Here is a report on the 1959
Nats, aka the 28th National Model Airplane Championships, held at Los Alamitos Naval
Air Station, California. For those not familiar with the early Nats, the U.S. Navy
used to sponsor and host the entire show primarily because it was considered a good
recruitment tool for young men of a necessarily competitive nature. Their hopes
were that those guys would see really cool stuff at the base and anxiously anticipate
the day when they could join. Some time in the late 1960s, the attendance by youngsters
was so low that the Navy decided to pull its support.
Bill Winter managed to talk them into staying for
a few more years after promising to work to bring youth participation back up, but,
alas, it did not last.
'59 Nats Hailed Great Success
We understand that Navy Recruiters made
a beeline for Frank Pisz of Union, N. J., right after he greased his Sky raider
onto the deck of the CVM FLYING ESQUIRE. Although ship placed fourth, landing was
one of the best seen.
The most important meet of the year - the 28th National Model Airplane Championships,
held this year at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, California - has closed another
chapter in the long history of Model Aviation.
The Navy again acted as host for the 12th consecutive time, for what can be described
as the most successful Nationals ever held on the West Coast, in terms of both organizational
efficiency and number of contestants.
The fact that the whole operation ran so smoothly can be attributed not only
to the goodwill of the Navy for providing facilities and personnel, but also to
Contest Manager Keith Story and his team of helpers, whose untiring efforts before
and during the seven-day Championships, are worthy of the highest praise. In addition,
the required advance registration instituted experimentally last year, again proved
that this method is the only way to adequately prepare for a meet of Nationals magnitude.
This superbly detailed Focke-Wulf FW-190 carried off both the
Open Control line Flying Scale Trophy and the Testor Corp. best finish award for
its builder, Bill Ogden of E. St. Louis, Ill.
Robert Greetham, an Air Force man from Norton AFB, built this
detailed model of a Fokker E.3. Plagued with elevator troubles, ship did not place
Two unidentified modelers prepare their model for flight in the
R/C Multi event at this years Nationals.
Large model or full-size job? Of course it's a full size aircraft,
built at home in his spare time by Paul White of Riverside, Calif. Known as the
Smith DSA-1 (Darned Small Airplane) Miniplane, craft measures 16 ft. from wing to
tip to wing tip. Contrary to all reports, the DSA-1 is powered with a 65 hp Continental
and not with a McCoy 60 as has been rumored.
Well-known model whirlybird man Parnell Schoenky, prepares his
craft for flight in the Helicopter event. Ship won the event with total of 88.5
Howard Timlin, San Antonio, Tex. shown after retrieving his FAI
Power model which won Open event with a time of 19:29.0. Oliver Tiger diesel provided
Ed Childress of Castro Valley, Calif. braces himself as he prepares
to take over control of his monster B-29. Craft placed second in CLFS event.
Unusual twin-boom .020 Clipper Cargo model by Walt Mooney flew
well, but stiff breeze affected its performance considerably.
Blessed with near-perfect weather, except for the slightly stiff breeze which
prevailed throughout the week, the 1959 Nationals attracted no less than 976 contestants
from all corners of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Although by no means the largest Nats ever held, due mainly to the geographical
location of the meet, the number of contestants present this year, did surpass that
of the last California-held Nats four years ago, by something like 200 contestants,
which certainly gives a good indication of the increased amount of interest being
shown in competitive modeling, especially in the younger age group.
From the very beginning of the first day's activities, it became apparent that
a very high standard of flying was to be expected. This became more evident later
in the week when National records were being shattered at a fast rate. The final
tally at the end of the week (now confirmed) showed 25 new National records.
A combination of good fortune and excellent modeling added a new twist to this
year's Nationals. For the first time in the history of the National Model Airplane
Championships, a father and son - Bob and Bill Hunter (Cover Photos) - walked off
with the Open and Junior National Championship awards respectively. The Senior National
Champion for 1959 was Sherwin Maslowe of Detroit, Mich. The Lakewood (Ohio) Flitemasters
captured the Team Championship award with a total of 2,877 points, beating their
nearest rivals, the Air Force No. 1 Team, by a substantial margin of 367 points.
As in previous years, special awards were donated for high point winners. The
Testor award for best finish was awarded to Bill Ogden for his fine control line
scale model of a Focke-Wulf FW-190. The Harvey S. "Pop" Robbers Memorial Trophy,
awarded annually to the high point winner, regardless of age, in the Navy Carrier
event, was won by Garry Korpi, Concord, Calif. The FAST Team Trophy was presented
to combined age group Team Race winner, Eugene Leedy, Torrance, Calif., while the
Tulsa Glue Dobbers Towline Glider Trophy for high time winner, regardless of age,
in either Nordic A-1 or A-2 went to Warren Kurth, Blooming-ton, Ill. A complete
listing of other special awards can be found further on in this issue.
