M.A.R.K.S. Seeks Worcester Field
OCEAN PINES — Ray Unger’s neighbors don’t really even bat an eye anymore when they see one of his planes taxiing along in front of their homes. The remote control (RC) airplane enthusiast has been using the street as a practice runway for his scale model bombers and jets for years and the sessions have become something of an expected occurrence.
A former pilot, Unger said that learning to fly the plane from the ground as opposed to the cockpit was a significant challenge. From the inside left is always left and right is always right; from the ground it is not as clear cut and navigational mistakes were the bane of his first years of integrating into the RC style of flying.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of pilots who kept having to bring home the pieces of their planes in boxes.”
Crashing is still an issue but as the planes have become more realistic, they’ve also become better designed to come apart without getting ruined. Repair kits and extra parts have become the norm whereas in the past all there really were were replacement planes.
But the best way to reduce the number of crashes is to practice landing and taking off. Only so much can be accomplished in taxi mode.
To that end, over the last several months Unger has been searching for a different place to practice his taxiing. A place that can include liftoff and doesn’t include the long drive to the only official RC airstrip in the area — the M.A.R.K.S. field in Fruitland.
The Miniature Aircraft Radio Kontrol Society leases the land as a place for members to practice and as a venue for their annual air show but Unger and others have been on the lookout for a Worcester County airfield where they can practice without making the 80 plus-mile roundtrip.
The county doesn’t lack open space, by any stretch of the imagination. The primary difficulty is that the land un Worcester County is so valuable that finding an affordable tract has been difficult but Unger believes he is making headway.
His first hope was to secure some space at the Ocean City Airport — and obvious choice for planes to take off. But as it turned out it was too obvious. Because it is a functioning airport, FAA regulations come into play and the only way to secure a practice flying facility their is to have the airspace closed. RC planes are considered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and as such also have the attention of Homeland Security.
While he remains optimistic about the potential for using the Ocean City Airport, Unger is making overtures wherever he can to secure a closer space for he and the other local M.A.R.K.S. members to fly.
Unger has also been in touch with Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church, who is also a Realtor. Church has access to land that could be used occasionally but finding something permanent might take more time and funds than the club has.
His greatest hope for the immediate future is to get access to the track area of the Casino at Ocean Downs.
Late this summer he got in touch with William Rickman, president of the Casino at Ocean Downs and a fellow pilot, and appealed to him for access to the racetrack behind the casino.
His pitch included the facts that the planes — now almost all electric rather than gas powered — are quiet enough to be unobtrusive. He also pointed out that the M.A.R.K.S. events already draw people in the hundreds to their out of the way Fruitland site and would surely be a worthwhile diversion for Casino at Ocean Downs attendees.
While Unger continues to stay in touch with the interested parties and has had some positive discussions on the matter, he has yet to get a firm commitment from any. But as the hobby continues to grow in popularity and the kits drop in price — a person can get started for under $150 — Unger feels as if the chances of finding a place are increasing as well.