to fly.
“They are inherently stable. If you tip them, they will self-right,” he said.
Drake said using a simulator is another option.
“The simulator is an invaluable tool because you can just keep hitting the reset button,” he said.
The simulator was on display during the event at the library for guests to use. It featured a computer software program with a remote control similar to what is used with model airplanes. The user selects the plane they wish to fly and tests it in an airport setting on the computer. The remote is sensitive to what a real model plane would be like.
“It does guarantee your success at the hobby,” Drake said. “I know a lot of older guys that made their start crashing a lot of airplanes because there was no other way but to be self-taught. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
By using the simulator, Drake said enthusiasts and those new to the hobby can avoid timely repairs and save a lot of money.
“It gets expensive if you keep crashing planes,” he said. “That’s why the simulator and the reset button are so valuable.”
Drake said there are few hobby shops around for supplies, but most who are interested in the hobby nowadays find their supplies online.
The club also hosts other events throughout the year. Most notably is the Hoosier Scale Classic on Aug. 5, 6 and 7 at the airport. The event is actually a qualifying event for a national scale competition.
The club also hosts the Southern Indiana Flying Eagles IMAC Challenge, an aerobatic contest, on May 7 and 8.
On June 11 and 12, the club will have a Freeman Field Warbird Fly-in to feature old war planes.
Drake first became involved in the group about six years ago after a friend introduced him to the club.
“It’s always been a part of my life, and I’ve been in and out of it,” he said. “But when you’re an adult, sometimes you don’t have time, and then you do have time, but I’m glad to be part of it.”
Drake also set a goal about five years ago to make his own drone. He does aerial photography and said having a drone would be a great way to expand his skills and product. So he began by watching countless YouTube videos and then began ordering parts.
He started in 2011 and finished in 2012.
“I think I worked on it about every night for four months,” he said. “That’s four months of sitting down and doing or working on something each evening.”
Drake then hit a bump in the road, as he had to order parts that were only available in China. Once the parts arrived, all the instructions were in Chinese.
“I just had to think who would know how to speak Chinese,” he said. “So I went to the local Chinese restaurant, and they were able to help me out with understanding it all.”
Once everything was together, Drake started using it and has even shot a few commercials for different companies.
One was CLAAS of America in Columbus.
“It was for an expansion they had planned for their facility, and they wanted to show their investors,” he said.
The drone doesn’t get used as much as one would think, Drake said, but that’s because he is gearing up for a special time of year — the chance to celebrate an interesting hobby with those that share the passion.