A Bit of History of RC Modeling in Utah

By Bill Cowley

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Prior to WWII or in the later 1930’s and early 1940’s, modeling in Utah Valley was pretty much a matter of individuals doing their own thing. Kits could be purchased for 10 cents to $1.00 that would yield flyable rubber powered model airplanes. These models were made of balsa sticks glued together and usually covered with tissue paper and sometimes finished with nitrate dope. Engines were seldom seen and prohibitive in cost for most modelers. Radios were only a dream. The models that were usually seen were small rubber powered free flight type with typical flight duration times of a minute or so. Scale models of some military types were becoming popular, but they were somewhat lacking in flight performance.

After the United States became involved in WWII, modeling supplies became extremely scarce. Balsa, dope, tissue, cement, and especially rubber were almost non-existent. Some modelers built models using pine and spruce sticks covered with gift wrap tissue.

It was also necessary to make your own airplane glue by dissolving celluloid in acetone. These models were very fragile and even a hard landing was a disaster. The model would shatter like a glass ornament. Not many were flown as synthetic rubber bands made less than desirable rubber motors. Most modelers gradually started to build solid, non flying models of famous military aircraft.

Shortly after WWII ended, enterprising individuals throughout the country again made modeling supplies available. The model gas motor was available and the cost, while high, was where it could be obtained by a dedicated modeler. Motors were all spark ignition and for the engine to operate required a coil, a condenser, and batteries. The cost for motors ran from $10.00 to $30.00. Prices for some of the more popular engines from 1940 advertisements are: Super Cyclone $15.00, Ohlsson 60 $21.50, Ohlsson 23 $10.50, Torpedo 30 $16.50. High performance engines of the day, such as Hornet 60, Orwick 65, or Anderson 65, were $30.00 to $35.00. These prices usually included the coil, condenser, and spark plug. Old Timer modeling enthusiasts of today will pay from S100 to $300 for one of these engines that is still in good operating condition. You could even buy engine kits and finish the castings to have an engine. Fuel was unleaded gasoline and 70-weight oil mixed 3 parts gasoline to 1 part oil. Kits were available for $1.00 to $5.00 and model magazines, Air Trails and Model Airplane News, were 25 cents an issue. Radios as we now know them didn’t exist, but radio amateurs with FCC licenses were building radios which were rudder only and did provide some flight control. Batteries were expensive, heavy, and not overly reliable and the models had to be big to carry the loads and as a result radio control was not popular, but only a dream in modeler’s minds. A successful flying day might even log a flight with only a minor crash and damage to the model.

Close up of an old engine.                      Old gas pump and can.

With the availability of the gas engine free flight models, called gassies, became more popular, and a new type of flying model, called a control line model, began to be seen. This type of model uses control lines to activate the elevator as it flies around the pilot in a circle. The elevator made the model go up or down giving rise to the descriptive term of "U Control” Flying. This type of modeling was popular because the modeler was actually in continuous control of the airplane as it flew around him.

As more people began to participate in modeling the need for hobby groups or clubs to teach and train interested individuals how to build, operate, and fly increased. The first club in Provo was organized by the Provo Recreation Department. A model contest was held in the old Timpanogos Baseball Park located in North Park about where the swimming pool is now located. The interest was almost overwhelming and the recreation department then organized a "Model Airplane Club" in June 1948. Anyone interested in model airplanes was invited to participate. Practice in building and flying model airplanes would be the objective and weekly meetings were held. The majority of members were teen aged boys with 1 or 2 adults being involved. Monthly competitions were held with prizes furnished by Provo City and hobby shop operators. Flying was done in city parks, school yards, and fields that could be mowed smooth. The Fraternal Order of Eagles assumed sponsorship of the model club and provided supervision, support, and finances to further model aviation in Utah Valley. This group functioned for a few years until the more active members started to leave home for school, marriage, etc. Lack of leadership and interest resulted in the end of this club.

