Model Aircraft - Gateway to General Aviation

AOPA put out a video shown below about the FAA requesting to speak with an airshow pilot at Oshkosh. Normally, having the FAA want to speak with you is not a good thing, but in this case, it was.

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Great Story about an Airshow Pilot

AOPA put out a video shown below about the FAA requesting to speak with an airshow pilot at Oshkosh back in 2016. Normally, having the FAA want to speak with you is not a good thing, but in this case, it was.

Pilot Walt Fricke, a Vietnam helicopter pilot and Veteran's Airlift Command founder is the subject of this story. He's had an amazing career, but what struck me in watching the video was that he started out with control line and free flight models at an airport. Once he saw full size planes flying in, he moved on from models. I've heard from a lot of pilots of manned aircraft that they started in model aircraft too. I've also heard the opposite where manned pilots got into models. It certainly seems that these go hand in hand with the common denominator being a love for aviation. This is a great video and well worth the time to watch it.

Congrats to Walt on the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award, the highest honor the FAA can give a pilot.

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Nov 13, 2019, 10:42 AM
Multi-Platform Pilot
barracudahockey's Avatar
Awesome!
Nov 13, 2019, 11:04 AM
Electric Coolhunter
Thomas B's Avatar
Great story.

A passion for aircraft often starts with interest in aircraft in general, that starts being realized with models and then the path moves on to full scale involvement.

I started with plastic models very early, then moved on to control line and free flight models at an early age. Started flying RC at 13. I started full scale flight training at the age of 13, in both sailplanes and powered aircraft. Soloed at 16 in a venerable Cessna 150. Private pilot license at 17. My dad matched every dollar I earned for fight training with a another dollar from him. It was a great deal and a great incentive.

This passion for aircraft lead to a long term career in the aerospace industry and I still fly RC, 50 years later.

In all of this, I was unwaveringly supported by my dad, Tom Blakeney. He’s been gone for 15 years now and is still deeply missed.
Latest blog entry: RC events for 2019!
Nov 13, 2019, 11:15 AM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
That's awesome!
Nov 13, 2019, 12:35 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
That's a great story. But not at all unusual for the time when he was a youth.

A strong passion for model building and flying was at one time a frequent precursor to some manner of carrier in aviation.

As I started out in the mid 60's at this hobby and got involved with clubs in the area shortly after I met and flew with a high percentage of club members that were either working or retired from full size aviation. And this extended to when I traveled to contests in the US where I met a surprising number of flyers that worked at Boeing in the Seattle area.

A common theme when I talked to some of them about how they went from models to full size was that when being interviewed upon learning that model airplanes were involved a big approval checkmark was put on the interviewer's notes. More than one of the folks said that the tone of the interview changed in a very positive way at learning that they built and flew models and took part in competitions.
Nov 13, 2019, 01:51 PM
Keep Flying Model Aeroplanes
Rhea's Avatar
Similarly I have always looked back at the experience I got from modeling in the late 50s. My experience led me into engineering that came from the interest in building planes and radios because there really wasn’t much available like the “from-the-box-to-the-air” sort of thing we have these days.

Among the others who flew together in those early days one went into aerospace engineering, one now owns and operates an airport, several went into other kinds of business management related to aviation.

That is why I support STEM related education and model aviation particularly.
Nov 13, 2019, 03:47 PM
AndyKunz's Avatar
That's really great! I used to live across the street from Erica and Kendal Simpson (she crashed and died at Reno in 2008). Kendal and his buddy flew big Hangar 9 models, then used what they learned for full-scale.

Come to think of it, Kendal still owes my son a flight in the Pitts...

Andy
Nov 14, 2019, 03:57 PM
Registered User
320pilot's Avatar
Quote:
A passion for aircraft often starts with interest in aircraft in general, that starts being realized with models and then the path moves on to full scale involvement.
That was my story, building plastic model aircraft, then balsa free flight , paper covered. I was interested in FS aviation at an early age too. Bought an aircraft band VHF receiver, and even a Sporty's Private Pilot course, in a big blue binder at 15?. My first flight was in a LET L-13 Blanik, at age 16 and I still have a picture of me in that cockpit.
After university, where I did my private I went on to obtain more ratings, then started flying in the bush, on floats.
That led me to 2 years flying around the Game Parks in Kenya, mostly in a Cessna 402; also a B-N Islander twin. A short stint in Nairobi, flying DC-3 for a freight operation there, flying into the Sudan . That got me my DC-3 endorsement.
All this helped build time, and then join a major airline in 1979. Quite a transition, from flying the Game Parks and beaches of Kenya to a Second Officer, in a L-1011, operating overseas to Europe !
Meanwhile I kept my hand in flying, light twins, with delivery of aircraft Later promoted onto DC-9, B-767 and Airbus 320/321 aircraft . First as F/O, later as Captain...
A great career, and I am still flying lots of RC; largely sailplanes, occasional helicopters, and warbirds...
It's a snowy day outside, so I'll add some pictures..
Last edited by 320pilot; Nov 14, 2019 at 06:59 PM.
Nov 14, 2019, 06:51 PM
Registered User
My story is a little different.

