Club Origins

The Origins and History
of the Blue Max Flying Club
of Buffalo Grove
By Frank Stillson
April 21, 2003
Amended, August 2009
Edited by Larry Bochenko

Frank Stillson, author of this history, joined a control line model airplane club from Buffalo Grove shortly after the club was formed in 1970, the forerunner of the current Blue Max Flying Club. We flew in several schoolyards, including Jack London Junior High in Wheeling and held 2 picnics before the conversion to radio control.

During 1972 we formed the Blue Max Flying Club from the original control line club. Paul Swalski and Bill Shedler already could fly RC. Alan Rychlik soon joined becoming the third member capable of radio control flying. Alan self-taught himself to fly and became an outstanding flyer, premier teacher, designer and scratch builder.

A lot more happened in that first year:

  • One of the first requirements of the new Blue Max RC club was to write a constitution. Bill Shedler had been a member of an Ohio RC club. He drafted our first constitution which was very similar to the constitution of the R/C club in Ohio. (Since then, there have been several revisions.)
  • We flew the first year anywhere we could, in schoolyards, in parks and open fields. Not a very satisfactory way to fly.
  • For the first several years, our monthly meetings were held in various members homes.
  • Meeting notices were hand-written by the secretary.

We’ve always been a club on the move. Our first permanent meeting location was at the Buffalo Grove Raupp Memorial Museum, 901 Dunham, before they developed it into a museum. Other locations include:

  • The Buffalo Grove Park district building on Raupp Boulevard for many years.
  • The Youth Center in back of the Buffalo Grove police station.
  • The VFW Hall in Wheeling for a year or so.
  • Addolorata Villa in Wheeling.
  • St. Thomas School in Palatine.

In 1974, the first of three flying fields were built out of nothing more than an open field. Our original field location was near the corner of Quentin and Rt. 22, in Lake Zurich. This began as a hilly field with small trees and other impediments. After grading and seeding, we had a fairly nice L shaped field. The North-South runway was a little longer than a football field but was less than 150 feet wide. A utility shed / building "protected" one side of the runway, along with the pits. On the opposite side of the field was a tree line. Needless to say, it was very important to line up with the runway correctly or you could hit the building or the trees. (If you were lucky, you could perform a touch and go off the roof of this building, and several did.) The second runway of the L was more open; however, there were small trees around the field which were great “airplane catchers.” The open area around the flying field was planted in corn. It was okay in the spring, but 7-foot corn in the summer is very hard on aircraft, and especially difficult to find a downed aircraft in.

In 1975, we began the long tradition of holding family picnics in the fall. The first picnic was held in September. Naturally it was cold, and we built a bonfire in the pits. We had an outstanding get together over food, coffee and conversation. At future picnics, games were played on the field during the day for both the children and adults.

Rules were very lax at that time with a membership of only about 20 - 25. One of the first rules the club instituted was that all aircraft be equipped with mufflers.

There were only 3 people that could fly to start with and act as instructors. Marv Green joined in 1975 and became the primer-flying instructor for the club for the next 27 years.

In 1976, we began flying contests, both fun fly and precision competition. Q200 Pylon races were held at this time (for one thing they were easy to fly).

Grass cutting and field maintenance were taken care of by the members. (I wore out two lawn mowers over the years while I helped maintain the fields.)

Some rudimentary frequency control was begun at this time.

Our time at this field was memorable, and very relaxed, but in 1977 a church was built on the access road to the flying field. The first day of church services, right after church, we had 8 or 10 kids standing on the edge of the runway watching us fly. The parents came to take them home and not too happy about it.

1978 again started with an open field. We leveled it and planted seed, then waited for the grass to become good enough for us to fly on it. The field was located on Aptakisic Road in Long Grove in a portion of a nursery that was not in use at the time. This field had lots of wide-open space, a large square area and only one obstruction. Just to south of the field, in a low swampy area, was a very tall cottonwood free. It required care not to fly into it. One morning when we arrived at the field, this cottonwood tree was very nicely lying down in the swamp. It sure improved our landing pattern. It was the first field that we laid carpet in the pits.