The next number of years resulted in various attempts to organize model clubs but usually ended in failure from many varied causes. During this time, modeling continued to progress. Glow Plug Ignition for engines was perfected, alcohol became the fuel for the glow engines, and radios were developed that were reliable and the Ni-Cad or rechargeable battery suitable for model use was developed.

*East Bay - 1971 - 1985
ln 1969 or 1970, Greg Sauter and Wayne Atkinson, both modelers, formed what is now the Utah Valley Aeromodelers. This club was formed to unify the many modelers in Utah Valley and promote modeling activities. Since this time, this group has been instrumental in promoting model building and flying, comradery among modelers, community service, and has been able to develop safe flying sites for modelers to use. The first flying site was located in south Provo where the existing golf course is located. This field was used for about 10 or so years.

*Payson - 1985 - 1987
The next site was located east of Payson but after a couple of years it was closed to make room for a new Payson golf course.

*Lehi / Saratoga Springs County Park - 1987 - present
The current flying site next to the Jordan River was developed by Utah County and the Utah Valley Aeromodelers. Utah County Parks owns the site and Utah County put up the fence and gate and hauled the fill for the runways. The Utah Valley Aeromodelers furnished much labor and financing thru dues and contributions to install the black top on the runways. This flying site is part of the Utah County Parks System.

1995 was a good year for Aeromodelers from the south part of Utah Valley. After a lot of effort, a flying site was completed on the old Springville-Spanish Fork land fill. Many Aeromodelers contributed time and money to this flying site, but Gordon Ludlow was the one who really made it happen. He spent many hours coordinating with Spanish Fork, Military Reserve, and Utah Department of Transportation to bring this flying site into reality.

Radio controlled or remote piloted model aircraft flying has been the primary focus of the Utah Valley Aeromodelers but activities also include radio controlled cars and boats and also some modelers still fly control line or "U" Control Airplanes.

Community service is provided which includes lectures and flying demonstrations for schools and various other groups. The first air show was in 1976 and has evolved into an annual event for the public at no cost. Competition in Pylon Racing, Pattern Flying, and Fun Flying is provided for member and public spectators. Other activities promoted are sea plane fly-ins with models using floats and winter fly-ins with models using skis instead of wheels. Membership thru the years has been around 45 with highs around 60. *In 2000, membership was around 80.

Following is a list of Presidents from 1974 through current:

1974 - Don Trendler
1975 - Greg Sauter
1976 - Bill Cowley
1977 - Lee Mackey
1978 - Don Trendler
1979 - Bill Cowley
1980 - Robert Christopherson
1981 - Jim Cross, Kay Hutchings
1982 - Ralph Derico, Mel Rogers
1983 - Don Trendler
1984 - Don Trendler
1985 - Ron Hack
1986 - Ron Hack
1987 - Larry Layton
1988 - Maui Chai, Lynn Hadfield
1989 - Maui Chai
1990 - Lynn Hadfield
1991 - Don Trendler
1992 - Ron Lunt
1993 - Jamie Terry
1994 - Steve Terry
1995 - Art Stueck
1996 - Steve Terry
1997 - Dennis Chlarson
1998 - Jamie Terry
1999 - John Sheely
2000 - Michael Gordon
2001 - Brad Peay
2002 - Ralph Gayle
2003 - John Morgan
2004 - Darrell Jensen
2005 - Kent Torgerson
2006 - Ed Vidmar
2007 - John Morgan
2008 - Elwyn Peck
2009 - Jay Moody
2010 - Paul Steiner
2011 - John Shauble
2012 - Lynn Hadfield
2013 - Russ Ross
2014 - Darin Peirce
2015 - Darin Peirce

Most of the above past presidents have also served in other positions such as: Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Glitch Editor, and Contest Directors for fun flies and racing events.
*Bill Cowley has been the Treasurer since 1987.

It is thru the efforts of the officers and active members that the Utah Valley Aeromodelers have been a viable modeling group for over *36 years and getting stronger each year.

All of us associated with aviation, be it with models or full size, know that flying is the second greatest thrill known to man. Landing is the first!