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Billings nonprofit hosts first ever radio controlled jet rally

John Cooley
Posted at 5:05 PM, May 21, 2023

A radio controlled jet rally was held on the west end of Billings over the weekend and people from all over the state and some parts of Wyoming traveled to participate in it.

The rally was organized by a nonprofit group called the Billings Flying Mustangs, which hopes to increase participation in radio controlled flying.

Many of the pilots that participated in the event this weekend have been flying these radio controlled jets for a longtime. One of those is John Cooley, who's been doing it for 45 years. He said he enjoys the camaraderie of the community more than anything else.

"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 lives in Powell, Wyoming where he and his son own and operate a body shop for radio controlled jets. Cooley said working with his son and attending these types of events with him really add to the 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."

RC Jet

This weekend's event was non-competitive, where pilots could come and fly whatever routines and planes they preferred. Art Mulkey, a longtime member of the Billings Flying Mustangs, said it was organized to increase the excitement around 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 is a Billings resident and said that he's traveled to many different radio controlled jet rallies, but having one in his hometown is extra special.

"It's more than cool," Mulkey said. "It's a special treat that we are able to do this."

Mulkey said the majority of pilots were from Montana, however some traveled all the way from Kalispell. Others made the trek from Wyoming to Montana from cities like Powell or Casper.

In total, Mulkey said the event had nearly 30 registered pilots and that every day brought in more than 100 spectators. Mulkey said he hopes the event generates excitement in younger generations.

Spectators at Jet Rally

"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."

And while it was Cooley's turn to travel for the event this weekend, he knows that many of his friends will soon be making the trip to Wyoming for another event. Cooley said the pilots are always doing what they can to support one another.

"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."