Hill Hoppers take to the sky for Wounded Warriors

WHEELING – The Hill Hoppers Flying Club will host its 29th-annual air show in celebration of National Model Aviation Day on Aug. 18, and a portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Based in Wheeling, the Hill Hoppers are a group of radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts. The club is one of 2,400 throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam that are sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

The AMA was founded in 1936 and is dedicated to the recreational, educational and scientific pursuit of model aviation.

Hill Hopper and Bellaire resident Fred Snively rekindled his childhood enthusiasm for model aircraft and joined the group after he retired from the former Ohio Bell Telephone Co. in the mid-1990s.

Today, at 73 years old, Snively is among approximately 80 Hill Hoppers from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania who meet monthly in between sharing their affinity for model aircraft at local shows and demonstrations.

Phil Maxwell was one of the original founding members of the Hill Hoppers. He offered a parcel of his property in rural Ohio County to a group of fellow aviation enthusiasts back in the 1970s.

“A handful of guys were flying in different places – just wherever they could find a spot,” Snively recounted. “Well, Phil had this farm, and with a little bit of work, they could make a place to fly.”

That field has since served as the site of the Hill Hoppers’ annual air show, where the public is invited to watch members fly model planes and helicopters.

Now in his 90s, Maxwell has ensured the Hill Hoppers continue to have access to the land after he is gone.

He willed his property, including the club field, to Oglebay, on the condition that current and future Hill Hoppers can continue to use the field to fly their model aircrafts.

This year’s Hill Hoppers air show will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 18 at the club field off of Roneys Point Run Road. Admission is free, while there will be a fee for parking. There will also be lunch items for sale at the refreshment stand and on-site restrooms.

All children 12 and under will receive a balsa glider to compete in a flying duration contest. Attendees can also clock the speed of the aircraft from the club’s large radar gun display, and Hill Hoppers will give demonstrations on the basics of aircraft operation. There also will be 3-D flying demonstrations with planes and helicopters.

The Hill Hoppers traditionally have charged a modest parking fee to cover the cost of maintaining the club field and the road leading to it. This year, adopting a suggestion from the AMA, the parking proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project to support a full range of programs and services for this generation of injured veterans and their families. Additional donations will also be accepted.

More information about the Hill Hoppers Flying Club, as well as directions to the club field, can be found at www.hillhoppers.org.