To anyone cruising U.S. Highway 93, your last thought would be that small planes are being flown over an acre of farmland.
On most calm afternoons, several men can be found on the corner of Minesinger Trail and Farm Road in Polson, sitting in lawn chairs waiting for the right moment.
“This is kind of our little slice of heaven,” Erik Kendall, one of the men controlling some of the small planes, said.
The Mission Valley Model Aviators consists of a group of guys who fly various sizes of model airplanes, although anyone is welcome to watch.
There are about 15 members on the roster, all of whom pay dues which help to go toward the lease of the “runway,” a green patch of land at the intersection nestled between sections of farmland.
Member Erich Spidel, who has 12 flyable planes stored neatly in a trailer, said that each year the member dues vary, depending on how many members there are.
Kendall is one of two people in the Mission Valley qualified to train people on how to fly the mini aircraft, and when newcomers attend and show interest, his planes are the ones that are used to learn.
He doesn’t charge to teach because it’s difficult to get people, especially youth, involved in the hobby.
Flying the planes can be expensive, but “so can fishing, so is hunting, anything can be really expensive,” Kendall said.
Although they keep their eyes in the sky, for the most part, the aviation enthusiasts keep their feet firmly on the ground and aren’t pilots.
“We’re the little guys,” Kendall said.
Kendall initially started out taking flying lessons, but said that as life began to happen, he became involved with the model planes. “It’s just as addicting as flying the ‘real’ planes.”
Saturday mornings tend to be busy with Mission Valley Model Aviator members, their families and friends gathering at the runway for a couple hours.
“All you need is a lawn chair and a story to tell,” Kendall said.
The air traffic, especially with aircraft utilizing the local airports, aren’t bothered by the club.
Kendall explained that the highest that the group can fly their planes is 400 feet, while “real airplanes” can’t fly below 500 feet.
The airports, however, are “well aware” that the little runway is there and is utilized.
While someone is flying and a real aircraft is flying low and nearby, a fellow member will let that person know so that they can bring their model down, although Kendall said “it’s never been an issue.”
As far as buying supplies for the hobby, Kendall said that the internet has dwindled specialty hobby shops. “It’s a lot cheaper and they’ll ship it to my door.”
To ensure there is an interest in model aviation, Kendall said that anyone interested is more than welcome to show up at the runway and test out the planes first.
“Everybody has their own reason why they do it, but if you do it, you love aviation,” Kendall said. “That’s always the driving force behind it.”
For those interested in the Mission Valley Model Aviators, contact Kendall at (406) 303-0853.