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Nightflyyer: Sibley man shares his interests, opinions through online videos (with video)

Dave Herbert holds one of the smaller helicopters in his RC collection, which he modified so it flies using one rotor, making it quieter and more efficient.(Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)2 / 2

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Retired Marine. Entrepreneur. Roller skater. RC aircraft enthusiast. Movie producer. Musician. Pilot. Inventor.

Those are just a few of the titles that could be used to describe Dave Herbert. The multitudes of people who have viewed his online videos, however, know him as Nightflyyer -- the persona he developed for his YouTube channel.

"I was the first person to start flying RC (remote control) planes in the dark," he explained about the title. "You get good at doing it in the daylight and need to do something different. I wrote an article on how to do night flying and became known as the Nightflyyer."

As of earlier this week, Dave's Nightflyyer YouTube channel had 24,332 subscribers; more than 1.1 million channel views; and an astounding 41,321,587 upload views. He has a devoted following for the videos he now produces from his home in Sibley.

Dave and his wife, Ilea, moved to Sibley -- her hometown -- about five years ago after spending most of their lives on the West Coast. The transition from bustling Orange County, Calif., to small-town living hasn't been the easiest, admits Dave, but he's found or developed lots of activities to fill his time.

Many of those activities revolve around his longtime interest in aeronautics. A 33-year member of the Marine Corps, Dave was an avionics specialist on RF4B Phantom jets and CH-53 helicopters.

"Our planes were photo-recon birds, no weapons," he explained. "I got really involved with taking pictures from the air, all infrared."

His lengthy Marine service included tours of duty in Vietnam, on the aircraft carrier USS Midway and as a recruiter.

"Once you re-enlist one time, you have to volunteer for independent duty, and I took recruiting duty," he explained. "I was stationed in Sioux Falls. That's where I met my wife and took her to California."

Dave spent most of his military career in the Golden State and stayed there after his discharge.

"I closed down El Toro (Marine base)," he said. "It was like losing my home. I miss the Marine Corps."

First introduced to RC aircraft as an 8-year-old kid, Dave delved head-first into the hobby during his recruiting days, through Donovan's Hobby Shop in Sioux Falls, S.D. Back in California, he organized the first USMC Toys for Tots model airplane show. He's written many how-to articles and product reviews for model aircraft magazines and was a beta tester for an RC flight simulator, which he uses today in his videos and to teach RC piloting to newbies.

He's also flown RC models in movies, most notably "Blue Thunder," starring Roy Scheider. A poster from the movie and the wing from the model helicopter he blew up during the filming hang on his garage wall.

"Now everything is done with computers, so they don't need to make it with models," he lamented.

Dave invented the first tail-rotorless helicopter more than 20 years ago and sold the concept to Kyosho, a Japanese-based RC company. More recently, he modified an airplane and helicopters of various sizes to one rotor blade, proving his theory that they are quieter and use less power.

One of his mottos, Dave shared, is "If it sounds stupid, but it works, it ain't stupid."

For about 20 years, Dave ran his own business in California -- a chemical company that made optically clear acrylics for aircraft. But now he's officially retired and living in Sibley.

"It's very expensive to live in Orange County, and my doctor said, 'You need less stress,'" he recounted about how he came to live in northwest Iowa. "... So we sold our ocean-view house and came here."

On a recent winter day, Dave was editing video in his basement production studio, but he also spends a lot of time puttering in his garage/model aircraft hangar. One day a week, he drives to Sioux Falls to get his exercise at Carousel Skate.

"Roller skating saved my life," he said. "I had a burst appendix. I went to the doctor in the morning and he gave me a shot for the pain. But the pain got so bad that my wife decided to take me to the emergency room."

Unfortunately, because of a backlog of patients, Dave didn't get the immediate attention he needed and it wasn't until the next morning that he was wheeled into surgery. By that time, the poisons from the burst organ had contaminated his whole system.

"I guess I flat-lined a couple times," he said. "The doctor told me I wouldn't have made it if I wasn't in such good shape because of roller skating."

Dave has posted more than 500 videos on his YouTube channel. The majority of them deal with model aircraft, with a mission to "teach beginners and youngsters some RC history, so they learn from us, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel all over." He invented a way to attach the camera to his glasses so viewers can follow the flight trajectory as he does. He's also attached cameras to his RC aircraft for aerial shots.

"I've made quite a few videos on the (flight) simulator," he said. "The biggest part is learning what does that, and you can learn that without crashing a plane on the simulator. The simulator helps you get used to the controls and stuff."

But Dave also posts on a wide range of other subject matter. On a recent unseasonable warm January day, he posted a video of rides in his Model A Ford and motorcycle. When Union Pacific Railroad's historic Challenger steam engine traversed through Sibley, he and Ilea re-enacted the roles of Bonnie and Clyde as they pursued the train. Dave also documented his skate around the long-closed Majestic skating rink in Arnolds Park, Iowa. The rink was built in 1919, he noted.

"I'm trying to get a reunion together" for people who skated there, Dave said. "I'd love to see them open it for one night."

Another video documents Dave's long-ago encounter with legendary "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson, as well as a few other celebrities during his days in California. Each video is narrated by his own deep bass voice, and he isn't shy about voicing his opinions as he describes the action.

The purpose of his videos, Dave said is to encourage people to "keep moving" and remember history. He fears for upcoming generations who depend solely on technological gadgets.

"I don't want a smart phone because I don't want to be dumb."

On the Net:

Nightflyyer channel: