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Aircraft modeling has undergone significant
changes over the decades - both in technology and preferences. Magazines like American Aircraft Modeler, and American
Modeler before that, were the best venues for capturing snapshots of the status quo of the day. Still, many things never
change, so much of the old content is relevant to today's modeler.
Whether you are here to wax nostalgic, or are
just interested in learning history, hopefully you will find what you are seeking. As time permits, I will be glad to
scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
you at the 1959 AMA Nationals? Yes? Had you forgotten about it until
you ran across this article? Billed as the first truly "national" meet
because there was at least one contestant from each of the states, 1959
National Model Airplane Championships was held at the Naval Air Station,
Los Alamitos, California, from July 27th through August 2nd. If you
were a kid at the time, take a look at the photo in the center of the
article to see if you can find yourself. Your father... grandfather?
My purpose for posting these old article is to give modeling pioneers
maybe their last opportunity to re-live the good old days of their youth.
Send me a note if you find yourself, and I'll note it on the page.
wrote in to say
he saw himself in the group photo at the bottom of the page!
"I saw your article on the 1959 Nats in California.
I was the Air Youth State Champion form North Carolina. I am in
the middle of the second row in the dark shirt. I also won this
honor for the next three years, Willow Grove, Lakeview, and Dallas.
My name is Rick Berrier and I flew competition until the Nats in Olithe,
Kansas Nats in 1968. Rick Berrier "
"National" Championship Air-Model Meet
Fifty young men, all under twenty-one years of age and each representing
a State in the Union, including Hawaii and Alaska, competed in the 1959
National Model Airplane Championships at the Naval Air Station, Los
Alamitos, California, July 27th through August 2nd, along with hundreds
of other entrants. It was the first time in the 28-year history of the
"NATS" that an official representative from each State was in attendance.
Winning combination! Bob Hunter & son Bill, 1959's National
and Junior Class champions (Bob swept Open Class, too.)
John Bowman, 14, New Orleans, with winning B speed & 2nd place
Sr. Champ Sherwin Maslowe, Mich. AYSC'er.
Ken Whiting's 9:50.2 Rocketer.
Mike Bryan's C/L scale winner.
William Ogden, E. St. Louis, III., won Open C/L scale with F.W.190
PAA Clipper Cargo 020 winner Bill Langley his entry lifted 39¼ oz.
The Champions' all-expenses paid trips to and from California came as
a result of a program activated in March '59 by the Model Aeronautics
Division of the Hobby Industry Association of America.
Championships was a huge success. From the first hand launched glider
flight indoors to the last dethermalized outdoor flight, the last transmitter
turned off, the last lines to be rolled up - this was a contest long
to be remembered.
We had always wanted to watch one of these
instead of competing so that we could see and possibly feel what happens
at a Nats. What we saw was a lot of work by some very unselfish AMA
members, some real fine flying by other members, and a friendly competitive
feeling that we had just sensed before.
There was definitely
over a thousand model builders who came to Los Alamitos to win if they
could, but most of all they had fun. All across the field at every event
you could head what has now become a classic, "Smile - it's only a hobby."
The behind-the-scenes activities which made this contest go
were well managed by Keith Storey. He had lots of help from hardworking
Pete Sotich, Earl Witt, Johnny Clemens, Maurice Teter, Frank Ehling,
and Herb Honnecker just a name a few. Not forgetting the various events
directors who gave up their chances to fly so that this contest could
For the Navy under Capt. C. L. Westhofen, this was
their finest effort. Cmdr. Howard Sturm kept all your local newspapers
advised and when you won some place, he even mailed out pictures to
those papers. Among the guys who flew R/C, Commander Pappy Wise, who
directed the Navy personnel, will always be remembered. After the contest
was over on Sunday afternoon "Pappy," who had been saying all week that
there was nothing to it, was handed Howard Bonner's transmitter. He
was told which controls did what, the Torp 45 was touched off, and the
Astro Hog released. Pappy's take-off and climb for altitude was real
sweet. We had the judges start judging - then the fun began.
For his first attempt Wise did a fine job, he got a little crossed up
when the bird was coming towards him, but he got out of a situation
that many experienced fliers would have clobbered. The landing was a
little rough - Pappy's score was 41 points, but he got it off-flew the
pattern - looped-rolled. He didn't have to eat his words.
Of all the Navy personnel who worked this contest special honors go
to TD/2 Bennie Castillo who directed the flight line at RIC and practically
ran the event. He kept the guys moving up, the ready pits full, shuttled
the models to their proper judges, cross-checked frequencies for proper
operation and kept everyone posted of any interference.
