Simpler Models

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    Steve Landy

    This is the first time I have taken a look at this topic. I am shocked to find that the only subject is the US Junior Team program. The $$$ necessary to participate in these events is a substantial barrier to those whose parents don’t have deep pockets. I would like to hear more about programs that focus on some simpler competitive events. Examples would be P-30, small Mulvihill, classic 1/2A, nostalgia 1/2A or early 1/2A. There are kits available for many models in these classes and the cost is closer to that required to participate in any sport or other interest. I have picked the events I did because they have enough performance to grab the interest of a 10 – 11 yr old and yet be within the attention span of most. Is there anybody out there who is doing this sort of thing? What seems to be necessary to make it succeed?

    John Seymour

    While buying and flying ready to fly models or assembling factory high tech components is certainly the “norm” these days for Jr.’s in the FAI team program, I am pursuing another “program” with my sons, age 9 and 14.
    My oldest expressed interest in flying gas models in the Jr. Program this past winter. He previously has flown catapult glider and P-30, with an ‘intermittant” level of interest. I designed and built, with his help, three different, very simple fixed surface, traditional balsa construction power models to F1P specs. This construction phase got my younger son interested as well. All are equipped with low cost Norvel .061 engines running on suction feed tank mounts, simple KSB pinch-off timers, and fuse D/T’s. Entire cost of each model is somewhere around 100 bucks. I aspired to make these models as simple and cheap to build and fly for the raw beginner as possible, since all the ready-to-fly F1P’s are expensive, full auto surface, hi-tech models intended for the expert flyer, not a beginner.
    All three models where test flown on spring break at Muncie, with all flying very well and easy to trim out (unfortunately, the best flying of the three was lost in a boomer with the fuse not getting lit). The plan is to get my sons comfortable flying this level of model, and if they want to pursue it further, design and build a more advanced level if model using hotter engines, pressure fuel systems, balsa with composite reinforced construction, and probably auto rudder and VIT. The rules for F1P limiting wingspan with large area are wll thought out and should allow this level of model to be very competitive.



    It is interesting that you bring this topic out. I am a junior (age 17, started age 9) currently participating in the Junior Team Program and I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without an aeromodeling program with experienced people.

    While you may find it surprising that many of the subjects in this forum are related to the junior team, I see it as the lack of discussion on methods to get new people into free flight–kids, adults, anyone! Many of the junior team threads here are important and necessary updates.

    I am fortunate that my parents brought me to a public model airplane organization called the Wilbur & Orville Society, located at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, CT. I am proud to be part of the success of the program and feel obliged to explain what the program is all about.

    Our specific goal is to advance the art, science, and sport of youth aeromodeling. Since many of the people who visit tend to be parents who bring their kids (because the museum is aimed at child workshop programs), we focus on teaching kids how to construct, trim, and fly models from the ground up. Adult mentors like Art Ellis, Al Vollmer, Dennis Phelan, Andrew Barron, Tom Vaccaro, and other expert modelers come on Friday nights and during the summer to the museum to help out these kids. Our group facilitates access to the materials and competition so that there is a starting point for model kits and contest participation.

    As kids progress, they go through many of the models that you mentioned: P-30, Mulvihill, 1/2A, Gliders (towline, hand/catapult launched). Every weekend, we hold practice sessions at our local flying field in Durham, CT.

    If kids really get into the hobby, they go to contests at the Barron Field in Wawayanda, NY, and eventually, the NATS in Muncie, Indiana. Every year, we have a big CT group that goes to the NATS and everyone has a lot of fun. If people start getting serious about competing, we will train kids for the junior team program.

    I hope the above information didn’t sound too much like an advertisement. 🙂 From what I know, our group is not the only group in the nation that brings newcomers into free flight. One of the many successful programs in California, neatly incorporated as part of a middle school science class, is ran by Rocco Ferrario. Also, I learned through Facebook about Darcy Whyte’s Squirrel, which is a simple rubber model like the AMA Cub that he has spread around his community and the web.

    I feel that people who spend money on FAI models tend to be those who have already put lots of time and effort to get this far into the hobby. While there are conflicts between the builder of the model rule and prebuilt models like in FAI events, the Wilbur & Orville Society encourages juniors to build their own models before they reach the FAI stage.

    I hope this provided some useful info as to getting newcomers into competitive free flight.


    Steve Landy


    You are in exactly the kind of program I was looking for in my original post. I was aware that Art Ellis had something going. I just didn’t realize how good it was. Do you have any information on how the program was started? How did you get museum space and support would be the most important ingredient. How do you handle models and materials from start to finish? (Storage, building boards, etc) I am sure that we could find enough experienced modelers to staff such an operation. What we need are some hints on organization.


    Hi Steve,

    I do not know how the program started, but I can say that it had already been running for over 10 years when I first joined in 2001. At the time, Art Ellis was the curator of the Eli Whitney Museum and so there was a lot of support in terms of space, storage, and materials. Currently, Art doesn’t hold the position but we are lucky to get continued support with accessible space.

    There are many potential places to get space to run the program. Try asking local high schools or universities if they have any offerings for classrooms. Many universities provide free classrooms for Sunday schools so it may be possible for a science/education program like aeromodeling to get access.

    The Eli Whitney Museum also holds a variety of summer workshop programs, one of them being aeromodeling camp. Each year we recruit many kids after summer camp and those that have gained experience through the program have worked as summer counselors.

    As for storage, we used to use museum-provided cabinets but have shifted to a dedicated trailer for all of our supplies. Also, couple of expert modelers share their equipment with the kids during the Friday evenings. Some materials are divided up between individuals who bring them each Friday.

    We used to use typical boxing cardboard as our building boards but received a generous donation of these black foam boards from someone who got some from their company. The museum also has a lot of scrap wood which make decent boards for sanding. For beginners, we provide all basic tools for free. As kids progress, they eventually get their own toolbox and tools. Kids take care of the building board and their model until they finish their project.

    About 3 years ago, our group decided to become an official club through AMA so that we could hold sanctioned contests. We elected officials including group kids and adults to organize the club.

    Here are some important aspects about the club: All of the membership in the Wilbur & Orville Society is free–kids only have to pay for the model kits. At a contest, kids fly for free. Only adults are charged for the contest fee, which is used to cover part of the sanction fee. The club accepts monetary, material/equipment, and model airplane donations. For example, we received small-sized pipettes that are excellent for super gluing. Also, I run and maintain the group’s website with no cost to the group. Finally, model donations help greatly in getting someone started in FAI.

    Good luck,



    I just came across this thread.

    What do I do to make it easier for school teachers to incorporate the Squirrel at into their activities?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated!


    Hi Everyone,
    Just wanted to make everyone aware that a number of clubs have joined together in support of the Jr.Team program and offer free Astrostar F1P kits and Cyclon 061 engines to Juniors who enter the Jr.Program.
    Also there are F1B rubber models available also…
    Contact Walt Ghio :

    These models that are offered are very good models and there are many of us out here in the Freeflight Community that are willing to give Junior flyers help…and I am one of them..both my sons were in the program since 2003 but are now too old for the Jr. program…if any one needs help with F1P I am willing to help …contact me @

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