It is hard to imagine a time when major American corporations sponsored
model aviation, car, boat, and rocket hobbies. The U.S. Navy sponsored
the AMA Nationals for many years, the
Plymouth International Model Airplane Program was funded by
the eponymous auto company, and there were many other examples.
Today, the companies spend their money paying ransom to special
interest social groups that threaten to boycott their products or
otherwise give a bad name to the company, rather than supporting
productive activities like aeromodeling. Detroit, the subject of
this 1962 American Modeler article and once a center of
manufacturing and education, is now a run-down heap that has filed
for bankruptcy and wants to sell its
art collection to help pay off debtors. After decades of offshoring
manufacturing jobs and pandering to the welfare class, Detroit looks
like an old Soviet city.
buildings and parks are full of filth and graffiti. It is happening
all over as the working, productive Middle Class disappears from
the face of the Earth.
Detroit's Parks and Recreation Leaders
Say "Modelers Are People!"
"Hurry up and wait, you guys." Servicemen long ago made this
off-record statement famous. Oddly enough, modelers in search of
flying sites may find that these words also apply to their situation.
When you ask for model fields and improvements, the recreation
people and the city fathers may be all for you. But often they don't
have the money on hand for such projects any more than you do. Cities
must operate within their budgets. Some of the best model flying
facilities in the nation have come to groups with the patience and
good grace to wait their turns to get their projects budgeted.
Of course, you can remind the authorities of your needs with
some pertinent facts on the values and aims of your project. They
respect a group with drive, purpose and ideas ... if you don't force
these facts upon them too often.
In Detroit, Michigan, a city of 1,670,000, where model airplane
activities have long been a part of the program of the Recreation
Department, modelers are enjoying a $7,000 concrete speed circle
at Rouge Park, obtained by this policy of determination, plus patience.
Frank Sposite, model aircraft director in the Detroit Recreation
Department for the past 23 years, supported the modelers all the
way. There are 15 model airplane clubs in the area so thousands
of boys, many of whom are now adults, have been exposed to modeling
through the annual winter modeling program of the Recreation Department.
In addition, Detroit is host annually to the Michigan State Model
Plane meet sponsored primarily by the Exchange Clubs and Recreation
Department. During the late '40's and early '50's, Detroit was the
center of the famous Plymouth International Model Airplane Program.
Early morning flying session gets underway.
Even with all this modeling interest, the Rouge Park speed circle
was in the planning stage for several years. As Sposite stated recently,
"We were unable to do anything about the project until funds became
available in the budget."
The flying area had been in use but the circles were grass. The
speed flyers' dream was a concrete circle. In agreement was Sposite,
a modeler for 35 years and a former manager of the Plymouth Internationals.
The modelers were articulate in voicing their needs to the park
board. One of the most persuasive was Harold Saincome of the Strathmoor
Model Club, one of the larger control-line groups in Detroit.
This club, organized in 1946 and sponsored by the Recreation
Department, is an extensive user of the field. The area also serves
the needs of modelers for the entire west and northwest areas of
Detroit and nearby suburbs. Since the completion of the speed circle,
there has come a new organization, the Metropolitan. Speed Association.
This group is working for an organized speed "circuit" with other
Adjacent to the Rouge Park speed circle is a grass circle for
flying scale and team racing. Across the road are five more circles
for combat, stunt, carrier. Sposite hopes to make room here for
another two circles. There are some circle lights and the park department
takes care of all maintenance. Also, the park has a boat pond, which
is big enough to fly float planes.
The Strathmoor Club acts as watchdog for the area and on good
weekends upward of 150 flyers turn out. Hundreds of spectators stop
by to observe the activities. The service road, which cuts through
the flying area, is graded for off-the road, angle parking for both
modelers and spectators.
Detroit control-line modelers also have a flying site at Farwell
Field in the northeast section of the city. There two circles are
surfaced with hard clay. Because of complaints from nearby residents
on noise, it has been necessary to establish a restricted schedule
here. No flying is permitted on Sundays; week-day hours are 12 noon
until sundown. The site is much used during the week.