It's hard to say which radio models were most outstanding in the way
of design and development. Certainly one which doesn't take a back seat
was Howard Bonner's "Suds" of delta configuration. The fuselage was
vacuum formed from butyrate sheet plastic and filled with "Lockfoam"
for rigidity, the foam was then cut out for the controls. The engine,
a Torp 19, was mounted in the vertical fin and the shaft was ported
for left hand operation. In flight the model was beautiful, but Howard
thought it a little too heavy for tight pylon turns, so its average
speed suffered. The control linkage was mounted so that a parallelogram
principle could be used for elevators and ailerons or elevons, if you
Fred Dunn's Astro-Bipe was another newcomer which
shows great promise. Although too new to be what Fred wants in the way
of a model, both Dunham and Bonner who have flown it says it's a sweet
baby. Certainly the inverted spins, reverse spins and other stunts that
Fred put the bird thru spoke for themselves.
of the Larks designed the "Charger" which swept rudder only, placing
1st, 2nd and 3rd. This little bird is only 48. inches in span, has a
tryke gear and an as 15 R/C. The Orbit single runs a Varicomp for rudder
and a modified Varicomp for 3 speed engine. The transmitter was modified
with a relay to discharge a capacitor for quick blip engine control
that was positive.
Ken Oliver and Louis Scheel had a 2/3 Astro
Hog powered by an OS 15. This tiny one had 8 channels of R/C gear miniaturized
so that all up weight was only 41 ounces. This Tremac control system
used parts of the "Mighty Midget" for servos, cut down of course, a
home made reed bank-no relays but a circuit of 18 transistors for switching.
The servos measured only 1 x 1 x 1-3/16 - mighty small.
were lots of other goodies, too. Bonner's retractable landing gear,
Chuck Boyer's flaps, Dale Root's dive brakes and wheel brakes, Doug
Spreng's steerable nose wheel with brakes, a Jerry Nelson design pylon
racer model flown to 1st by Bill Deans, Dunham's Delta for pylon racing.
Things are changing rapidly in R/C!
In outdoor free flight the
birds were much larger due mainly to the new rules. Contrary to some
thinking the big models, even tho underpowered by comparison to last
year's jobs, are putting in longer flights. From Bud Romak's 10- foot
8-inch Mac 60 powered model to the 450-square-inch Hornet powered ½
A's, more balsa is being sold than ever before. The models being bigger
are more stable, they glide better, their thermal riding ability is
better and their flights longer since they stay in sight longer.
We observed two ½ A's which had enough momentum to go thru windshields,
the new more powerful engines take the ½ A's up almost as high. The
Big B-C models don't climb as high but glide more than makes up for
this. The main requirement seemed to be a larger box or car to carry
the models in.
The highest total times in the contest were in
Class A where Allen Ross of Phoenix posted 27:58 in junior and John
Pond of San Francisco did 27:28 in open. During the "A" event we counted
23 models in the same thermal - this was good flying weather!
The Nordic events seemed to be ones where every contestant made
at least one goof flight. To place very high at all you had to have
4 max's. Only one man, Warren Kurth of Bloomington, managed the coveted
5 max's - he did this in A/1 open.
Jose Ramiriz of Mexico City
lacked only 7 seconds on one flight or he would have had 5 max's. Jose
is the Mexican champ in A/2 and although he was flying an original model
with a so-called "thick" wing section, which is so necessary at their
mile-high altitude, he continued his winning ways and posted the highest
A/2 time with 14:53.
The rubber events produced nothing real
startling unless one counts the indoor type model flown by Curt Stevens
or the elliptical dihedral models of John Gard. John was a shoo-in for
the Wakefield events until Hank Cole showed up late, flew 5 max's and
a fine 2 :41.6 for a new record.
In unlimited rubber Lo Salisbury
had the highest rubber time of the contest, 21 :11. Ralph Knapp didn't
wind his motor on his 4th flight and was disqualified-say, when was
that rule slipped us? We didn't have it previously and besides the indoor
fliers don't always follow it.
In the other outdoor events Walt
Mooney and his ancient scale Bleriot (we think his model was an original
built by Bleriot) made some real fine flights to barely nose out Danny
Lutz. This free flight scale soon became heartbreak alley because of
the disastrous crackups to those beautiful models but unfortunately
they must put in flights and some just didn't.
44 of 50 Air Youth State Champions who
flew (U.S. Navy photo).
* Website visitor Rick
Berrier wrote to say he's the young man in the dark shirt in the middle
of 2nd row *
Class C speed job by Jim Nightingale-154.18 with McCoy 60; Fiberglas
body; 22" span.
Jim Cowart who took Sr. combat, original 36" span Fox 35 model.
Warren Kurth's 049 Thermal Hopper "Peanut" topped 1/A speed at 91.35.
Kurth of Bloomington, III., won Open Nordic All with that towline
glider setting national record of 16:23; original spans 47".
Bill Werwage shown with Sr. class "Ares," aerobatic model brought
him National Stunt championship; spans 52"; Fox 35.
Riley Wooten with his Open combat winner.
ROW times this year were a little disappointing , perhaps the floats
added to the required heavy power loadings were just a little too much
for the large models but the ½ A's shouldn't have suffered. The lift
in this area was noticeably lacking so that the high time didn't approach
previous marks. Chuck Primb's twin boom-low tail model was most unusual
and had been entered in multievents. Sal Taibi converted his International
PAA Load to ROW but couldn't do better than his first flight of 4 :40
U-control speed fliers were met head on with a fuel mixing
problem. Engine after engine was brought in for one or two laps, then
refused to burn the fuel for the rest of the runs. Bill Wisniewski had
out his home-made 15 for this competition and topped all other speeds
by 15 mph for 134.07. Bill has built 6 of these fine engines and if
and when we send a team to Europe, he is planning on outfitting each
team member with two engines apiece. There was practically every commercial
make of 15 entered.