I started in the mid 50s with control line, like many here. In about 1970 my wife and I took aviation ground school at the local community college. A high school buddy, John, was an instructor at the local airport and talked us into an introduction flight which counted as the first hour towards a license. A week later John and two other friends from high school crashed and died flying to the Reno air races in the plane my wife and I flew in. I had declined an invitation to go with them.

I decided to fly RC models instead of perusing a private license. I still think of John, Chris and Ben whenever I see a 182
Nov 14, 2019, 08:07 PM
Balsadustus Producerus
No different here. Started with plastics, then found out about something called 'balsa wood'. First one was a Comet 'Porterfield 65', strictly kit-built and waaaay too heavy to fly; by the third attempt I built a copy of those same plans with my carefully-chosen wood and almost lost it on fly-aways. Moved to control-line, then radio control at 14, attended college at 19. Earned my Private and Commercial by washing airplanes and being a lineboy for an FBO owned by Western captains.

Bought my first airplane in '72, a '46 Luscombe Silvaire, last airplane I owned was a '46 Bellanca 14-13-2 Cruisair, sold some years ago. Been flying only GA airplanes the whole time, conservative guess would be more than 40 types. No military or airline. Earned my A&P during flight training, then got the Inspection Authorization a few years later. Even worked at Cessna Wallace; multi-engine R&D, certification, the lot. Even had an FAA Inspector say, "You must like airplanes a lot".

Furloughed last year due to an on-the-job trip/fall accident, might return to active status if I can, at a later date. Still fly models of all kinds.
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Nov 15, 2019, 11:46 AM
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E-Challenged's Avatar
When I was around age 12 , an avid stick model plane builder, my brother in law, ex air force major rented a Cessna 140 and took me up for a short ride outside of Milwaukee, WI. Later I won an airplane drawing contest on a local TV program and got a one-hour flight instruction with an ex WWII instructor in another C-140. A week later the instructor and student were killed in a mid-air collision. I have always had a thing about Cessna 140's , aviation history, and model building and flying, but not much opportunity or drive to become a pilot. I was lucky enough to attend some great olde tyme airshows with the Cole Brothers and their huge super Stearman biplanes with wing walkers. Back then, kids could hang around airport flight lines . We would ride our bicycles out to Mitchell Field and watch Wisconsin Air National Guard fly their P-51's and later their F-80's. I built a Comet 50-cent Stinson SR-7 Reliant back then and have been hooked on Reliants ever since. My Pat Tritle Reliant is still air worthy as is my foamy Park Zone version. My Tritle C-140 is only a pleasant memory now. I had ambitions to become an aeronautical or electronics engineer, but lacked math talent . I had a 44 year career with North American Aviation making use of my talent for writing of contract specifications and administrative procedures. I have been retired for 20 years.
Last edited by E-Challenged; Nov 15, 2019 at 11:54 AM.
Nov 15, 2019, 11:55 AM
Registered User
E-Challenged's Avatar
When I was around age 12 , an avid stick model plane builder, my brother in law, ex air force major rented a Cessna 140 and took me up for a short ride outside of Milwaukee, WI. Later I won an airplane drawing contest on a local TV program and got a one-hour flight instruction with an ex WWII instructor in another C-140. A week later the instructor and student were killed in a mid-air collision. I have always had a thing about Cessna 140's , aviation history, and model building and flying, but not much opportunity or drive to become a pilot. I was lucky enough to attend some great olde tyme airshows with the Cole Brothers and their huge super Stearman biplanes with wing walkers. Back then, kids could hang around airport flight lines . We would ride our bicycles out too Mitchell Field and watch Wisconsin Air National Guard fly their P-51's and later their F-80's. I built a Comet 50-cent Stinson SR-7 Reliant back then and have been hooked on Reliants ever since. My Pat Tritle Reliant is still air worthy as is my foamy Park Zone version. My Tritle C-140 is only a pleasant memory now.
Nov 15, 2019, 08:08 PM
Registered User
ErcoupeEd's Avatar
The video was awesome!
I have volunteered at Oshkosh in Vintage Security for 25 years.
One day while in the Vintage Red Barn store asking a friend of mine about making me a T-shirt,
After he saw my credentials badge hanging on a lanyard around my neck, a gentleman walked up to me, and asked me if I was "Bud DeBolt's" son.
I said yes sir I am, and he smiled, held out his hand and we shook hands.
He was Jimmy Leeward, a man I knew as a teenager, and who had very much influenced my interest in aviation.

