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High-fliers to hold fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project

By Megan Workman
Courtesy photo
A member of the Flying Hillbillies club flies a radio-controlled plane at the club's Putnam County airfield. On Oct. 6, the club will hold a fundraiser at the airfield to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mike Spencer's bookshelves are cluttered with 50 trophies he's won while flying his model airplanes and helicopters.Spencer, president of the Flying Hillbillies club, has flown large radio-controlled planes since 1976.In the Kanawha Valley, he's not alone in his passion for the hobby.On Oct. 6, Spencer and about 40 other members of the radio-controlled model airplane club in Putnam County will show off their flying skills during the group's air show.Proceeds from the show and sponsors will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. The organization provides tangible, practical support for wounded troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.At least three aircraft will be flying in the sky at one time during the show, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Flying Hillbillies' airfield. The airfield is two miles south of Winfield High School on W.Va. 817 and the entrance is five miles north of the St. Albans exit of Interstate 64.Although not all the Flying Hillbillies' 75 members can make the show, Spencer expects the entertainment to be sky-high. "We try to have [only] short periods when there's no airplanes in the air. There are several things going on at the same time and the big planes are doing something special," Spencer said. "We have a break for an hour or so and that's when people can do the 'buddy-box' system and they really enjoy that."In between demonstration flights -- which feature large-scale aerobatic planes, fun-fly planes, helicopters, jets, gliders and racers -- anyone who wants to fly gets a chance to try with help from a trainer.Flying Hillbillies instructor pilots work with inexperienced "student pilots" and let them get their hands on a transmitter, Spencer said.
Computer flight simulators that give a realistic sense of flying will be set up so guests at the air show can practice before taking control of a model aircraft.Spencer said first-time fliers are what he enjoys about the air show."I like to see the expression on their faces and hear some of the things the kids and adults have to say when they're flying," Spencer said. "They've never held a radio-controlled plane before and they're quite enthused. They really love it."Spencer also enjoys raising money for the group's charity of choice, and said he has a soft spot in his heart for wounded soldiers."The men and women soldiers put their lives on hold, go to Afghanistan and Iraq to protect our freedom and they're quite often injured over there and the government just doesn't do enough for them," Spencer said. "There's been a lot of people who have lost limbs and the Wounded Warrior Project helps them find jobs, find housing. It's just a tremendous organization."
At previous air shows, the Flying Hillbillies donated to the March of Dimes and the Putnam County Animal Shelter. A few years back the club donated $10,000 to the March of Dimes. This is the first year the group chose the Wounded Warrior Project.The air show is free for everyone. Food and other entertainment during the five-hour event keep guests interested, Spencer said.The Flying Hillbillies club started in 1969. Today, members range in age from 12 to 78. Members can be found flying at the airfield most weekends, but Spencer said someone is there almost every day.Members pay $50 dues each year and must also join the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which provides insurance coverage to the flier, the club and the airfield owner.To learn more about the Flying Hillbillies or the Oct. 6 air show, call Spencer at 304-541-1509 or email him at Megan Workman at or 304-348-5113.
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