The Fox engines swept to 1st and 2nd in
Class B, Ed Rankin barely nosing out Jim Paysen. John Bowman of New
Orleans had a creditable 128.06 in senior.
In class C a whirlwind
finish was put in by Jim Nightengale to top this event. Jim rushed off
to the hangar just 20 minutes before quitting time, mixed up a special
brew and at 4:53 torched off his Mac 60 for a winning 154 plus mph.
Jim said that it took him until then to figure out what the fuel needed.
Leroy Polk, Jr. of Atlanta set a new record for C junior with 151.71
and Fred Carter III of Wichita Falls won senior with 150.82.
Larry Grogan of Dallas, a senior, topped all fliers in Proto with
a zipping 122.07, just a fraction behind his own record. This Proto
event saw a lot of flights disqualified because of "whipping." Official
Ralph Flaatan was eyeballing the fliers thru a pair of binoculars from
outside the circle and if one wants to have a line's eye-view of the
handle - try this. Incidentally, at least two of the fliers in contention
for Nats champion found out the hard way that they must not lead their
Incomparable Riley Wooten of Lubbock powered his way
thru all combateers to post another win in open. Using pressure tanks,
hopped up Johnson's and featuring all-moveable tails, his birds were
hot and real neat.
In "Team Race" Gene Leedy continued his winning
ways with his high aspect racer, closely followed by a neighbor, junior
flyer Ronnie Young. Both use special McCoy 29 rear rotor engines and
were getting 55 to 59 laps per ounce. They cut their engines after 50
laps, gliding in to their pit crews - the only way to fly.
Werwage who is only 17 topped all stunt fliers regardless of age to
win the Jim Walker trophy. Bob Palmer had won open and John Gudvangen,
Jr., the junior crown.
Pan Am's payload events this year had
by far the largest number of entries ever. In Clipper Cargo alone 58
modelers participated. George Gardner attributes this to Dallas. Sherman's
logic and hard work. "Looks like Dallas has hit the jackpot," said George.
The 020 engines and the total weight rules have converted the cargo
models from huge fragile monsters of like design to a variety of originals;
in fact, there was much more originality in PAA events than in any other.
Larry Conover's twin boom semi-scale of Pan Am's early Boeing clipper.
Walt Mooney's twin boom low wing design. We saw sleek streamlined trike
gear models and pushers. Some modelers applied colored dope liberally
in trimming - it all counts now.
Larry Conover arrived using
a black 3 bladed plastic prop, 3½ D x 2½ P. His engine really put out.
Walt Mooney took one look, listened, and then went buying. Other modelers
soon followed suit and the contestants supply store sold out. Roy Cox
they sent over to the factory and replenished the supply. These props
made a big difference.
The outstanding flyer in jet, in our
opinion, was Danny O'Malley, son of old-timer Owen O'Malley. Danny won
rocket, then posted 14:50 plus for 3 flights in PAA jet, a truly remarkable
achievement. What Owen does in packing these jet motors is unknown.
We do know that the youngsters who hopped on him to pack for them topped
all the other fliers. Good show, OO'M.
The indoor session was
held at the Santa Ana balloon docks which surprised most entrants since
this facility had turned down an earlier request for its use. As a consequence,
a lot of the modelers suffered having made special low ceiling designs,
then had to be content to not use up the added height. For this reason
we believe the times were held down. Lewis Gitlow of Ontario, Calif.
and Charles Sotich of Chicago divided wins and 2nd places between them
in "mike" stick and cabin. Lew winning stick and Charles cabin. Each
won the other 2nd place. Jack Block had high glider time with 1:09.2
followed closely by Curt Stevens with 1:07.
The Thermal Thumbers
led by Lo Salisbury's 16:05 really cleaned up in paper stick.
Sherwin Maslowe of Detroit amassed a great number of his championship
points in these events when he won Sr. paper stick with 13 :42 and senior
"mike" stick with 18:25-real good flying.
In the junior events
Brent Hawkins of Morton, 111., really cleaned up by winning 3 firsts
and a 3rd. He won paper stick, "mike" stick and cabin and was 3rd in
glider - how about that?
John Lenderman master-minded a sixinch
glider contest which was held between the hangars one evening. They
had 38 junior entries, 19 seniors and 10 in open. These guys had a ball
- regular contest rules were followed except for the limit of 6" span.
High time of 40 seconds was posted by senior .G. Westland with 40 seconds.
Open entrant Lee Hines had 39.2 and junior entrant J. Krannock 25.2
We could go on and on about this contest. One thing
for sure it was the biggest ever held in California. HIA's Air Youth
Champions were indeed an added asset with the fine showing they made
both on and off the field.Posted