Mr Leeward was friends with my Dad who was a private pilot, and my Aunt and Uncle who raised horses, and Jimmy loved to ride horseback.
But he often flew over from Baer Field in Ft Wayne to my Aunt and Uncle's ranch in his Bell 47 helicopter and took my cousin and I for rides in it.
We ended up setting on the veranda front porch of the Vintage Red Barn watching the air show and talking about old times back home for about 90 minutes.
That was the last time I saw Jimmy Leeward before his unfortunate death at the Reno National Air Races.

But he had encouraged me to pursue my interest in aviation and also my model building and flying ( mostly free flight gas model airplanes.)
He often stayed for evening dinners and we talked aviation of all kinds at the dinner table.

I finally got my private license in 1995 ad een flying full scale and models to this day.
In 1995 I purchased a 1946 Ercoupe, model 415CD and still have it.
Last edited by ErcoupeEd; Nov 15, 2019 at 08:29 PM.
Nov 16, 2019, 04:12 PM
FPV Air Combat Nut!
turbinefancy's Avatar
Congratulations to Walt Fricke for winning the Wright Brothers Master pilot award and leading the Veteran’s Airlift Command. It is similarly eye opening to read about the many illustrious aviation careers developed from model aviation roots in comments above.

My love for model aviation started as young as I could remember, too. And was fortunate to join a flying club in college (god how great it was to rent for $40/hr wet) and earn my private pilot certificate. But did not continue to pursue a career in aviation. As cost to participate in general aviation continue to escalate (now $200/hr wet), I find it less feasible to fly for fun without pursuing career advancement. Luckily, with advent of high definition FPV and head-tracking, I can almost duplicate the experience of GA flying (sans G-Force) by placing the camera at scale pilot position in an RC plane. With the risk of life and limb removed, try more adventurous type of flying that I can only dream of doing in GA. I would get back into more GA flying if finances allow. For now, model flying with FPV does the trick for me - and incidentally is a great platform for lead-in for GA flying for the younger generation.

FPV RC Plane Dogfight & Formation Aerobatics (4 min 40 sec)
Last edited by turbinefancy; Nov 16, 2019 at 04:55 PM.
Nov 16, 2019, 06:26 PM
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Captain Dunsel's Avatar
Born in 1953, to a family with several folks who worked at Curtis-Wrights in NJ, I grew up loving airplanes. My single mom and I built many rubber-band and control-line models over the years. With her full support (NOT easy as a single mom in the '60's), I built a LOT of models and got into R/C with a Galloping Ghost rig (not that I ever got much success with it -- teaching oneself is not easy!).

Later, I worked as a bus boy at a local restaurant, where I was able to save up enough to by a digital rig (MRC/Futaba F-710). I was able to find a local club, where an instructor (Dick Zuidema, of the Top O' New Jersey club) taught me. I soloed in 1971.

After a few moves and life changes, I joined the USAF as a Weather Observer, married the girl I loved (and still do!), and got more active in R/C. I became recognized as an instructor pilot, especially after I taught my bride how to fly R/C.

After a few years, the USAF sent me to finish my degree, get commissioned, and become (Gulp!) a second lieutenant.

That's when the 'trouble' started. I was told, bluntly, by a Lt. Col., that being an active R/C flier and instructor pilot was 'okay' for enlisted folks, but as an officer, was expected to shed those 'kiddie toys' and become a real aviator. I was STRONGLY encouraged to get my pilot's license and serve as a chauffeur for Wing and Squadron teams. Yeah, a second looey is going to tell a full-bird colonel that it isn't safe to fly...

I had a few lessons, went through ground school (with my wife), and found that I didn't like it. Flying models meant I could WATCH what the plane, which was much more fun than being IN an aircraft (we tell people we're 'airplane voyeurs'. Being in a plane was, to put it succinctly, boring. My wife agreed, and we dropped the lessons.

That was nearly 40 years ago. Since then, we've flown on two continents, at nearly 100 fields from AK to NJ. We both still love the hobby, and we both still work HARD at making those smooth, down-the-runway landings!

CD & Miss Micki


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