With development impending, aircraft club seeks new space to fly

The aerial view shows the land that the Palomar Radio Control Flyers club uses to fly aircraft. A sign advertises a housing project that will be built nearby. Courtesy and Alex Groves photos

Model aircraft enthusiasts have gone to an 85-acre plot of land off state Route 76 in Fallbrook nearly every weekday and every weekend for about 20 years to fly, but that tradition may soon change as development blossoms in that part of the village.

“You stand out there on the flight line, and you just know we’re going to be standing in the middle of a car wash, a McDonalds and a department store at some point,” Steve Gebler, next year’s president for the Palomar Radio Control Flyers Club, said. “It’s just inevitable that that’s going to happen.”

The club, which has roughly 200 members from Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties, has been using the plot of land near the intersection of Pankey Road and SR-76, just east of Interstate 15, to fly model fixed wing airplanes, model helicopters and drones.
The surrounding area is ripe for development. Housing will be put in about a mile away, and Palomar College’s North Education Center – currently under construction – will be about a half mile away.

Gebler said the Sacramento-based land developer that owns the vacant parcel of land where the club operates has been very communicative and has told club officials it will give them as much notice as possible when it starts to build on its land.

“But we know, if we don’t start looking for a new location now that it’s going to be a problem,” Gebler said.

He said he’s now trying to put out the word out that the club is looking for another space to operate and is trying to facilitate an agreement with another landholder in the area.

“We have 85 acres – we don’t need that much,” Gebler said. “We’ve been blessed to have that much space, but what we’re really looking for is five-plus flat acres.”

Gebler said he knows there are concerns over drones and the way they’re flown.

“There’s ordinances being put up because some of the guys who are flying these things are knuckleheads when it comes down to it,” Gebler said. “And they’re causing problems by flying into populated areas and stuff like that.”

Gebler said one of the advantageous things about the Radio Control Flyers is they observe bylaws put in place by the Academy of Model Aeronautics and make sure people who are interested in the drone craze are learning how to fly the toys properly and safely.

On Monday morning, it was business as usual on the land as a group of seven or eight people flew their model aircrafts.

They could be seen placing the aircraft onto a small takeoff strip and sending them off the same way a real airplane would take off at an airport.

Frank Burke, of Fallbrook, has been a part of the club since 2004. He was flying his model Republic P47 Thunderbolt, a World War II fighter plane that morning. The plane was painted bright hues of orange and silver.

“It’s not done in World War colors or scale or anything,” he said. “In Reno, they race planes, and that was my idea of what a Reno race P47 would be.”

Burke said he’s been building planes since he started 13 years ago and has gotten better and more experienced at it with each passing build.

He said the field in Fallbrook has been his go-to location to fly his aircraft and that it’s hard to imagine going somewhere else.

“I love the field,” he said. “It’s probably one of the nicest fields around our area, and we’re going to be losing it obviously, eventually. I hope we can replace it with something.”

For more information on the club, visit www.palomarrcflyers.com.

To contact the club about providing a space, email club member Steve Gebler at [email protected]

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