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Model planes given clearance at airport

"They're back.After a three-year hiatus from the Bremerton National Airport, members of the Kitsap Aircraft Radio Control Society (ARCS) soared back into the limelight last week. That's when Port of Bremerton Commissioners decided the ARCS could again safely fly their model airplanes from Bremerton National's back runway, where numerous auto-racing events already take place.We (the ARCS) are anxious to get back in there and fly, said Marlin Little, who represented the model aircraft club at a recent Port of Bremerton meeting. Little said he doesn't expect the model aircraft to collide with the full-scale planes that already use airspace surrounding Bremerton National.I can tell you that as a retired pilot, I am safety conscious. As long as the members enforce the agreement we have with the port, then everything will be OK, he said.ARCS members, left in limbo for years without a permanent place to do business, actively negotiated an agreement that emphasized such safety issues with port officials. But Port Commissioner Bill Mahan cautioned that although he and his fellow commissioners approved the agreement, the model airplane club should consider looking for a different location.As the airport grows, that runway will go away, Mahan said. We need to plan for that day, and I recommend the members continue to work with the county for a permanent location.In response, Little said, There are ongoing efforts to look for a permanent site.Meanwhile, the use agreement came relatively easily, since the ARCS had operated at Bremerton National without complaint since the mid 1970s. But in the fall of 1997, problems reportedly cropped up between the club and Joe O'Leary, the airport manager for the Port of Bremerton. According to Fred Salisbury, who has since filled that managerial role, officials - already reeling from a tragic plane crash at the airport, in which five people died - fretted flying model planes from the back runway could only lead to more disasters in terms of security, as well as safety. For instance, port officials didn't know who was using the runway at any given time, and unknown persons - some 100 members all had keys -occasionally left the gate to the airport unlocked. Not only that, some port officials apparently claimed club members at times flew their planes higher than the designated 400 feet, which violates Federal Aviation Administration regulations.In the past, if there was a violation, it was difficult to figure out who was responsible, said Bill Mahan, a Port of Bremerton Commissioner. But now that's changed with this new agreement, he said.For starters, Little said the club designated 10 field supervisors who will continuously communicate with airport managers whenever members are using the back runway. Only the field supervisors will hold keys to the airport's gate, and members will sign-in and sign out. That way, port officials can monitor who uses the runway and when. Members also promise to keep their model planes at or below 400 feet and, when other full-scale aircraft are in sight, members say they will keep their model planes below the tree line that borders the airport.Clark Coulter, who represents the airport's pilots and tenants association, said he doesn't forsee any problems with the ARCS, so long as they observe the 400-foot rule. Little said the club is heavily insured, and members are willing to list Bremerton National Airport as a beneficiary."

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