These former military men enjoy their flying machines
Cutting through the cold and wind Friday morning are two screaming, high-pitched electric motors, growing quiet one moment and reappearing in a crescendo the next as Stryker remote-control model planes operated by Carlos Negrete and Gerry Stolz dart up, down and across the blue sky.
They have the open field behind the Impact Church in Roseville all to themselves these days, and that’s just the way the 12-man High Impact Fliers like it. Most served in the military. Negrete and Stolz were Navy men. Some were in the Air Force, and some actually flew.
They still love to get together and fly; they just do it from the ground now, using radios to guide foam models of the T-28, World War II Cruisair, P-38 Lightning, F4U Wildcat, gliders and more.
“Oh, there goes one in,” Frank Crespillo says as Jim Mann’s plane crashes into a tree near the Impact parking lot, which was opened to the Fliers after the local pastor noticed them parked along Brady Lane when they showed up each Tuesday and Friday morning to fly. The church is located at 8330 Brady Lane.
The group started about six years ago at Maidu Park. Negrete then joined, bringing the total to five. The group continued to grow, but problems arose. The principal at a nearby school was concerned a student could be hit by a plane. The planes, on the other hand, managed to find the numerous light poles at the soccer fields.
“Everybody’s had an incident with the light poles at Maidu,” Negrete says.
Then Stolz, who lives close to the Impact Church, noticed the acreage in back one day. They began showing up to fly, and Pastor Russell McCollough welcomed them in. It’s been their home since. Negrete said they had to form a club so they could purchase insurance. They chose the name High Impact Fliers in honor of the church.
“This has been an almost perfect flying site with all this acreage,” says Mann, a Roseville resident and an Air Force veteran who flew in B-52s and KC-135s in the early 1960s. He flies now for “just pure enjoyment. We’re not a competitive club. We don’t fly in competition, though some of the people are capable.”
About all the Fliers have to worry about now are neighborhood, air space-defending hawks, who routinely engage the planes.
“They would attack,” says Stolz, who mounted a video camera on top of his plane and filmed a wanna-be dogfighter hawk attacking and repeatedly coming back for more. “I have video of them attacking. The talons are out. They were just vicious.”
Stolz, who stores his potentially “volatile” Polymer plane batteries in an old 30-caliber M1 container, learned how to outmaneuver the hawks, saying, “They can turn like crazy, but they can’t do a loop. That’s how I would get away from them.”
Crespillo, who lives in El Dorado Hills, says he’s a veteran of the Army 105 Howitzer.
Which means what exactly, he’s asked?
Says Crespillo, “I’m deaf.”
Crespillo admits he’s “the most ancient of the group.” He says he started flying model planes in the fourth grade. Answering an offer on the radio, he mailed in a request for a stick model powered by a rubber band.
“I … put it together, and you’re not going to believe this — it flew across the road,” Crespillo says, adding his wife sends him flying now while she bowls in Sacramento.
Russell Young of Roseville, an Air Force veteran, flies a modified Super Cub affectionately known as the “Glue Ball.”
“It’s been smashed so many times,” he says, estimating the 6-year-old Styrofoam plane’s collisions at about 20. “It has acne. I called it cellulite, but my wife said no; stick to acne.”
Young inserted a carbon fiber rod to help stabilize the “Glue Ball,” which has developed fatigue cracks.
“But you can repair it with gold ol’ Elmer’s glue,” Young says.
Contact Bill Poindexter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.
HIGH IMPACT FLIERS
Fly days: The group meets Tuesday and Friday mornings behind the Impact Church, 8330 Brady Lane, in Roseville.
Membership: Limited to 12. The club currently has one opening.
Annual dues: $10, “Really high annual dues,” according to club member Carlos Negrete.
Cost of model planes: Planes can be purchased, with a radio and ready to fly, for $170. The cost can climb into the thousands. Wingspans can run from 36 inches to 122.