Ron Miller’s love for aircraft seems almost like a gene.
His father, who had a pilot’s license and a plane, had an interest in flying that started during his childhood. He passed it on to his oldest son, who now also has a pilot’s license, as well as an aircraft mechanic license.
“It’s just kind of gone through the generation,” Miller says.
Miller, of Lincoln, is just one of many Nebraskans who share a passion for model aircraft. But until recently, model planes were prohibited in Lincoln parks.
The City Council unanimously voted last month to allow park-model aircraft in Mahoney and Pioneers parks. The amendment to the Lincoln Municipal Code came after a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Department Advisory Board.
The amendment allows the flight of only park-model aircraft, a class of model airplanes that weigh less than two pounds and use small electric motors. The new rule does not allow for drones or any large aircraft that go faster than 60 mph.
Before the change, people either had to fly their aircraft on private land outside of Lincoln or drive to a field near Waverly, something Daniel Schmidt, owner of HobbyTown, had to tell customers who bought aircraft from his store.
“It’s a bummer to buy what you would consider to be a safe and fun thing for your kid or yourself or your nephew or whoever, and find out that you can’t fly it in town,” he said.
Schmidt said he used to fly model aircraft, but doesn’t own any now, partly because of having to go out of town to fly them.
“It just isn’t convenient to get there often,” he said.
But Schmidt said he sees the new rules as something positive for the Lincoln community, and he hopes that they might alleviate concerns that some people have with the planes.
“A lot of these model aircraft that are sold these days are electric; they’re a lot smaller, they’re much, much safer,” he said. “And so, they don’t necessarily pose any further risk from an injury or damage perspective.”
Miller, who has been involved with the Lincoln Sky Knights, a powered radio-controlled flying club, on and off since 1992, said he got his son into model planes when he was in his early teens.
“We built one from scratch, so he saw how the mechanics work, what it takes to make a plane fly,” he said.
Miller said he believes the new rules will open the door for more people to start flying model planes and could act as a learning experience for young people.
“It’s just a fun hobby, and I think it could be some good, family fun,” Miller said. “It might open up to a career in aviation to a young person, create some interest. It’s a great vocation.”
Schmidt said for young people, model aircraft flying can act as an outdoor activity away from electronics or as a bonding activity with parents.
“It’s a good kind of wholesome activity, so this is just one avenue to get kids outside and let them have fun with their parents,” he said. “It’s a cool little hobby.”