Willow Grove NAS: America's Best Youthful Flyers
March 1962 American Modeler
Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) 1961 Nationals competition was
held at the
Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Pennsylvania. Up until the
early 1970s, the U.S. Navy sponsored the AMA Nationals in an effort
to attract America's youths into naval aviation as aircraft technicians
and as pilots. It ended as youth participation in competition ebbed
and defense budgets got trimmed. This story from the March 1962
American Modeler reports on young men from 42 states for a new-type
Grand National Youth Championship. Do you see anyone you know in
the group photo? If so, please send me an e-mail and I'll add his
name to the page.
America's Best Youthful Flyers
Forty-two fortunate and skilled State champions from all parts of
our land competed at the 1961 Willow Grove NATS to decide a new-type
Grand National Youth Champion. In addition to this championship,
trophies were also awarded for the four U-control categories, stunt,
speed, endurance and beauty, which comprised the Quadrathon model
The reigning Air Youth all-round
Grand Champ is Edward Elasick, age 15, from Garfield, N. J. The
special category awards went to Richard Lengel, 14, Bridgeport,
Conn. for SPEED; John C. Davis, 14, Indianapolis, Ind. for ENDURANCE;
Gary Cipra, 13, Cleveland, Ohio for BEAUTY and to Elasick for STUNT.
Well, how did it all go? - Answer: Fine!
... with only a very few reservations. Each Air Youth State representative
was provided with an all-expense deal which included round trip
air transportation, meals and lodging, personal expense money, plus
special clothing. The fly-off was actually a contest "within" the
big annual Nationals in that completely separate facilities were
provided for the AYSC (Air Youth State Championship) competitors.
They had their own barracks, work room, meeting room and a close-by
control line flying site. The Navy provided bus transportation from
barracks to chow hall at the far side of the airfield.
the able direction of "Rich" Palmer and Matty Sullivan, assisted
by HIAA's Virginia M. Lofft and numerous Navy personnel, the actual
contest flying went off quite smoothly. There were some complaints
over the first-time rule changes and scoring operations. General
level of workmanship on the models was high, as was the quality
of flying done by the majority of the competitors. Real contest
know-how was displayed by most - engines were started quickly, there
were no in-flight breakdowns, only a few wheels came off along the
way. Out of 42 models entered 35 were intact at the end of competition.
Those that did become casualties suffered minor damage mostly, only
a very few were total wash-outs.
Kit models predominated with Goldberg's "Shoestring" and Top-Flite's
"Flight Sreak" leading. There were more Fox engines observed than
any other type, K&B's were second, with a fair sprinkling of
Hi Johnson's, McCoy's, Max OS's, Super Tigre's, plus several foreign
diesels. Most fliers used .29's and 35's with a few .19's and .15's.
AYSC Endurance winners (from far lt.): John Davis, Ind.,
1st; David Wagner, N. M., 2nd; James Perwein, Minn., 3rd.
Best Stunters (from lt.):
Eddie Elasick, N. J., 1st; Gary Yonamine, Hawaii, 2nd;
Jim Stover, Pennsylvania, 3rd.
AYSC Speed champs (above, from lt.): Richard Lengel, Conn.,
1st; Gene Stolz, La., 2nd; Steven Levinstein, N. Y., 3rd.
Beauty winners (at right), from lt.: Gary Cipra, Ohio, 1st;
Elasick, N. J., 2nd; Gary Zeller, Mo., 3rd.
Champion Elasick flew an original design by John D'Ottavio.
Originally dubbed "Jr. Falcon" it was officially named "Topper."
More on the model later. Other notable original designs included
a slim, elliptical-surface "Hummingbird," designed by Charles Mackay,
flown by Indiana champ John C. Davis. An outstanding original was
the twin-boom, Johnson 29 powered job flown by Kenny Brunck from
Lexington, Ky. Missouri's entrant, Gary Zeller, had a clean wide-track
gear profile design inspired by the Macchi seaplane racers of the
While the ideal all-event model may not as yet
have emerged, many of those competing came close. The economical
diesels were surpassed in endurance by the Davis entry having a
Fox .19 and a special self-leveling fuel tank, his time aloft was
20 min., 40 sec. The smaller .15 engine powered planes were hard
put to come even with the .29 and .35's in stunt and speed. Most
purposely sacrificed performance in one event to perform well in
the other categories.
A survey of contestant opinion showed
that the majority were well pleased with the AYSC program and its
model requirements. Among the dissenters there were some suggestions
for improvements. These included: limit to one engine and flying
line size. Allow larger airplanes for better stunt flying. Have
better, earlier distribution of finalized rules prior to state contests.
Arrange schedule at NATS so that AYSC contestants can compete in
other events more easily. Stricter adherence to rules in the national
fly-off. Matty Sullivan suggested that in the future models be built
from kits right at the NATS then flown in the contest to preclude
the old bugaboo of all contest flying: the entering of models not
built by the flyer.
Needle valves removed after each flight to prevent pre-setting.
