The Wyoming Valley Radio Controlled Flyers Club History
Written by Mike Losh
The year was 1948 and Hamlet was on it's way to becoming the best motion picture of the year. Bread was fourteen cents a loaf and a postage stamp cost three cents. It was at this time that a group of airplane modelers from the Wyoming Valley were gathering at Mount Olivet Cemetery on Mount Olivet Road in Franklin Township to try to fly their radio controlled aircraft. Radio controlled flight was in it's very early stages and up to this point free flight and control line models were the main types of model aviation. It was at this site that radio controlled aviation started in the Wyoming Valley. The models were all silk and dope single channel models that were a real challenge to fly. After about two years of flying at this site, the group of modelers moved to the Forty Fort Airport on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort. It was at this point in time they became an organized club. The name Wyoming Valley Radio Controlled Flyers was chosen and they were sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Charter #952. The late Tony Clapper was elected president. The facilities at the Forty Fort Airport were the home of the Wyoming Valley R/C Flyers for most of the 1950's. The late Mike Wood, son of the late Senator T. Newell Wood, was elected the club's second president.
Single channel escapements and then Reeds and Galloping Ghost were used at this time. The planes of this era were built from kits or from plans. There were no ARFs (almost ready to fly) at this time, instant glues, or iron on coverings. This is why model aviation enthusiasts from this era were referred to as modelers. They had to build their aircraft and fabricate many of the parts because there were not nearly as many products commercially available as there are today. The transmitter, receivers and electronics in general were in their infancy. They were not very reliable, resulting in many busted airframes. You had to be a modeler to fly in those days. When the club left the Forty Fort Airport sometime in the late 1950's it moved on to ten other flying sites in and around the Wyoming Valley. In all, the club has had twelve flying sites. The sites are as follows: Mount Olivet Cemetery in Franklin Township, the Forty Fort Airport on Wyoming Ave. in Forty Fort, club member Joe Hudick's property in Orange, across from Reese's Machine Shop in Franklin Township, Chase Flying Site across from Chase Manor in Jackson Township, mobile home staging area in Ashley, strip mines off of Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke, Crestwood Area High School, the industrial park in Hanover Township, Luzerne County Community College, Bartoli Trailer Park in Wyoming (the current flying site of the Pennsylvania Fun Flyers), and Moon Lake County Park. It should be noted that the club has been flying at the Moon Lake site for over twenty two years (1980-present). In 1992 the club replaced the shed that was relocated from the Orange flying site. The new pavilion which was built to the park's specifications by the club members at a cost of $3000 was donated to Moon Lake County Park in June of 1992. Park Director May Livezey and then County Commissioner Rose Tucker accepted the pavilion on behalf of the park. The part of the park where the flying site is located was originally cleared to provide a temporary mobile home park for flood victims in Luzerne County during the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood. The late Robert Neff, Bob Pitcavage, and May Livezey have been the park directors during the years the club has been flying there.
The Club has had seven meeting places since its beginning. In the early days, meetings were held at the Naval Reserve Center in Kingston. Part of this building still stands today as part of Luzerne Plumbing. After many years of meeting at the Naval Reserve Center, the club moved it's meetings to the UGI building, also in Kingston. After the flood in 1972 the club held it's meetings at the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Dallas. Around 1979 the Kingston Police Center on Wyoming Ave. in Kingston became the fourth meeting site for the flying club. After about ten years the club moved to the C.W. Schultz Building on the Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre. A few years later they moved its meetings back to Kingston at the Kingston Recreational Center. In the mid-1990's the club moved to its current meeting site, the American Legion, Black Diamond Post #395 on Wyoming Ave., in Kingston.
Membership dues in the early days were $2.00 per month and are $4.00 as of this writing. Yearly AMA membership in 1948 was around $10 and is currently $58. The club became incorporated in the mid-1980s. The late Jerry Baretta, younger brother of club member Ron Baretta designed the club's logo as part of a contest at Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School in the early 1970s. Jerry received an award from the school for his design of the logo. Membership in the beginning was around 10 - 15 and was over 100 in the mid-1980s. Current membership is 56. It should also be noted that the club has always had an open membership policy. Anyone is welcome to join. Not all clubs have this policy and put a limit on the number of members. There are 24 deceased members.
Ed Kubasti, John Rynkiewicz, and Larry Wright are the club's designated flight instructors and between them have taught over 100 people to fly. There have been five women in the club. Melissa Anderson, Mountaintop, Mary Ann Grabko, Wilkes-Barre, Joan Sota, Kunkle, Diane Losh, Dallas, and Nancy Costin, Nescopeck. Joan Sota is our only current woman member. It should be noted that Diane Losh was the club's first woman member and the only woman to receive her wings.
