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Informal Survey - How many of you have been involved with scale modeling?

Posted By:
Zack Baughman
#1 Posted: 9/29/2009 10:25:43 Modified: 12/8/2009 16:35:31

EDIT:  The AirVenture Museum is currently developing an exhibit about aircraft modeling that will include information and artifacts covering both flying and static modeling.  It would seem that many of us got our start in aviation through modeling experiences as youngsters, and many of us are still involved in the hobby, whether it be free-flight, R/C, control-line, paper. or plastic models.  With that in mind, if you haven't already responded to my initial survey, please add your modeling experiences to the replies below, and if possible and relevant to your own experiences, comment about how the skills you may have developed from modeling have carried over to your homebuilding experiences in 1:1 scale, or even flying experiences. 

With many thanks,

Zack - EAA Museum Collections Assistant


Original Post:

I'm curious to know how many EAA members are, or have been involved with scale modeling - R/C, plastic, free flight, control-line, etc?  When and how did you get involved, and what are some of your favorite modeling memories?

I myself am a plastic scale modeler, with a much bigger stash of kits than completed builds (I imagine some of you are in the same boat).  I'm a sucker for good box art, and my stash has grown because of it.  My first completed kit was a 1/72 Airfix English Electric Lightning in about 1986 or so at age 10.  I must have "flown" that airplane through every room of my parents' house before it met its demise strapped to a bundle of Black Cat bottle rockets the next summer.  Unfortunately most of my finished builds met similar ends through my teenage years, and I only got back into modeling about 7 years ago prior to the birth of my first son, which immediately put the hobby on hold until about a year ago.  I am currently working on a 1/32 Trumpeter P-47D Razorback kit, which will be finished (someday) in the markings of a P-47 flown by two different pilots of the 56th Fighter Group that I have interviewed for EAA's Timeless Voices of Aviation oral history program. 

I never got into R/C really (couldn't afford it when I was younger), but was lucky enough to visit the "Striking Back" r/c airshow in Ankeny, Iowa for a few years in the mid-1990s.  It was a really great show, with r/c dogfights, giant scale r/c bombers, and usually some full-scale warbirds from the Minnesota CAF squadron. 

What are your aircraft modeling experiences? 



EAA Timeless Voices Program Coordinator & Museum Collections Assistant "Let No Story Go Untold!"
Trent Taylor
#2 Posted: 9/29/2009 10:53:30

Been flying RC for years.  After visiting vansairforce.net a few times it seems to be a common hobby among pilot types.  I wouldn't be surprised to see more RC pilots coming out here at oshkosh365.  Although, I bet most people quit flying RC once they fly "real airplanes".


I fly for the fun of it.  I enjoy building, but am not one to spend 100's of hours detailing out lines of rivets or anything.  I build to fly!  My most recent plane is called the mojo (http://www.swanyshouse.com/mojo60/mojo60.aspx) and it's an all out trick plane.  May not do it for ya in the looks department, but as one guy said after watching me fly it, "you don't really notice that it's just a slab while it's in the air tearing it up!"


RC is how I keep the aviation bug fed for now.  I'm hoping to finally get a PPL sometime next year.

Joe Norris
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#3 Posted: 9/29/2009 13:09:49

I started building plastic models when I was quite young, and I have no idea what my first one was.  I'm sure it was an airplane, but I have no idea which one.  I've gone through several stints of being very active in building plastic models, but I haven't  built one for probably 20 years now.  Too many other projects taking up my time!

I have a pretty good "stash" of unbuilt models, some of them pretty rare nowadays, so I'm sure there will come a time at some point in the future when I'll get back to the modeling hobby.  Won't be real soon though I'm afraid.

I never got into RC at all.  I didn't know anyone who was into RC models as I was growing up, so I just never got exposed to it.  I've given some thought to giving it a try at times, but never made the move.  I guess if I don't have time for plastic models it really doesn't pay to think about RC.  Heck, I don't have time to work on "full scale" airplane projects as much as I'd like!!



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Doug Tomas
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberHomebuilder or Craftsman
#4 Posted: 9/29/2009 13:43:31

Well I've done plastic, rubber-powered stick-built, and control-line.  Even built a control-line flying "Uncle Sam", and a control-line Witch on a broomstick!! (really!  they both flew well!  Witch's cape was the wing, broom bristles were plywood "Y" tail!)

Haven't advanced to RC, yet, but with all the electric power available now, maybe!  I'd really like to get into RC helicopters, after working on the real thing and getting just a little cyclic time, this is one way I might be ablt to afford to fly rotor-wing!

But so far, the full-sized guys have kept me busy keeping them flying!