One stunt maneuver, a horizontal square eight, was added to make
competition tougher at NATS. Boys called each other by state names
rather than bothering with given names. The contestants were most
willing to help and crew each other ... real cooperation was most
evident. Alaska should have gotten a prize for his ability to sleep
anywhere, anytime. Hawaii's Gary Yonamine displayed the most sportsmanlike
attitude by strict compliance with every part of the rules. Casualty,
Vermont's Chris Buttolph came down with a mild case of the mumps.
A firm Navy hand took some of the starch out of some midnight cain-raisers.
A bouquet to "Den mother" William L. MacMillan Jr., HIAA director,
who headed up the operation and smoothed the problems of the encampment.
Bouquets also to the Navy hosts, timers and judges for a job well
done. The heat K.O.'d two Navy officer judges while on scoring duty
at the flying circles. Bouquets to the weatherman for fair skies
and little wind; brickbats to the same guy for high heat and humidity.
What happened to "no-show" Arkansas, Colorado, Montana,
Nebraska, North Dakota, Mississippi, Georgia and Oregon? Although
many statewide contests did not gain the widespread support desired,
the final's fly-off was tops. The HIAA (Hobby Industry Association
of America, Inc.) has indicated continued support and it is hoped
the '62 events will be bigger and better. The Air Youth program
is not only the best event for the younger modeler but it is the
first of nationwide scope.
And now, to the first "4-way"
true AYSC winner, Edward Elasick and his model. Eddie is a real
model builder's modeler. He smiles a lot, and seems quiet, but when
he's out in mid-circle he makes his model talk for him. Eddie developed
his building and flying skill fast. Before becoming AYSC champion
he had been in modeling only 2 1/2 years.
As a result of
his initial success in model competition, and his contact with AYSC
prime-mover "Rich" Palmer at Hobbytowne, Eddie Elasick decided to
tackle AYSC competition in 1961. Here again the excellent advice
of adult expert modelers proved to be of tremendous help to Eddie.
His friendship with such unselfish people as Art Cangialosi and
John D'Ottavio was just the boost needed. Eddie built and flew a
model designed by Mr. Cangialosi to win the New Jersey state AYSC
finals. The Grand National Championship winning model used by Eddie
was specially designed by Mr. D'Ottavio.
As the date for
the N. J. state AYSC fly-off approached last year there was a rush
for kits and suitable plans by many boys in the northern N. J. area.
The local fields were buzzing with Shoestrings, Ringmasters, Flite-Streaks
and originals. Fourteen contenders fought it out in the N.J. state
finals. Stunt was somewhat of of a heart-breaker - many of the young
fliers scored low in this phase. Most were gunning for maximum points
in speed and endurance, but it was stunt that made the difference!
As a result of practicing ALL the events, Eddie Elasick placed high
in ALL phases, gaining top score, thus winning the N. J. AYSC championship
and the right to represent the Garden State in the National meet.
As noted, Eddie flew a model designed by Art Cangialosi
in the state fly-off. This neat twin-tailed job had a built-up fuselage,
a fairly thin wing and was powered by an inverted Fox .25 engine.
After the state finals Eddie and designer O'Ottavio put
their heads together to work out a simpler model hoping for improved
stunt performance in the Nationals. The result? "Topper."
Flying "Topper" at the 1961 AYSC Nationals, Eddie Elasick placed
first in stunt scoring, second in beauty and sixth in both speed
and endurance. These together added up to the grand championship.
As a capper Eddie went on to win a fifth place in Junior Precision
Acrobatics in the 1961 National competition. (He did this on only
two hours sleep after traveling from Willow Grove N.A.S. to New
York City to appear on the "Today" TV show.)
that 1961 A YSC competition we asked Eddie Elasick how he felt about
the whole affair. With a wide grin he replied: "It was a good deal."
A truly happy understatement.
We also had a discussion about
A YSC with those all-important men behind Eddie Elasick, his father
Edward Sr. and designer John D'Ottavio.
Both felt that some
contestants at the "Nats" were not too well qualified. Some had
only competed against a few other flyers in state contests. They
were lost without their familiar helpers, or expert assistance on
More advance publicity should be given
to AYSC programs and particularly to rule distribution well in advance
of events. AYSC is only a few years old and has a few growing pains
to get over.
Limit of 38" span should be increased a few
inches to permit larger wings for better stunting, and to allow
more kit models.
Contestants should concentrate on stunt
and original design to gain high scores. Endurance and speed with
stock engines and fuel limit is wide open since everyone has the
same problems of heat and humidity on contest day.
competition at Nationals should come first, but scheduled so contestants
can compete in regular National events, as long as this would not
interfere with Air Youth events. A trip to the "Nats" is a big thing
for these Junior flyers and they like to see as much as possible.
Here's one to chew on: Workmanship and beauty scoring should
be dropped. It is discouraging to young builders to be beaten by
appearance points. Judging should be on the flying performance only.
Both adult members of the winning Elasick team had the highest
praise for the whole AYSC program. The criticism expressed they
considered of minor importance. Two more avid AYSC boosters would
be hard to find.