History of the Billings Flying Mustangs

by: Doug Haacke

The Billings Flying Mustangs (BFM) model aviation club was founded in 1946 with an initial membership of 20 modelers. At that time, most of the outdoor model aviation interest centered around control-line flight. (Control-line flight involves an airplane tethered to two or more strings held by a pilot, who flies the plane in circles around himself). The first BFM flying field was located adjacent to the east end of the Logan International Airport and its membership grew steadily, until a couple of events occurred that almost spelled the end of the organization.

First, the Korean War had broken out, and many members left to serve in the military and other supporting roles. Many were forced to transfer out of town through job transfers. The membership dwindled. Then, in the late 1950’s, the expanding municipal airport forced the remaining modelers to move to a new location. A temporary home was established on the campus of the Eastern Montana State University. However, the resulting housing boom kept the modelers moving to various temporary locations all over Billings and the surrounding area.

Nonetheless, the members kept to their regularly scheduled meetings and eventually found a benevolent rancher who lent them the use of 10 acres near Yellowstone Country Club. The pilots of BFM were to call this location home for the next 10 years. In May of 1959, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a national organization of model aviation enthusiasts, issued a charter to the Billings Flying Mustangs and that charter has been in place ever since.

By this time, radio controlled flight became practical and affordable in Billings, and many members anxiously welcomed this new and exciting facet of model aviation. Radio controlled flight allowed planes to fly over much more terrain and required even more open space, and this soon became a problem as the Billings population started building homes closer and closer to the flying field. After only 10 years near the country club, it was time to move again.

This time a new home was found a good distance from the urban areas. This field was called Chamberlain Field and named after a long-time supporting member Dale Chamberlain, who died in the 70’s, is the home of the present day flying field and is located 7 miles west of Shiloh road on Grand Avenue. When the field opened in 1971, members flew off a simple dirt strip, but it didn’t take them long to raise the money to put in a paved runway, which was completed in 1973. A shelter was added in 1989, along with electrical power and other improvements. The members have continued to improve the field every year, and Chamberlain Field is known to be one of the premier radio controlled flying field in the rocky mountain region.

The Flying Mustangs and Chamberlain Field have hosted model aviation enthusiasts from all over the world, and held many nationally recognized events over the years. Its annual membership averages around a 100 active members each year. Membership is open to anyone, young and old, who loves model aviation.

 

Monday the 21st. .