JAY — The Northwest Florida Modelers Inc. (NFMI), dedicated a new airfield on Sept. 22. It is the Santa Rosa County Fallen Heroes Memorial Radio Control Flying Park at 3786 Transfer Station Road in Jay.

"We want to thank Santa Rosa County for providing $1,200 to build and grade the new radio controlled airfield," Frank Papasavas, NFMI member said.

Papasavas was tasked with finding a new site for RC modelers to fly. With the help of Tony Stillman, Flying Site Assistance Coordinator of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) they were able to secure the site at the Jay Transfer Station. Santa Rosa County Commissioners used recreational funds from Districts 2 and 3 to prepare the field for flying.

The addition of the Jay RC Park brings the total number of airfields in the local area to three. There are two fields in Pensacola, Bronson Field and Fritz Field.

"The only restriction at the Jay Park is model jets," Stillman said. "It's due to noise abatement issues."

Stillman said model aircraft have to maintain an altitude of 400 feet or below and remain within line of sight of the operator.

Part of the NFMI and AMA purpose is to get "outlaw" operators to join the group and follow national guidelines for flying these aircraft, including drones. AMA is concentrating on preventing the misuse of drones, Papasavas said.

"We want to bring a new activity to a new demographic," Stillman said. AMA does this by opening new RC fields.

Stillman said there are real-world applications to this hobby. According to Stillman, the military recruited AMA national champion pilots when they first started working with drones. The AMA also works with school programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through Alcoa Foundation Company Grants. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Purdue University have created engineering programs centered on radio control drone applications.

The new park is available for use by AMA and NFMI members. Those intent on flying at any of these parks must have their credentials. The AMA, the national organization and governing body for RC modelers, has more than 185,000 members throughout the country. Membership for adults is $75 a year, seniors $65, youth are free.

Go to NFMI.org for more information.