Jim Hann
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#5 Posted: 9/29/2009 20:54:06 Modified: 9/29/2009 20:55:25

I've done a lot of modeling.  Primarily R/C but I've also done a little free flight, and a bit of control line, plastic models, and model rockets.  I'm trying to curb my model addictions so I have the $$$ to build something I can get in and fly myself.  As I've shown on another thread, I'm also building a Pedal GeeBee, which is *kinda* a model.



http://sites.google.com/site/jimscavaliersa1025/ http://picasaweb.google.com/CozyCanard http://sites.google.com/site/cavalieraircraft/
David Deweese
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#6 Posted: 9/30/2009 12:48:04

Just finished a 1/48 scale Piper Cub, and have a few unfinished kits on the shelf, along with my very first model: a battered, glue splattered Monogram Cessna 180 from around 1973 or '74. (Need to locate another of those.) Scale plastic kits go faster than the full scale variety, giving the builder a quick fix of accomplishment before getting back to the wing ribs.

As a kid I had a special model building workbench Dad made, down in the basement. It's a testament to the fascination of this hobby that a boy could spend hours alone working on a project in the most likely haunted space in the house. The myriad of planes I constructed down there are all gone now, (save the Cessna,) blown up in firework simulations of Hollywood special effects or simply thrown away.

My old pasttime is calling again, perhaps inspired by the local plastic modellers' club who visited one of our summer Young Eagles events. Another goal is added to the plate as well: learning to airbrush, thereby accomplishing the elaborate camoflage schemes I could never seem to replicate as a boy. We'll see if it's more or less challenging tham learning to weld.



Zack Baughman
#7 Posted: 9/30/2009 13:11:06
David Deweese wrote:


 Another goal is added to the plate as well: learning to airbrush, thereby accomplishing the elaborate camoflage schemes I could never seem to replicate as a boy. We'll see if it's more or less challenging tham learning to weld.



I've tried my hand at both, and it's a tossup as to which is more challenging (or frustrating for that matter)!  It's funny in a way...I have all the patience in the world when it comes to gluing small pieces of plastic, resin, and photo-etch together, but when it comes to trying to airbrush, it's like I have ADHD and no patience whatsoever.  I guess it comes down to practice, practice, practice!


EAA Timeless Voices Program Coordinator & Museum Collections Assistant "Let No Story Go Untold!"
Mike Edwards
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#8 Posted: 9/30/2009 17:05:52

Sure, I built maybe a hundred plastic models of planes, ships, guns and later some satellites, so long ago that nobody had even thought of using airplane glue for substance abuse!  Model building got me through 13 weeks flat on my back waiting for a broken hip to heal when I was 11 years old.  Most Revell airplane kits were 98 cents, sales tax was 2%, an even buck per model.  That's how long ago it was!

Never tried an RC airplane, but we watched somebody fly one a few weeks ago and it looked like great fun.  Sounds like a great Christmas present to ourselves.



Anthony Pretorius
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
#9 Posted: 9/30/2009 17:24:16

Well I went ga-ga over airplanes since I was about 5, by the time I was 12, my bedroom ceiling had well over 100 model planes hanging all over the place using thin fishing line to suspend them, all at 1:72 scale. Nearly every penny of my allowance was spent on new models. My parents and grandparents had no direct contact with aviation so I guess my airplane 'gene' was a throwback from somewhere way back. At 12 I started designing and flying my own balsa gliders, to heck with buying a kit, I just bought sheets of balsa and got to work. Then it was on to control line flight, again preferring to design and build my own planes. I got so good at it, I had several of my school buddies as customers, all purchasing finished control line planes from me (at a good profit of course!!). Then at 13 my parents got me my first flight, an older friend of theirs who flew Spitfires in WW 2, took me up, and I was smitten. I continued building models right through High School, but was always champing at the bit to get my PPL and go fly the real thing. My parents came to my rescue and put up the money for flying lessons in my early college days, and I have never looked back. Come to think of it, maybe I had some grandparent 'genes' after all, they got to be passengers in some pretty interesting airplanes like the Junkers Ju-52 and Ju-86, DC-3, DC-4, DC-6, Lockheed Lodestar, Constellation, Vickers Viscount, De Havilland Comet, B-727, B-707, and grandma flew Concord in the late seventies, London - Dulles return.