Livonia Rib Crackers hold indoor glider contest.
Indoor flying also is popular in Detroit. In fact, the Balsa Bugs,
a Recreation Department sponsored indoor club, has been one of the
leading groups in the current revival of interest in these ultra-light
craft. In the beginning, most of the flying was done in the gyms
of local schools and recreation centers, because they are readily
It wasn't until 1959, through a committee composed of Richard
Kowalski, Ed Stoll and Phil Klintworth, that the Balsa Bugs got
regular flying privileges at the Michigan State Fair Coliseum with
its 70-foot ceiling and 300x100-foot floor area.
The Coliseum was made available to them on weekends when the
building is not in use by paying customers, largely through the
cooperation of George Brooks, assisting manager of the Michigan
State Fair Grounds and a former modeler. No use fee is charged the
modelers, but they are required to cave insurance coverage and to
pay janitorial fees when such services are needed.
The Balsa Bugs hold regular round-robin contests with the Chicago
and Cleveland indoor flyers. Dick Kowalski was U.S. team manager
last year at the first Indoor Internationals in England and Carl
Redlin, also of Detroit, flew on the team. Kowalski is one of the
founders of the new National Indoor Model Airplane Society.
The flying of outdoor gas powered free flight and R/C models
within the Detroit city limits is impossible because of the lack
of an area large enough to handle these types. Flyers in these categories
must travel to outlying sites.
Despite this Detroit free flight and R/C entrants placed well
at the 1961 Nats. Tom H. Brett, Detroit R/C Club, took third in
multi for a place on the 1962 USA team; Rus Preston, DRCC, was seventh
in open rudder and John Krauer, Midwest R/C Society, won second
in pylon. In hand launched glider, Douglas Wilson, Strathmoor, won
second and John Manning, Detroit Sky Guys, took third. Bob Bienenstein,
Balsa Bugs, copped first in free flight gas 1/2A and Kowalski took
second in Jet PAA load.
New speed circle at Rouge Park is C/Liner's dream come
Modeling interest in Detroit began even before Lindbergh's historic
flight across the Atlantic. Frank Sposite says that when he joined
the Recreation Department he inherited a battered old trophy awarded
in 1922 for an air-model event! The program gained impetus in the
late 1920's and early 1930's.
At first flying sites were no trouble ... with gliders and rubber-wound
motors any playground or park sufficed. It was after the entrance
of gas powered motors that noise and safety factors meant the shifting
of outdoor model flying to Rouge Park and Farwell Field.
The community centers are still used for indoor flying and each
winter for a model building program under the sponsorship of the
These construction classes meet once or twice a week at 18 recreation
centers; around 500 boys between the ages of 10 and 14 years participate.
The youths are taught by competent instructors in the building and
flying of three basic models: glider, ROG stick and prefabricated
kits. The materials are furnished at cost by the Recreation Department.
At the conclusion of these classes, a series of inter-center
and city-wide contests are held. All planes entered must be built
from the kits furnished and the contest rules specify what changes
are allowed. Prizes at the inter-center meets are trophies and ribbons;
at the city-wide contests are trophies and merchandise. These awards
are donated by the Exchange Clubs, hobby dealers and other interested
Instructors for these classes are recreation personnel, trained
through an in-service program conducted before the start of each
season by Mr. Sposite. In four 2-hour sessions, the instructors
are taught basic construction and flying and new techniques. Each
is required to build a model of each of the three basic planes.
After the instructors launch classes at their centers, Sposite gives
each periodic supervision and assistance.
The result .of all this is summarized by Edward T. McGowan, deputy
superintendent of the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation:
"Building and flying model aircraft attracts an ever increasing
number of youths, and, in fact, is one of the finest educational,
leisure-time activities in Detroit."
Posted June 7, 2014