There’s an old saying among RC plane pilots, “fly in the summer, build in the winter.”

“You had to have enough planes to get you through the summer, and then you fix them all up again in the winter,” club member John Turgeon said.

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Perham’s Screaming Eagles RC plane club is switching that up by keeping their skills sharp year round by flying in the PACC gym during the winter.   

While the club has been around since the early-90s, back when Perham had a hobby store, they’ve only been flying in the PACC for the past few years.

More reliable, electric motors have miniaturized the planes enough to allow seasoned pilots like Turgeon and Glen Nyhus to fly indoors.

“As you fly more and more and get better and better, you crash less and less, and have less and less problems,” Nyhus said. “I can remember a day when I had five airplanes, and if I happened to get all five flying at one time I thought ‘wow’, but now I’ve got over 20 airplanes that are all ready to go.”

Nyhus got his first plane for Christmas when he was 12-years-old. Sixty three years later, Nyhus is still happy as a kid on Christmas flying his planes.

“I’m still not what you’d call a world class pilot,” he said. Having grown up in an era where planes were built from scratch, Nyhus has a special affinity for each of his planes.

“You know all the work that went into it,” he said. “The new generation of modelers has grown up in the days of the stuff that’s ready to fly, so they don’t have to build. If they crash an airplane, they hurry up and get a new one online, and a week later they’re up flying again, instead of spending three or four months building an airplane.”

Turgeon said the club’s 20 members vary in differing skill levels.

“We have one gentleman, real good pilot, everything he comes with usually has a roll of duct tape all put together,” he said. “We have another guy who doesn’t have a wrinkle on anything. It’s anywhere in between.”

Turgeon said it takes about six or seven attempts to gain proficiency at flying. It helps there’s now a whole range of computer flight simulators and training methods to expedite the process. Even still, Turgeon said it’s not if, but when you’ll crash. “You need the knowledge to repair the plane or buy the parts, one of the two,” Turgeon said.

The club is also proud to provide mentorship to newcomers who are interested in getting started.

“A lot of people buy a plane, crash once on the first flight and say ‘that’s not for me,’” Turgeon said.

After the learning curve however, the sky’s the limit. Both Turgeon and Nyhus have between 20 and 40 planes each.

“It becomes an addiction,” Turgeon said. While each plane isn’t drastically different, “it’s all about style,” Turgeon said.

“The first ones become too easy to fly, then you get better and better upgrades, sooner or later you get into helicopters. That was a mistake,” Turgeon said after pausing to reflect.

Until the snow melts and the club can get back on their improvised air strip on a corner of an Offutt farm irrigation field, you can find them buzzing around the PACC gym.

“We just have fun,” Nyhus said.

The Screaming Eagles can be reached on Facebook at Perham RC.