William Warren, 12, of Baltimore is the club's newest member. The seventh-grader at Park School was interested in buying a gas-powered plane, but first needed to find a field where it is legal to fly it. And he needed some help with his flying skills.
He found the Radio Control Modelers of Baltimore on the Internet and practiced on club-owned planes before buying his own.
"I went out there three or four times before I passed the test," he said. "The club members were very helpful to me. The first time I flew on my own, I was a little bit nervous, but it's fun. It's an expensive hobby, though."
Annual fees for the Radio Control Modelers of Baltimore are $50 for adults and $25 for kids under 18. Each member must also belong to the national Academy of Model Aeronautics, which provides insurance. Those dues are $58 a year for those 19 and over.
And, of course, there is the cost of a plane and radio controller. A basic ready-to-fly kit with a foam plane and radio controller can be bought for about $150.
"This is a great father-son sport," said Stites, whose son, Brian, spent many hours flying with his father and now flies corporate jets for a living.
The club has even attracted attention from Johns Hopkins University. Hopkins professor Cila Herman found the club's website when she was teaching a class on mechanical engineering in aviation.
She asked several members to help teach a class last year, Stites said. The men supervised students while they built model planes in class, then they all went to Kirk field to fly their creations.
Crashing is fun
The flying club got its start in the 1950s when boys and men gathered behind Peerce's Plantation on Dulaney Valley Road to fly gas-powered planes.
From there they moved to a field off Greene Road in Baldwin until they became affiliated with Seventh District Recreation Council and moved to 5 acres on the Parkton landfill site in 1991.
The members raised money to build a clubhouse they named "Sticker's Hall" to honor Don Stricker, of Sparks, one of the original members.
Stricker, 78, said the club has spend more than $100,000 on grading the property, paving the runway, and building a clubhouse, small hangar for model planes and storage shed for lawn mowers. It received a $3,328 grant from the Academy of Model Aeronautics to help with construction.
Members also created shelters so visitors can sit in the shade while watching planes soar. The club allows a maximum of six planes in the air at a time.
"You don't want to go any higher than you can see," said Stricker, who doesn't fly much because his hand/eye coordination skills have diminished.
He comes to the field these days with his son, Steve, who started flying when he was 8. Steve Stricker, who works at AAI, is a master of airplane aerobatics and even won a national radio-control flying championship in Las Vegas in 1996.
But not everyone is an expert. Walt Dunsmore, of Hereford, joined four years ago after he spent a winter in his basement building "Ole Yeller," a bright yellow World War II-era plane from scratch.
He hopes to add a Barbie doll to a wing to simulate a wing-walker and wants to create an advertising banner for the plane to pull.
"I like to build them, fly them, crash them and rebuild them," he said. "There's always somebody in the club you can go to for help or for advice. These guys love to fly and they're out here all the time. Even if you're not flying, it's nice to be out here watching the action."
Kirk Field is located at 800 Stablers Church Road. The club's website is http://www.rcmb.org.