MUNCIE, Indiana-Model airplanes have changed a lot over the years. The wingspan of this four engine radio controlled giant is about twenty-five feet. But even this modern marvel has its roots in those days of yesteryear, when rubber bands powered paper and balsa wood flyers into that wild blue yonder.
The whole wonderful, lighter than air story is told in marvelous detail at Muncie’s National Model Aviation Museum, the official keeper of the worlds important model airplane heritage…important because there are two stories told here…model aviation as exciting hobby…and model aviation as critical scientific research. The hobby story may be the most fun with these early rubber band powered wire and stick models from around the time the Wright brothers were figuring out how to fly. This ‘A’ frame twin prop pusher dates back to the teens. In the ‘20’s and ‘30’s companies like Ideal sprang up, offering complete airplane kits in a box. And when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in the spirit of St. Louis in 1927, the model airplane business, well, took off.
The Cleveland Model Company advertised themselves as model engineers, their Sopwith Camel and Staggerwing Beechcraft from the 1930’s were serious flyers. The museums collection of engines is second to none. This is a working miniature five cylinder radial engine…this is a twin cylinder Ruppert diesel. Oh, and the scientific part of this story? This radio controlled scale model was built by NASA in 1976..it proved it was possible to piggyback the space shuttle on a Boeing 747 for transport and that’s just what NASA did. Gliders, helicopters, electric flyers….they’re all here..even a library with 15-thousand model airplane blueprints…something for everyone, just like model aeronautics itself. Eric Olson reporting out in Your Country.
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