Other notable events that year include our first helicopter flown at this field. This type of aircraft was discouraged due to the differences in the flying pattern that helicopters require. The first winter banquet was held at an Italian restaurant in Prospect Heights. The flying proficiency program was introduced and modeled after an article in one of the model magazines.

Everything was going along fine until we had a visitor from the owner of Oman's Flower Farm. It seems that he had a FAA approved landing field for full-scale aircraft just to the north of our RC field. He was not pleased that we were flying into his air space even though he hardly ever flew and always stayed away from where we were flying.

In 1979, another new field was built out of nothing. It was located one mile East of the previous site on Aptakisic Road on what was then known as Liekums Farm. (Now all houses.) That runway was cleared out of the edge of a swamp! Another "L" shape field.

The land around was planted in soybeans which were not bad because they do not grow very tall but are very dense. It too was difficult to locate a downed airplane late in the year. To the East was a swamp with 6 to 7 foot tall vegetation along with ground conditions like a soft wet sponge. Once we held a raw egg, egg drop. Put an egg in a cup on top of your A/C and try to hit a target. Because the ground was so soft, the eggs would not break when they hit the ground – they bounced!

During this time a flying safety program was started (i.e., too many careless happenings and close calls). Fortunately, no one ever got hurt. The first frequency control board was installed. Safety fencing was installed. At that time there was a 75-membership limit in the club.

During the early 80's, Blue Max hosted four AMA sanctioned Fun Fly's at the old Nike missile site in Libertyville. They were held in honor of one of the founding members of the club that passed away from a fast-acting cancer, Paul Swalski.

In 1985, we moved again. This time to the Forest Preserve Park District flying site in Deer Grove where we are currently flying at today. There have been some times, at first, that this field looked rather risky also. The owners of the condominium complex just to the East of us were not happy with the aircraft flying near them and making all that noise. One summer we had a Forest Preserve District police officer monitoring our flying habits. This was in response to a lawsuit that some of the condo owners were considering. Ultimately, due to the monitoring and improved flying on our part and the cost to sue the forest preserve, the lawsuit was dropped. To date we have been free of complaints from that sector.

A lot of improvements and changes followed:

  • Quarter scale aircraft began appearing in the late 80s.
  • Ed Der began an improved newsletter in the early 90's.
  • The four station flying locations were incorporated at this time to help with noise reduction.
  • Flying contests were held during annual picnics and had as many as 30 contestants.
  • New and improved frequency board built and installed.
  • Forest District cuts the grass most of the time.
  • Flight training program was upgraded to better identify proper instructors.
  • Flying demonstrations replace the contests at annual picnics.
  • In 1999, a web site was started for communicating with the members.
  • The newsletter was incorporated into the web site.
  • In 2000, Blue Max became a non-profit corporation, thus shielding the membership from any litigation that might arise in the future. A board of directors now runs the club, along with the President and VP.
  • The old carpet was replaced with a good drainage system, along with outdoor carpeting, that improved the flying conditions in all kinds of weather.
  • Improved Frequency board along with storage facilities installed.
  • Membership exceeded 150 at times during this period.
  • Family picnics held on the field each year, with much more than hot dogs and hamburgers.
  • Latest addition is the assembly tables for our aircraft with no need to kneel when assembling your aircraft.
  • The flying field is now paved.

There have been many changes in miniature aircraft since the beginning of this club in 1972. The technology of radios, engines, propellers, airframes, and modern construction techniques in general have created many new fields of enjoyment in miniature radio control flying.

Indoor flying has come of age in the past few years and many of the members participate when the weather is not good for outdoor flying.

Written by Frank S. Stillson
AMA 94665
Member since 1970

APPENDIX

Frank Stillson, charter member of the BLUE MAX FLYING CLUB, joined in 1970.

Positions held during the past 30 years:

  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Vice President
  • President
  • Flight instructor
  • AMA contest director
  • Liaison to Buffalo Grove Park District
  • Refreshment Chairman
  • Safety Chairman,
  • Club contest director
  • Noise abatement chairman
  • Banquet chairman

Responsible for developing:

  • Flying proficiency program
  • Flying safety program
  • Three flying fields

Marv Green joined the Blue Max in 1975 and was a very involved member for many years. He became the premiere-flying instructor for over 27 years, sat on the board in different positions many times and helped develop three flying sites.