Anthony Pretorius


Gary Hensen
AirVenture Volunteer
#10 Posted: 10/1/2009 22:34:49

I started 50 yrs ago building plastic models, then got my PPL during senior yr. of high school. went into service for warrent officer flight school, with the PPL in my back pocket . 1969 they were cutting back US pilots and training more Vietnamees so when ever they could wash you out they did. . spent 2 yrs in service, got out , found a good woman, married, morgage, kids and stopped flying. started flying RC 15yrs ago and those airplanes just started to get bigger and bigger. I kidded my wife and told her that about the time I retier they would be big enough to sit in. that is my goal. 2yrs and counting

Zack Baughman
#11 Posted: 12/8/2009 16:43:17 Modified: 12/8/2009 16:44:33

Message edit - please see original post. 


EAA Timeless Voices Program Coordinator & Museum Collections Assistant "Let No Story Go Untold!"
Drew Fultz
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#12 Posted: 12/9/2009 00:02:11

When I was a small child my parents hung an electric airplane from the ceiling above my bed and I watched it for hours as it went round and round in circles above my head.

I Started building plastic models when I was about 9 or 10.  Put many together and now they are all hanging from my ceiling in my room and by bathroom. I am 19 now
loopy. I was obsessed with warbirds as a kid.  One corner of my room is dedicated to 2 B-17's and 4 P-51's flying in formation.  

I then got into R/C flying around the age of 14 and had alot of fun with that.  My favorite plane was a Goldberg Sukoi that I flew precision aerobatics with.  Something about seeing a model fly just like the real bird facinated me! I have recently stopped flying R/C's though because I couldn't afford to learn how to fly full scale and RC's and go to college at the same time
biggrin. I still have my Sukhoi hanging from the ceiling in the garage along with 3 others.  I guess I have just been consumed in the world of aviation since I was born.  I am still putting together plastic models at night when I am not working on my Private license.  I just can't seem to stop.

John McGinnis
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#13 Posted: 12/9/2009 01:39:52

I started flying control line model aircraft at the age of six, and I started crashing model airplanes a few seconds thereafter. Proud to say I've never quit doing either, although I prefer a better ratio of the former to the latter.

In high school the financial decision to 'temporarily' discontinue full scale flight training was balanced by a proportionate increase in hang gliding... and radio control modeling.

After building well over a hundred flying models, raising a family in a small space took priority and I took a break from R/C. When my son became old enough, we opted back in with perfect timing to exploit the transition to electric powered aircraft and 2.4GHz radios. Now I'm using giant scale electric models as a more affordable testbed for new concepts aimed straight at general aviation, and it's still a blast.

SIDEBAR: In R/C, it seemed unlikely that anything in full scale would ever deliver the kind of horsepower we had in models (well over 1 HP per cubic inch). Thanks to brushless outrunner motors and lithium polymer batteries, that is no longer the case. Now we swing larger props and have achieved even higher thrust densities, and the technology scales all the way into full scale aircraft. You won't believe what we'll be seeing in a few years, folks.

Anyway, modeling gives thousands of builders the bug (and the skills) to build and fly for real, and it imparts a lifetime of knowledge intimately relevant to full scale aviation. I remain shocked by how disconnected the average non-modeling pilot is from this kinship we have with the modeling community. As an industry we could do better by recognizing that model builders are only a flight or two away from becoming future 'big kit' builders, and that the steps required for model manufacturers to reduce complexity and build time (to attract a new user base) are the same steps needed for increasing value at the full scale level. We should pursue it for the same reason.

Paul Dowgewicz
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
#14 Posted: 12/9/2009 09:50:16 Modified: 12/9/2009 09:55:17

Like so many others, I started out with a few plastic models and graduated to the Cox U-controls. Their PT-19 designer was a real genius to come up with the rubber bands to hold the wings on which dissipates the crash energy.

Continued on to radio control. My brother built most of them, but then didn't have the confidence to fly them, so he gave me the controls. 1st try was a styrofoam ARF model. Took off at the end of the street toward vacant land. Didn't notice that he rigged the nosewheel backward so when it drifted to the left, my correction made it worse and it ran into a curb where the front cracked off.

Next was a balsa model. I had no training and was using full control deflection. The thing went up about 20' and then made a turn in about 2 wing diameters. I then remembered reading that if you have trouble, let go of the controls. It then headed straight for a telephone pole. The only thing I thought of that quickly was to reduce the throttle. Fortunately it didn't take out any wires, but it was never balanced right after the repairs. I didn't realize until later just how well that plane was flying if I didn't over control.

I think that lesson helped me to get the right control inputs quickly when I got in a real cockpit years later.

We took another try by going to a local RC field. Someone was there flying around, and he came down and talked with us. Someone else came in and started flying. The first guy then explained the flag system for different frequencies and started to demonstrate how the controls move the planes surfaces. I was thinking "Isn't the guy flying on the same frequency?" but before I could get the words out, the flying plane came down. (I'd use the word "D'oh!", but that was before the Simpsons.)

