AMA and Model Aviation History Moments August

Week 4 – August 25, 2011: The control line bell-crank and patent # 2292416

Control Line (CL) model aviation can trace its roots back to the early tethered experiments of Victor Tatin, whose compressed-air powered model was flown round-the-pole in 1879. In the 1920s and 1930s aeromodelers began to take this a step further and actually try and control their whip and powered aircraft in flight.

Several of these modelers achieved success and began to market their designs including Victor Stanzel’s “G” line Tiger Shark and Jim Walker’s Fireball. To protect their ideas both Stanzel and Walker also filed for and received patents for their designs, Stanzel with #2236348 and Walker with #2292416. Click on each picture below to enlarge. (Images courtesy of Google Patents)

Victor Stanzel patent for the Shark model airplane          Walker's patent for the Firball and the Control line system.    
It was Walker’s patent, featuring a bell crank, that affected the development of CL models the most though. While some manufactures paid royalties to Walker to use his system, others simply would market aircraft with the words “your favorite control system here.”

In 1953, things changed for Walker when L.M. Cox manufacturing released their TD-1. This small model airplane duplicated Walker’s patent and so Walker filed a patent infringement lawsuit against L.M. Cox Manufacturing Co., Inc. on two counts:
• The use of the two-line bellcrank system and combination control handle/wire reel.
• Infringement on the trademark “U-Control.”

The case went to court in 1955 with Walker and Cox providing evidence, witnesses, and flight demonstrations. With this evidence the court ruled:

1) Walker’s patent was void and invalid
2) Cox had not infringed on the trademark “U-Control.”

Although the court ruled in favor of Cox, Walker was able to keep both the trademark “U-Control” and the patent for the combination control handle/wire reel.

With this ruling, companies no longer were required to pay royalties to Walker for his U-Control system. As a result there was a large increase in the number of CL kits available to aeromodelers by the late 1950s and CL modeling quickly replaced Free Flight as the most popular type of aeromodeling.

This ruling did not diminish the significance of Jim Walker. His devotion to aeromodeling, aeromodelers – and in particular youth – remains an important part of aeromodeling history.

Below are some of the patents that Cox used to support his case. Click on each picture to enlarge. (Images courtesy of Google Patents)


Week 3 – August 18, 2011: First National Aeromodeling Championships

The 85th National Aeromodeling Championships concluded on August 11. During the 36-day event, 954 contestants participated in 107 official events

Although we celebrate this as the 85th anniversary, the first true national aeromodeling contest was held in 1915. Sponsored by the Aero Club of America, the contest was divided into three separate events, one to be held each month beginning in August, with local full-scale aero clubs acting as judges. Cash prizes were awarded to the individuals achieving the best scores each month. The silver Henry S. Villard Trophy was awarded to the club whose members had the highest collective scores. The first event was distance launching from hand, second was duration launching from water, and third was duration launching from ground.  The event was repeated in 1916 but, because of World War I, was canceled until 1919. The Illinois Model Aero Club (IMAC) won all three years and the trophy was retired to the club, ending the only [first] national aeromodeling event.

Although prestigious for IMAC, the club recognized that for aeromodeling to progress there needed to be a national event. In 1922, the club attempted to encourage the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to hold an aeromodeling event as part of the full-scale National Air Races. Unsuccessful, they tried again in 1923. This time, Bernard Mulvihill, vice president of the NAA, agreed to offer prize money and a trophy if the St. Louis Air Board and the Air Race Contest Committee would include a modeling event. With time running out, Charles Dickinson, president of the Illinois Aero Club, provided his converted World War I Breguet bomber to fly a committee of modelers to St. Louis.

After answering numerous questions put forth by the NAA Contest Liaison, including confirmation that Mulvihill was offering a trophy and $300 in prize money, Event No. 6, Mulvihill Trophy Duration Race for Model Airplanes was added to the National Air Race Program. Although there were 27 entries, only 12 participated. Sixteen-year-old Edward Lang, with his twin-pusher, placed first with a time of 4 minutes and 22.6 seconds.

This was an event that an individual could win, rather than a club, and it this event that the AMA considers the first Nats.




1. Flying, Volume 4, No. 7, August 1915, p 631. Image courtsey Google Books, click image to enlarge.

2. Aerial Age Weekly, Volume 9, Aug 18, 1919

3. The Illinois Model Aero Club committee in front of the converted Breguet bomber just prior to takeoff. Left to right: Paul Shiffler-Smith, mechanic Henry Tiecotter, Edward Lange, pilot “Buck” Weaver, Bert Pond. Model Aviation, February 1977, p 50. by Bert Pond

4. Contestant lineup for first Mulvhill Contest, St. Louis Air Races, Sunday September 30, 1923. Model Airplane News, December, 1953, p 24. by Christy Magrath.

Week 2 – August 11, 2011: 100,000 AMA member

On July 16, 1985, Ms. Carol Merfeld, Director of the AMA Membership Department, processed the membership application for Mr. Corbert Chaisson.  When the process was completed, and his license issued, Mr. Chaisson became the 100,000 member of the AMA.  The article in John C. Grigg’s President Column in the October 1985 issue of Model Aviation noted that “The opening of this particular envelope was witnessed by several of the headquarters people, and there can be no doubt of the randomness of the chosen envelope.”  Read more in the scan of the article below.

President Grigg’s article notes the suspense that had been in the air as they sorted the mail the morning of July 16, 1985.  (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Library [Grigg, John C.  “July 16, 1985!!” Model Aviation, vol. 11, no. 10, October 1985, pg. 91.])
President Grigg’s article notes the suspense that had been in the air as they sorted the mail the morning of July 16, 1985.  (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Library [Grigg, John C.  “July 16, 1985!!” Model Aviation, vol. 11, no. 10, October 1985, pg. 91.])

Week 1 – August 4, 2011: Bill Good
Bill and Walt Good are credited with the first successful radio control flight in the US with their Big Guff in 1937.  The twin brothers were still in college and used the combination of their interests (Walt, model airplanes, Bill, radio equipment) as a special college course.  Their success went on to earn them much acclaim in the modeling community.  While after the initial work and development of radio control, Walt went on to further design R/C models and work closely with the AMA, Bill turned his interests toward other projects.

Bill earned a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.  His doctoral thesis was on “The Inversion Spectrum of Ammonia.” He eventually worked for General Electric Co. for 28 years, focusing his work on large screen television projection.  Outside of work he spent time with his family and the Liverpool (New York) First United Methodist Church, the Liverpool-Syracuse Masonic Lodge 501, and as Commodore of the Onondaga Yacht Club.  Bill died in 2001.

To read more about Bill Good visit his History Program biography.

Walt and Bill Good with their models and equipment. [Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0006 Walter (Walt) A. Good Collection]

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