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First-ever radio-controlled jet rally held by a Billings nonprofit



Billings, Montana – People traveled from all around the state as well as certain areas of Wyoming to take part in a radio-controlled jet rally that was hosted on the west end of Billings over the weekend.

The rally was put on by a charitable organization in Billings known as the Billings Flying Mustangs, which has the goal of attracting more people to the hobby of radio-controlled flying.

A significant number of the pilots who took part in the competition over the past weekend had considerable experience in the operation of these radio-controlled jets. John Cooley is one of those people, and he’s been doing it for the past 45 years. He stated that the sense of brotherhood that exists among the community is what he values the most.

“I think my favorite part is the people,” Cooley said on Sunday afternoon in between flights. “A lot of these people I have known for 30 years or longer. We do as much visiting as we do flying. They’re just great people.”

Cooley and his son own and operate a body business for radio-controlled planes in Powell, Wyoming, which is also where Cooley makes his home. According to Cooley, working with his son and attending events of this nature with him really adds to the overall experience.

“We fly pretty much everyday in front of the body shop for five or ten minutes, you know?” Cooley said. “It’s a lot of fun and we really have a good time doing what we do.”

This past weekend’s event was a non-competitive one, which meant that pilots were welcome to come and fly whichever routines and aircraft they choose. According to Art Mulkey, a longstanding member of the Billings Flying Mustangs, the event was created in order to heighten the passion that surrounds their sport.

“It was about public involvement and it’s about the camaraderie from the people in the sport,” Mulkey said. “It’s a way to make people aware of other things going on in town and it’s trying to keep our sport alive.”

Mulkey, a resident of Billings, stated that while he has attended other radio-controlled jet rallies, having one in his hometown is particularly unique.

“It’s more than cool,” Mulkey said. “It’s a special treat that we are able to do this.”

Mulkey claimed that although most of the pilots were from Montana, some had come all the way from Kalispell. Others traveled from towns like Powell or Casper in Wyoming to Montana.

Mulkey reported that approximately 30 pilots had signed up for the event overall, and more than 100 spectators attended each day. Mulkey expressed his hope that the occasion will thrill younger generations.

“If we don’t have some young folks coming in, it’s not going to stick around for very long,” Mulkey said. “I don’t care if you’re 10-years-old or 80-years-old, you can still come out here and learn how to fly.”

While Cooley had to fly for the weekend’s celebration, he is aware that many of his friends will soon be traveling to Wyoming for another occasion. According to Cooley, the pilots always try to help one another out.

“These events are what make everything work for us,” Cooley said. “There’s just a lot of support here. Honestly, you’ll find your friends for life doing this.”


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