As seen in the supplement to Model Aviation – The First 75 Years of AMA
June 7, 2021, marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of Maynard Hill.
MANY HAVE SAID that if there was a Mount Rushmore for aeromodelers Maynard Hill would certainly be on it. He was one of a kind who passed away in June at age 85. Maynard will be sorely missed.
I had the distinct privilege of not only knowing him but also the honor of landing his TAM-5 RC aircraft on the coast of Ireland in August 2003. That airplane, designed by Maynard, had just spent 38 hours, 52 minutes, and 14 seconds, traveling 1,882 miles from Cape Spear, Newfoundland. It did what no other model aircraft had ever done. The TAM-5 crossed the Atlantic Ocean—on less than a gallon of fuel.
Only two ounces of Coleman Lantern fuel, slightly modified with a lubricant, remained in the tank. This fuel was Maynard’s solution for long-term engine runs that he developed during years of research. No one had ever flown a model a third of that distance before. It was a giant leap for
Maynard Hill has been hailed as “aeromodeling’s Lindbergh,” and it’s not much of a stretch. Crossing the Atlantic was another world record, his last, for an aeromodeler who has few peers at this level.
Maynard’s records were in speed, altitude, and distance. Closed-course and cross-country records, powered flights or gliders—no record was safe from Maynard Hill.
Although Maynard accumulated 25 world records between 1963 and that day in 2003, he was much more than a record-breaker. He was a great innovator and a metallurgical scientist, but mostly a tinkerer who could solve nearly any problem. He was also one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever
encountered. He could enthrall you for hours. I think he was to aeromodeling who Goddard was to
rocketry. His “backyard laboratory” and basement workshop were places of reverence for all who were privileged to enter.
Maynard took the propellers from all his record-breaking airplanes and nailed them to his workshop door like scalps. The display was his chronology of world records. Maynard focused on surpassing whatever was the best at the time, especially if it was a record held by the Russians during the Space Race of the 1960s!
He quipped, “Communism is very bad—no balsa wood!” Visiting his basement was such a thrill. Aside from his records, Maynard was absolutely driven to develop practical and usable new technologies. His electrostatic autopilot invention was an incredible feat and a great service to the hobby and sport.
Maynard was an early pioneer in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for the military, presaging what has become a key component in our war on terror today. Many such projects were funded by Pentagon grants while he worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics
Inspired by heroes such as Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, and Amelia Earhart, Maynard grew up in the Golden Age of Aviation. He often said that he had acquired a serious addiction to balsa and glue before he was 10 years old!
Although he was partially deaf and legally blind for the last 10 years of his life, Maynard Hill saw possibilities where others didn’t. If aeromodelers of the present generation have the forethought and ability to push beyond boundaries, it’s because they stand on the shoulders of a giant: my friend, Maynard Hill. MA
Visit Maynard’s History Project biography to learn more about his life, career, and honors.