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Model aviators holding open house
Event Saturday at local airfield
Sam Schwartz, 13, one of the youngest members of the Georgia Model Aviators, readies one of his model planes for a flight on a recent afternoon at the club’s air strip at Eagle’s Beak property in north Forsyth. - photo by Crystal Ledford

If you’re going

* What: Georgia Model Aviators’ open house and air show

* When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

* Where: GMA Airfield, 8250 Old Federal Road

* Cost: Free; concessions and raffle tickets for sale

* For more information, go to

Sam Schwartz may be one of the youngest members of the Georgia Model Aviators, but that doesn’t make his love for the miniature aircraft less than that of his older counterparts.

The 13-year-old from Johns Creek, who has been a member of the group for a couple of years, works particularly closely with Forsyth resident David Roberts, who took him under his wing, no pun intended.

“When he first wanted to fly, his dad called me up and I came out and met him and told him to get the right plane and everything because I was going to teach him to fly,” Roberts said. “I’ve done that for a lot of members.”

Schwartz, Roberts and their fellow model aviators, of which there are about 300 in the club that draws members from all across north Georgia, have access to a full air strip and open field area in north Forsyth.

The club’s area is part of the Eagle’s Beak property off Old Federal Road. It’s owned by Forsyth County, which bought the 225 acres in 2009 as part of a voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond.

The club will hold an open house — or, in this case, field — and air show from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Roberts said the event will feature demonstrations and competitions among the model aviators.

“It’s a chance for us to show the public what we’re all about and hopefully get more people interested in this hobby,” he said.

Thinking back to Schwartz’ introduction to the hobby, Roberts recalled how they “kind of had a standing appointment on Thursdays.”

“He would call me up Tuesday or Wednesday and we’d just make the plan to go fly,” he said, adding that his young protégé was at first quiet.

“I would make him say, ‘Can we go fly?’ Because when you’re out there teaching somebody to fly there has to be strong communication.”

But despite his somewhat shy start, Schwartz soon found his voice, and with practice he’s become a strong flier, according to Roberts.

“Sam can fly just about anything,” he said. “He can do pretty much everything. He’s the youngest pilot here who can solo fly.

“It’s been really fun to watch him grow and gain the confidence.”

Schwartz, who plans to keep up the hobby, is looking forward to Saturday. As for Roberts, he’s hoping more children will decide to get involved with the hobby.

“There’s a long list of problems that have to be solved every time he flies. If the right side isn’t the same as the left side, if it’s not perfectly symmetrical, that thing’s not going to fly. If something’s not right with the landing gear, it’s not going to take off.

“He has to really respect the technology and how it’s all put together, so I think that makes kids better thinkers and better students.”

There is no admission fee for Saturday’s festivities, although there will be food venders and a raffle for which guests can buy tickets.

Funds raised through the raffle will go to The Independence Fund, which provides all-terrain wheelchairs for U.S. military veterans wounded in the line of duty.

Among the model aircraft on display will be what Roberts described as “giant-scale” World War I and II aircraft, as well as turbine and duct fan jets, sail planes, rockets and helicopters, among others.

Visitors will also find flight simulators and industry vendors.

Besides the model aviators, the GMA Airfield is also used by area math and science students, such as the South Forsyth High School rocket team, as a practice site.

In addition, Roberts said, many youth organizations such as Scout troops visit the airfield for what is usually their first introduction to model aviation.

The field in 2011 also served as the site of the Aero Design East competition, which draws teams of college-level engineering students from all over the world to design, build and fly their own aircraft.

The Georgia Model Aviators will again play host to the international competition in March. That event is slated to draw 75 university teams from 10 different countries.

“This field is a great benefit to not just our club,” Roberts said. “It’s a wonderful part of the community and we want to show it off to the public during our open house.”