My Nats Story: Lee Ray

Back in the 70s, the first RC plane my father trained me to fly was a sailplane. He didn’t want me to fly a powered airplane until I could launch, fly, and land the airplane back at my feet. His explanation was simple—if I could do that, I’d always be ready for a “dead-stick” landing. He was right. All that training (and fun) developed my passion for the simple joy of flying gliders. Those were some of the happiest times I had with him. Back then, we got to build some of the greatest balsa glider kits at the time: Airtronics Aquila & Olympic 99 (both designed by Lee Renaud), Craft Air Sailaire, and an Astro Flight Super Monterey. 

It was after an hour-long flight thermaling the Super Monterey that I recall my father talking to me about something called the “Nats”—a huge contest for model aviation that had a category for Thermal Duration gliders. I remember thinking how cool that would be but, even though we spoke about it often, our busy schedules never gave us a chance to attend. Sadly, after my father passed away over 20 years ago, the passion never took hold. That is, until I became a father. 

Now that my oldest son, Austin, has become addicted to this hobby like his ol’ man, I knew I had to fulfill the dream that my father and I had back then. This year, for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the first Nats, I’ve registered the two of us to compete in the Nostalgia Class (NOS) Thermal Duration contest, where we’ll be flying my father’s Airtronics Olympic 99 in his honor. We will bring other gliders with us to enjoy the festivities with others, but flying my father’s Olympic will mean so much to me, and hopefully my son as well. Look out Nats, the Ray boys are heading your way this Summer!

Lee Ray

Social Media Manager
Academy of Model Aeronautics

One comment

  1. That’s a wonderful chronology of passing this hobby to succeeding generations!
    The practically of your father’s lesson of mastering non-powered flight before powered flight makes more sense than anything I’ve heard this month!!

    Common sense, much like a sideslip is a lost art.

    Happy landings…

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