We then moved to gas powered RC race cars. Throughout the years, built lots of Estes rockets too. Got all the way up to the Saturn V. I still have the Redstone kit in a box in my closet, along with a few 1/2 built balsa plane models too.


Barney Dunlevy
#15 Posted: 12/10/2009 18:26:28

I've been building models for over 60 years: R/C, control-line, free flight and plastic.  I have over 100 finished models in my collection many of which have taken prizes in competitions in the North West.

I currently own and fly a Grumman AA1A "Alley Cat".  Aviation things are an incurable disease.

Visit my web site at http://www.barneysairforce.com

And the avatar, that is 1:32 scale


#16 Posted: 12/11/2009 02:15:01

I'm now 61 and been building flying models since I was 7 ( My father who was an RAF LAC. helped me with my very first plane )

I built and flown gliders, rubber powered, diesel and glow powered free flight models.

I 've flown radio contrilled models since I was 13 and multi channel since I was 15.( Orbit 8 channel with reeds and relays to Bonner duramite servos )

I worked for 30 years in the aircraft industry for various British and American companies.

I now fly various scale and non scale R/C gliders and power models.

I'm still flying my 1/4 scale Cosmic Wind "Ballerina" ............first flown in 1982 !!

Currently building a 1/5 scale Mk XIV Spitfire with Retracts ( including tailwheel) Flaps etc.

I was camping at Oshkosh in 2008 and I'll be back in 2013 !!

My late Father in law was an RAF flying instructor with over 1000 hours on Harvards and my mother in law (now a very fit 90 and still driving)  was a senior WAAF officer on 617 squadron during the war.





Thore Thoresen
IAC MemberWarbirds of America Member
#17 Posted: 12/11/2009 03:28:44

I've been a modeller for as long as I can remember. I've been competing in RC scale and aerobatics, and currently enjoy everything from indoor 3D acro to turbines.

Modelling goes hand in hand with my full-size flying. I'm competing in the advanced category with an Extra 230 and fly WWII aircraft; a T-6 and more recently a P-51. So, allthough I feel very lucky and privilleged in that respect, modelling is just as fun and important to me as it allways was.

Fly safe!


- Thore

Jim Heffelfinger
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#18 Posted: 12/11/2009 16:50:53


Started my affair with aviation in the early 60s with a plastic control line plane that was more detail and less about flying.  In the 70s I moved to R/C and was heavily involved for the next few years.  Returned to modeling in the 80s focusing on sailplanes .  Returned to R/C again in the 90s – sailplanes and a helo.  Back into it in 2003 sailplanes and e-flight including indoor R/C.

2005 a small bump in $$ got me into flight training and in 2006 a wooden project has adorned my backyard. Nearly done it will be ready for airworthiness in spring of ’10.    Building in wood – full size or models is nearly the same.  I still have much of my equipment and will return as I am finding it hard to support the full size project with the current economy.

Jim Heffelfinger

Sacramento CA


another sociological question :  How many pilots are also sailors?

Joe Drab
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberWarbirds of America Member
#19 Posted: 12/11/2009 19:30:39

My dad was in the USAF for 20yrs and I was hooked on aircraft, especially Military aircraft.  I started building plastic aircraft models years ago, then took a break. In the early '80s got back into the scale modeling hobby. I prefer working on 48th and 32nd scale models (Photo of 2 Tamiya F-4C Phantom II in Michigan ANG markings) but if I like the kit, it doesn't matter what scale it is.

I am currently the Events Director for the Black Hills Scale Modelers and I build models for the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth AFB, SoDak.  I am working on a 1/72nd scale B-52 "G" for the museum.

Tom Mitchell
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#20 Posted: 12/12/2009 08:35:46

Small balsa gliders at age 5, plastic kits and rubber powered later, and RC much later.  The RC is the most challenging and enjoyable.  I learned how to crash with authority and some regularity early on, but eventually I got better at building and finally figured out how to get my "head" into the cockpit.  This causes one to imagine he is actually in the cockpit, flying that RC aircraft.  Success of course leads to "what if" and a PPL, then ownership.

The modeling was an invaluable aid to full scale flight, and I can say that all the RC flight (especially the early crashes)provided the opportunity to evaluate what can go wrong.  Mechanical failures and pilot errors.   So, all my crashes were in RC planes.  I believe this experience has made me a better pilot and builder.  I am currently building a Sonerai IILS, the 3rd aircraft I have owned.  The addiction continues.


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