RC jet rally draws 80 pilots, 400 planes

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Sunny skies will continue Saturday and Sunday for the final two days of the 10th annual First Flight Jet Rally at the Wilson Industrial Air Center.

The event draws radio-controlled airplane modelers from 18 states and three countries, according to Larry Lewis, contest director and organizer.

“Right now, we have over 80 registered pilots and expect more coming in today and tomorrow,” Lewis said Friday. “We have about 400 models out here.”

Mark Farmer, president of the Tar Heel RC Flyers, said five of his members brought jets to the rally.

The club and several other RC clubs from eastern North Carolina put on the rally.

Farmer said it’s a treat to fly in Wilson on the 450-foot-long paved runway.

“It’s just such a great facility and the city of Wilson just works with us so good with everything we do,” Farmer said. “You can’t find a better place to fly.”

Lewis said Wilson is centrally located on the east coast, which makes it convenient for modelers in the north and south.

“Being able to fly at a full-scale airport like this is really nice,” Lewis said. “The biggest reason that all these modelers keep coming back is because of the hospitality that the city of Wilson has shown. They absolutely love it here.”

The full range of jets are on the tarmac this year.

“You can look around and see just about anything,” Lewis said. “The really cool thing about these models is any jet that you see out there in the real world, there is somebody who has modeled one and there is a good chance you will see it out here this weekend — from military fighter jets right up to the civilian jets.”

The aircraft fly at speeds approaching but not exceeding 200 mph.

“It’s free to the public,” Farmer said. “Everybody needs to come out and watch it. Bring your kids out to enjoy it and enjoy the flying.”

The event is set up so attendees can walk through the pits.

“They can get up close to the airplanes and talk to the pilots,” Lewis said. “We want the public to come out and let us put on a show for them.”

“It’s a great use of the airport,”said Clyde Harris of Wilson. “It’s a good thing for Wilson to have all these people coming to Wilson and using our facilities.”

The airport is at the end of Airport Drive, off Airport Boulevard. Flying continues at 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.