The International Miniature Aircraft Association (IMAA) is the Academy of Model Aeronautics largest special interest group and is dedicated to promoting the building and flying of giant scale aircraft. In 1983 Club President Ed Kubasti started Chapter #263, the Northeast Pennsylvania Quarterscalers. There are about 10 club members who are members of this chapter. This group of flyers are involved in building and flying giant scale aircraft and participate in IMAA sanctioned events.
In 1984 long-time club member John Rynkiewicz started an Academy of Model Aeronautics Air Show Team, The Expos, Charter #138. There are 18 members from four area clubs, Wyoming Valley RC Flyers, The Black Sheep Squadron, Lackawanna Aeromodelers, and the Abington RC Sport Flyers who fly with The Expos. AMA air show teams present the world of model aviation to the public with static displays and flying demonstrations. The Expos have done many shows throughout Northeast Pennsylvania since 1984. One of our current members, Tom Jarick, from White Haven has the distinction of flying with AMA's first Air Show Team, the Alpha Squadron. Tom flew with the Alpha Squadron when he lived in the Valley Forge area and has flown inside of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and in front of the Washington Monument.
In 1988, about 20 members of the club left and formed the Black Sheep Squadron, Charter #2503. The Black Sheep flew from the Bartoli Trailer Park flying site in Wyoming. In the year 2000 the Black Sheep Squadron relocated to Falls and are currently flying at the Fox Crossing Airport. The Pennsylvania Fun Flyers, Charter # 4245, was chartered in 2000 and currently fly at the Bartoli Trailer Park flying site in Wyoming.
There have been five members that are contest directors, Tom Lowrie, Clarks Summit, Cliff August, Huntsville, Fred Anderson, Mountaintop, John Cottle, Forty Fort and Dan Williams, Pikes Creek. Many different types of aircraft have been flown by the club members throughout the years - everything from one-half As to 40% scale, gliders, helicopters, auto gyros, control-line, turbines, ducted fans, and electric powered, to name a few. The club has also hosted many events, such as competition fun fly's, fly-ins, IMAA sanctioned events, show team events, and many different flight demonstrations for the Boy and Girl Scouts and various local organizations. It also hosts the "Wings Full of Wishes", an RC Air Show to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast Pennsylvania. The club received a letter of commendation from then Governor Tom Ridge for their work on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The following are accomplishments of club members, some of which played a major role in the glow engine. Club member Charles Lawley from Wyoming was one of five individuals who were credited with the invention of the glow plug. These glow plugs became available in 1947 and were sold under the Arden name. They also had replaceable elements. In the early days of aero modeling ignition engines were used to power model aircraft. The invention of the glow plug was a major breakthrough and was the beginning of the two-stroke glow engine that we all take for granted today. Charles Lawley is also credited with the first commercially available glow fuel. Up to this point, modelers had to mix their own fuel. The fuel was called Arden Glow Flite Number 1 and Number 2. Number 1 was Glow Fuel and Number 2 was a gas-based fuel used in the older ignition engines. The fuel was sold in quart cans from his garage in Wyoming, Pennsylvania. Larry Wright, Wilkes-Barre, was the first member to fly a turbine in this area. Larry flew a turbine-powered Panther at the Skyhaven Airport in Tunkhannock. Ed Weitock, Pringle, is credited with flying the first helicopter in our area in the late 1970s. There have been four members compete in AMA's national competition. Fred Anderson and daughter Melissa, Mountaintop, competed in the mid-1980s in free flight competition. John Cottle, Forty Fort and Dave Sawicki, Harvey's Lake, were pylon racers and competed in FAI, Quarter Midget and Formula I in the mid-1980s. Dave Sawicki also held the Northeast Region Speed Record for Quickie 500. Ed Kubasti, Dallas and Larry Wright, Wilkes-Barre, are the blimp pilots at the First Union Arena in Wilkes-Barre. Ed and Larry flew over a crowd of 8,000 people more than 80 times at all of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins home games in 2000 and 2001.
Three of the original members from back in 1948 are still involved in the hobby today. Bob Naugle flies with the Pennsylvania Fun Fliers, and is involved with R & W Hobby Shop in Swoyersville. John Cottle is AMA's District III frequency coordinator and flies with his son Fred at Moon Lake. Ed Kubasti is the club's current president and also flies with the Expos Show Team and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Quarterscalers. It should be noted that Ed has been president for 42 years. He was elected in 1960 and is, in this writers opinion, a major reason the club has endured for 54 years.
I would like to thank the many people who have provided information for this history. A very special thank you to Ed and Betty Kubasti and John and Dorothy Cottle, without their help I could not have done this. Thanks to Steve Losh and Dan Williams for all their help.