AMA member, decorated colonel passes away

AMA was saddened to learn of the November 25 passing of longtime AMA member and decorated World War II Air Force pilot, Col. Robert “Bob” Thacker. Bob, age 102, died in his sleep at his home in California.

Born February 21, 1918, he began aeromodeling at age 8 after seeing his neighbor’s twin pusher. In 1929, he began constructing a Spirit of St. Louis scale model, two years after Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight. He entered his first aeromodeling competition, the Junior Birdmen of America contest, in 1930, and joined a model aircraft club in El Centro, California, in 1932.

He continued flying and building model airplanes throughout his life. He competed in the 1975 and 1976 National Scale Glider Championships, and in gas-powered Scale and Glider national competitions. He also experimented with early solar-powered air vehicles for Lockheed Aircraft. He designed a Bowlus Baby Albatross Scale sailplane, which earned him first place in two RC Soaring Nats.

He was a frequent contributor to model magazines, publishing articles about many aspects of model building and flying. Bob’s plans were published in Radio Controlled Modeler, Model Builder, and Flying Models magazines. He donated his 60-inch Kyushu Shinden RC aircraft to the National Model Aviation Museum, in Muncie, Indiana.

Col. Bob Thacker’s Kyushu Shinden at the National Model Aviation Museum.

In 2009, he was inducted into the AMA Model Aviation Hall of Fame. He was presented his plaque at AMA Expo 2010.

Bob also was honored for his military service with two Silver Stars, 10 Air Medals, many Theater and Battle Stars, plus the French Croix de Guerre with palm, and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1939 until he retired in 1970. He holds the distinction of being one of the only officers to fly two combat tours, one in Europe and one in Japan, during WW II.

During WW II Bob flew B-17s, in Korea he flew B-29s, and in Vietnam he flew classified high-altitude missions. He graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot Academy at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Col. Thacker’s flight jacket at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

He earned one of his Distinguished Flying Crosses for a flight of the Betty Jo, named for his wife. That aircraft resides at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Col. Thacker with Betty Jo, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton OH. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Bob flew a P-82 from Honolulu to New York in 1947. This was the longest nonstop fighter flight carrying the maximum weight for takeoff of a fighter and set a speed record between Hawaii and New York.

Learn more about Col. Thacker at Col. Robert E. Thacker, Ret..

National Model Aviation Museum History Program Biography 

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