Once Mark Drlik found the perfect spot for a model airplane club, the only thing that stood between him and his goal was months of hard work and planning.
“I decided, ‘hey we’re going to go for it and see what we can do with it,’” said Drlik about the 40 acre plot that has become a haven for radio controlled airplane enthusiasts around the country.
The field opened for its first public event March 22-24.
Nestled in the beautiful north Georgia mountains in Dawsonville, the North Georgia Model Aviators club is located off Hwy. 9 North and Mill Creek Road, four miles over the Lumpkin County line. The club broke ground in September 2017 and has only been open to its members for two months.
Last weekend, the newly developed space was open to all RC aviators across the country in its first aerobatic fun fly event sponsored by RC plane manufacturer Extreme Flight RC located in Cumming.
“This is a new flying field so we got to help out with the grand opening,” said Chris Hinson, owner of Extreme Flight RC. “(Drlik’s) done a really good job of getting a group of people to come here and help him. He’s actually done most of the work himself, put a lot of time in getting this place cleared and grass laid and laid a lot of sod out here…working with the neighbors to get this piece of property...he’s been busting his tail.”
Currently, the club consists of a 550 foot runway and a newly constructed covered pavilion with stations for aviators to work on their planes. Drlik plans to add another 200 feet to the runway, run power to the pavilion and set up a weather station and camera system.
Approximately $35,000 has been put into the field and Drlik says they’ll need another $25,000 to make the club what they want it to be.
“It’s just time and all these people are here to basically support us and donate money so we can keep going,” said Drlik.
And of those people supporting NGMA: Extreme Flight sponsored Jase Dussia, a pilot from Michigan who is considered the greatest aerobatic RC pilot in the world.
The club has also seen support from their neighbors across the street: brothers John and James Geirrein.
“Oh man this is something else. I’ve never seen nothing like this. This is really neat,” said John Geirrein. “I like it. I told Mark, I said ‘you keep owning it and you gonna make me buy an airplane.'”
The Geirreins have lived on the property across from the club for 34 years and have helped Drlik and the club in any way they could since day one.
“They need a place to park, I’m going to let them park,” said Geirrein, who opened up his yard for RC enthusiasts over the weekend.
NGMA saw approximately 60 model planes take flight Friday and even more during Saturday’s festivities, which included a raffle and barbecue with all proceeds going towards helping the 503(c)(7) nonprofit take off to new heights.
“I have this huge following of these guys because they just wanted to fly,” said Drlik. “They just wanted a place to fly. That’s all they wanted.”
Drlik has seen model airplane clubs decline in recent years, with three closing in the state in 2017.
Thanks to his determination, NGMA is set to be a beautiful club only 10-15 minutes farther for a majority of the club’s pilots who live in Alpharetta and Cumming.
With plans to clear out more trees, the mountain scenery will be in full view and is something everyone is excited for.
“It’s going to be gorgeous once they get that layer of trees where you can see the mountains,” said Hinson.
“I lived down here and all this was grown up and I never got to see the mountains. I thought that was the prettiest sight I’d ever seen,” said Geirrein, who takes his grandchildren to the club to watch the aviators fly during the weekends.
North Georgia Model Aviators club is located at 323 Geirrein Road in Dawsonville.