Ed Waske was a man with a problem. He was managing an aviation business in an area that is more known for coal work than cowl work. How could he get the word out to people in his region about the many aviation opportunities that exist in his and other similarly focused industries in the area around the local airport, home to the states longest runway?
Ed didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. West Virginia has a rich history of model aviation, having had model aviation pioneer Carl Hopkins who organized Clarksburg’s first model aviation club in 1928. Through this club, Carl encouraged both beginner and advanced pilots to take to the sky with contests, regular meetings, and classes. He even involved his family in the mission, bringing along his children to help organize and educate at the events. This provided the perfect framework for what Ed had in mind.
Ed and his wife, Pat, called in some favors and met some new friends. Throughout the event, I was impressed by the community leaders who saw the value in inspiring a love of aviation in all of its forms through a celebration such as this. The community of Bridgeport, West Virginia, came together to ensure the event’s success. The North Central WV Regional Airport presented static aircraft displays, fly-ins from a Black Hawk helicopter, a Chinook heli, and a life flight helicopter. The Bridgeport Recreation Complex featured several types of flying model aircraft. These included Control Line, model rockets, RC trainers, and RC simulators. Participants were able to build model rockets with the West Virginia University Rocketry Club, build balsa gliders, and fly a multitude of model aircraft. Through it all, they learned more about aviation resources in their area. Attendees also had the chance to win prizes and meet area mentors who are excited to welcome these newly minted aviators into the sky.
With support from my wife, Mary, and our two boys, I had the pleasure of helping to facilitate the RC simulators at the event. This helped to prepare attendees to buddy box with AMA District III VP Mark Radcliff alongside local AMA club members.
Ed and his team of volunteers revived much of what Carl had done all those years ago—inspiring those in the region to learn more about aviation and to pursue it for pleasure, competition, and career. For Carl, the best tool for the job was rubber band-powered Free Flight model airplanes. For Ed, it was that and so much more.
My thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, and community partners who came together to give back to the people of North Central West Virginia. I’m especially grateful to Ed and Pat, who lead from the front to ensure the success of this event. I’m certain that many of the attendees will go on to pursue aviation further, solidifying the region as an aerospace hub both now, and in the future.