For a little more than a year I’ve been interested in making old fashioned stick and tissue free flight airplanes. I made a few as a youngster, but I can’t say they ever actually took flight. I’ve been building Peanut Scale and other smaller flying models focusing on making them fly. I joined the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) and the Flying Aces Club and devouring as much information about free flight models as possible. I was excited to learn the 2018 AMA Expo East was practically in my backyard. I purchased a two-day ticket and anxiously awaited the event.
Friday February 23 finally arrived. I filled out the Static Display Entry Form, packed up my recently completed Farman Mosquito peanut and I headed out to the Meadowlands Exposition Center. Light rain greeted my arrival and no close parking was to be found. I eventually parked the car, grabbed the shoe box with the Farman and started the walk to the Expo Center. Once inside I picked up my tickets at the Will Call window and headed off to enter my plane.
I glanced at the other entries, beautiful and large RC planes, and chucked to myself when I thought about the peanut Farman I held in my hands. Aware I wasn’t going to set the world on fire with my model I was simply happy to support the event and participate. I was greeted by two nice gentlemen at the entry table. I removed my model from the box and placed it on the table. “Wow! You already filled out the entry form.” one of the men said, “You checked Post World War I, that’s not the correct category – that one is for scale. Not quite sure what category yours should be.” One of the men stood up and walked to ask the man in charge.
When the man returned he said, ” You can’t enter your plane, it’s not RC.” The other gentleman said, “Well, can’t we just put it on the table to offer inspiration?” “No. It can’t be entered. Sorry.” I thought to myself, “But I could enter a BOAT or a CAR as long as they’re RC – at the Model Aeronautics Expo.”
I know if my type of plane was permitted in the competition it would stand little chance of winning. There are much better modelers out there than me. My beef with the AMA is how little they care about the very types of model craft that started the whole hobby! Model shops are closing, clubs have all but disappeared and all the information the AMA provides is written for the handful of master modelers that are still around. Where does someone new to the hobby learn the basics? The AMA provides the simple die cut balsa and rubber band models to children, and the old timers that know what they’re doing can make these simple models fly. Most children (myself included) have a lot of trouble trimming the planes to fly well.
The AMA forgets all of the intermediate steps between the simple die cut planes and the beautifully crafted RC masterpieces. Look no further for reasons why membership is diminishing.
Speaker Series East 2018
The AMA Expo East included three different speaker presentations. The first, How To Make A Spaceship. Start By Building Model Planes, presented by Author Julian Guthrie and Space Ship One Structural Engineer Dan Kreigh was an inspiring for all ages look at the history of Spack Ship One. The second Designing And Building Scale Models From Scratch, presented by Mr. Top Gun Dave Wigley, would have been more aptly titled Here’s A Few Extremely Complicated Parts I’ve Built For My Beautiful Masterpieces. I was one of a handful of people to sit through the entire lecture. When Mr. Wigley concluded and asked for questions he addressed each person with a question by name. The third and final presentation, Building A Flying Football Field, An Insider’s Scoop on Stratolaunch, presented by Mason Hutchison from Scaled Composites, was an very interesting look at building the world’s largest plane and an inspiring company. It was refreshing to see innovative and open minded companies like Scaled Composites still existed.
There was a wide variety of exhibitors / vendors at the 2018 AMA Expo East. Just about every aspect of scale models was represented. I spent the most money at the National Balsa booth. They were very helpful with finding everything I needed. I had a nice time speaking with the good people at Micro Fasteners and I picked up a few miscellaneous bits and bobs I needed around the workshop. In my opinion the best booth was Stevens Aeromodel, their kits were beautiful and well packaged all around. I’m not interested in RC planes (yet) so I didn’t make any purchases from Stevens Aeromodel, but I was very tempted.
My Take Away from 2018 AMA Expo East
I wasn’t allowed to enter my flying stick and tissue airplane model into the airplane model contest. I only attended the event on Friday, even though I purchased a two day ticket. Several times I overheard vendors speaking about how turnout is low, membership is down and the only people at the Expo were other vendors. The first and third speakers in the series were interesting and inspiring. The vendors were friendly and helpful, although there wasn’t much along the lines of my primary interest, old fashioned stick and tissue rubber powered planes. The Society of Antique Modelers had three or four stick and tissue planes on exhibit which were interesting to examine.
It’s a shame that the AMA has all but forgotten where the hobby started. There is a charm to the old fashioned rubber planes and they provide a platform to affordably explore and experiment with little risk of damaging the plane or something else. Rubber powered planes are quiet and can be flown just about anywhere without causing a disturbance. I suppose the AMA goes where the money goes, and it seems the new thing is drones. Drones are fun, but in my opinion they are the exact opposite of building something beautiful that flies on its own power. Perhaps when the old fellers running the AMA retire from the organization someone will come to their senses.