New Orleans control-line club recovers from Hurricane Katrina

By Tony Atzenhoffer

Crescent City Ringmasters club members were able to resume their flying in April of 2006, eight months after Hurricane Katrina -- and hurricane recovery workers -- devastated their flying field in City Park. At left, club members prepare a Flite Streak for its first flight. At right, Roland Babin starts his Stuka stunt plane, with Allan Perrett holding. All photos by Tony Atzenhoffer.

The Club

The Crescent City Ringmasters was formed in the 1950's and in it's heyday had as many as 100 active members. It was derived from the New Orleans Aero Club and was later formed as the Raving Cajuns. The Ringmasters sponsored many class AA contests in the 1960's. George Cleveland was a member when he won Combat events in 1979. Andrew Stokey frequents the National Contest and has acted as a recorder for the stunt contest for eight years.

These photos show the secluded nature of the flying circles. Left photo: Andrew Stokey, Allan Perrett and Mike Griffin test run a plane. Right photo: Member Don Gozney visits with AMA official Bill Fulmer in the shaded area alongside the circles.

The field

Our Field is located in the rear of City Park sandwiched between a golf course and a nature walk. The Field has been maintained by the club for these last many years at no expense to the Park Commission. We have burned out about three riding lawnmowers in the process of keeping the grass manicured. Before Hurricane Katrina, we usually gathered on a Sunday and swapped ideas (and lies) about our favorite model. The last few years the field has been used by two dog training clubs, one of them being the New Orleans Police Department. They usually met on Sunday morning and left when we showed up to fly. They loved the fact that our area was completely enclosed and private. It also helped us by being out of sight of the main administration of the Park Commission.

FEMA workers who staged on the flying field after the hurricane left it a mess of rubble which club members and other volunteers had to clean up. Here, the center pad from the 70-foot circle is lifted off the 60-foot circle, where FEMA workers had moved it.

Then came Katrina

The whole City Park's 1,300 acres went under water and stayed there for over two weeks. Judging by the marks on the trees and our fence there was water between 4 to 6 feet high over the entire park. FEMA groups moved in to our area as soon as the ground was dry enough to drive on. They parked their heavy equipment on our field and began clearing out the dead trees and brush in the Park and the area around the park. I was able to visit the field about seven weeks after the hurricane and was amazed that the area was not that bad. Of course the shrubs and trees were all dead and the FEMA workers were busy clearing the dead brush out of the area using machetes and power saws, clearing the area.

Rubble left by the FEMA workers

I spoke to the supervisor of the crews working and he assured me that the area would be cleared and brought back to the original shape it was in before the hurricane. I went for another visit about six weeks later the crew was gone and the field was complete rubble. They started using the center of our 70 foot circle as a loading area with bobcat's and large Dumpsters. They even moved the center cement slab and put it on the 60 foot circle.

We then contacted the Park Commissioners about the condition and asked for their help in contacting FEMA and to see what they could do to help us. There were a lot of volunteer groups who were trying to help by planting new trees. They planted almost 1,000 trees in the general area of the field and nature trail. The club started to show up on weekends mostly clearing the sticks and rubble left by the FEMA workers.

During the Month of March, we were able to get one cement circle cleared and in shape to fly. We got the grass cut and scheduled our first Fly/Work party on April 23rd. We spent the first hours clearing rubble and then got down to some serious flying. We are now receiving great cooperation from the Park Commission. They are trying to get some volunteer groups to help us with the 70 foot cement circle. We have applied to the AMA Katrina Fund and received a $500.00 grant which we hope to use to buy river sand to level and seed the field with new grass. We still have a long way to go to be at the level that we were before Katrina but our spirit is high and we are going to continue to work (and fly) until it gets there.

We are also starting to talk up the club and try to get new members.

The flying session for May 7th had to be canceled because when we arrived at the field we found a tree had fallen blocking the road. The park promised to clear the tree and did it in less that one week. Flying resumed on May 21. Photo at left shows what it's all about: Mike Griffin flying his Flite Streak.

In left photo, Roland Babin prepares one of his planes; at, a closer view of Roland's Stuka.

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This page was upated June 13, 2006