Nick Scharping, a radio control pilot from Wichita, spent his Saturday morning at Harvey County East Lake — using smoke liquid in his plane as he performed precision flying at a year-old airstrip.
Those watching spoke about his "magic fingers" and awards he had won. Others just marveled at what he could make his airplane do.
"I spend about two hours a day on a simulator," Scharping said. "Other days, when I go to a field, I am out for five or six hours at a time. It is almost every day."
Scharping started flying at age 4. Saturday he was helping celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of a Radio Control facility at East Park, which opened in 2019 with a rock crawler course for off-road vehicles and a airstrip for model plains.
"I love it," Scharping said. "It is about 30 minutes from my house. I get to come out and hang out with people that enjoy (the hobby) like I do. ... I am beyond thankful for this."
The Newton Radio Control Club celebrated the anniversary with rock crawler competitions, drone races and radio control airplane exhibitions on Saturday and Sunday.
It was about a year ago that the facility opened — and it has been growing ever since. On opening day the club saw about 10 rock crawlers compete. On Saturday, that number was around 17.
"It has been a lot of work and we have accomplished a lot," said Joe Owen, president of the club. "It feels really good, to see all these people out here using this course and using the airfield, that is what this for — to bring people together and have fun. It feels really good."
Work for the creation of the facility on the north side of East Lake Park began well more than a year ago.
There were meetings with park rangers and decision makers to be had before any dirt could be moved or action take.
"There were a lot of meetings with the parks advisory board educating them on what we wanted to do and what the radio control hobby entails," Owen said. "Once they approved this, we went to one or two commission meetings and it was approved. Most of it was education on the parks advisory board side."
The facility was first pitched to the county commission in Jan of 2018 for 25 acres of land in the the Blue Stem area of East Park. A bit more than a year later, the club was able to open with an airstrip and rock crawler course.
When completed, the park will consist of two grass runways — a north-south and an east-west — a scale crawler course, a dedicated rock crawler course, a dirt race track with flat oval, stadium, rock racing and a designated drone racing course. Boating opportunities are available at the lake across the road.
On deck right now, according to Owen, is expansion of the rock crawler course.
"This has been too much work, but not enough," Owen said.
Members of the club are at the course almost weekly, depending on weather.
"A lot of people think that the radio control hobby is ’too expensive for me.’ But you can get into this thing for super cheap. Basically anybody can afford to buy a crawler that will work out here. If they want to figure out if it is something you want to get into, that is why we are out here for."