It was unfortunate that the indoor events did not attract a larger number of
contestants, due largely to the fact that during the planning stage of the Nationals,
AMA was unable to secure the use of the Santa Ana hangars. What followed was even
worse. The entry blanks stated that the indoor events were to be held in the Long
Beach Auditorium and the height of the ceiling was shown as 40 ft. This was later
corrected to read 70 ft. However, the damage was done and from the letters received
at Headquarters, it was obvious that many would-be contestants felt that they could
not justify a long trip to the Nationals to compete in such a small area. At the
last minute, word was received that the Santa Ana hangars were to be made available
Every indoor contestant was notified by postal card and a note was inserted in
MA, which unfortunately did not reach the majority of members in time. In spite
of this confused situation, a fair number competed in the indoor events and some
good performances were noted, though not quite good enough to shatter existing National
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to witness flights of these
extremely frail paper-covered and microfilm models, we can tell you that this is
one of the most unusual and fascinating events of all the free flight categories.
The outdoor events again proved to be the most popular, judging by the number
of contestants. A count of the individual flight cards has revealed that the three
top contestant drawers were: 1/2A Free Flight Gas - 358 entries; Class A Free Flight
Gas - 307 entries; Outdoor Hand Launch Glider - 275 entries. These totals include
Junior, Senior and Open contestants.
The Radio Control events appear to attract more contestants each year, and this
year was no exception. It was felt that the special elimination procedures pioneered
last year, contributed greatly to the increased number of contestants this year.
These events were a joy to watch as many of the country's leading R/C modelers battled
their way through the eliminations to the finals. In view of the high standard of
flying, we know that the judges had a very difficult time selecting the winners
from so many experts.
Probably the most fascinating part of the R/C events was the Pylon races. It
was almost uncanny to see these models race down the runway - sometimes just a few
feet off the ground, at high speed, and then bank vertically around the pylon in
a tight 1800 turn, under full control.
In the PAA events, the wind caused quite a bit of consternation at times, but
on the whole, most of the models behaved quite well. For many PAA enthusiasts, the
Nationals created the last opportunity for them to fly .049 Clipper Cargo models
competitively, as this event has officially given way to the lower-powered .020
class, which was also included in this year's calendar of events.
Free Flight Scale attracted quite a number of contestants. The standard of workmanship
was remarkably good, but the flight characteristics in many cases left something
to be desired. With but few exceptions, the majority of models appeared to experience
the greatest difficulty during takeoff. Ground loops were all too common and if
a ship did manage to become airborne, poor trimming invariably resulted in a collision
between the model and mother earth.
Control Line Flying Scale fared much better. Here again the standard of workmanship
was excellent, but unlike the Free Flight Flying Scale, most of the models proved
their ability to fly without too many problems. Ed Childress of the Castro Valley
(Calif.) Flying Club deserves a mention at this point. Flying a beautifully finished
B-29, Ed put all the single-engine contestants to shame on his first qualifying
flight, when he succeeded in starting all four engines and becoming airborne within
one minute. Phil Garrard of Costa Mesa, Calif., flying a twin-engine Grumman F7F-3
Tiger-cat, must have spent many long evenings working on his ship. This Tiger-cat
was equipped with retractable landing gear, brakes (which worked) and navigation
lights, all battery operated. In addition, the ship was also equipped with low-speed
engine controls and cut-out.
Another very interesting contest was the Navy Carrier event. Always a crowd attracter,
this event demanded more than ordinary skill to set a model down on the aft end
of the deck. The workmanship of most models in this event, in general, was not very
good. However, the quality of flying was superb which more than made up for the
indifferent workmanship. In any case, carrier models take much more of a beating
than any other class and those models entered, were certainly well-worn.
All in all, everyone seems to have had a good time - winners and losers alike.
Members of the press were kept extremely busy throughout the Nationals and it would
be almost impossible to estimate just how many photos were taken. Dashing about
the flying field in brightly colored Chryslers, De Sotos, Dodges and Plymouths,
very kindly loaned for the occasion by the Chrysler Corporation, the press boys
and Contest officials alike, were saved many weary hours of leg work.
One sour note marked an otherwise spectacular Nationals, and that was the amount
of thievery and sabotage which took place. From all reports, this sort of thing
did not take on the proportions of previous years, but even so, this despicable
display of bad sportsmanship by those responsible, is something which leaves a nasty
taste in the mouths of the victims, and we only hope that they will not be deterred
from attending future Nationals.
Gerald Chaney of Anaheim, Calif., prepares his Proto Speed model
for flight. We don't know the identity of his lovely mechanic but Gerald sure looks
pleased with both models!
Seems like a good deal of Hangar flying is going on at the R/C
pits while contestants await their turn to fly.
Howard Johnson of Los Angeles in characteristic pose, as he releases
his ROW Free Flight model. Ship showed beautiful takeoff and flight characteristics.
Vintage Model Aviation News Bulletin Articles:
Posted September 13, 2021
(updated from original post on 4/2/2012)