It's a tradition Butte R/C Club member Dan Smith has been taking part in for decades. "We've been coming out here since 70's, had an agreement with the city of Chico, and without incident we've been flying for a long time." But earlier this year an incident did come up. The new Tower Manager at the Chico Airport noticed the remote control planes flying within the airports airspace, and became concerned.
Group members say the concern is unfounded, and that they aren't endangering any of the arriving or departing flights. "We always had spotters watching for airplanes that were coming in and out. If anything did come closely we all got our aircrafts on the ground."
Chico City, and Airport Manager Dave Burkland says he supports the club, but in the end it was up to the FAA to make the call. "They had been flying, and generally it's a club that's responsible, and felt that we could make these adjustments, but subsequently we got a letter from the San Francisco office which said they were basically directing us to prohibit it, terminate our agreement with them."
Pilots in the Butte R/C Club have been using the runway for more than 30 years, but now the city has locked the gate, and Smith says there's no other place they can go to fly safely. "Now everybody is on their own. They're flying in parks and any empty field they can, and that's not necessarily the safest thing either to have everybody flying where they want."
The next step for the club is to find a safe place to take off, and touch down. Smith says "we just need a good 20 acres of land, open land without power lines around it. We'd be happy anywhere that we can fly with the sun to our back, and have access."