This reference work is about model aviation. It is intended to acquaint the reader with its scope, variety, and impact on our society.

Since 1938 the Academy of Model Aeronautics has supported youth programs designed to teach the basics of model building. During the past five years the Technology Student Association and the Science Olympiad Program have introduced new programs to school systems at both the elementary and high school level. The latter program includes a variety of technical exercises, one of which introduces youth to model aviation. More than 30,000 students participate each year, building a simple model aircraft. Other programs exist at both the local and national level. One of the most comprehensive and long lasting programs is the Society of Automotive Engineers Aero Design Competition. It's part of the SAE Collegiate Design Series. The competition "challenges engineering students to conceive, design, fabricate, and test a radio controlled aircraft that can take off and land while carrying the maximum (predicted) cargo. This gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom on a practical problem." For more information see: The Experimental Aircraft Association's Kid Venture program provides a comprehensive set of aviation kits intended for elementary school students. Some of the projects utilize simple balsa gliders to illustrate aircraft design and flight dynamics. For more information see: and click aviation education; under elementary school click information order form. The EAA also has an excellent science, math and technology program called Wild Blue Wonders for middle school students. This program also includes a model aviation element involving rubber-powered models. See: and click aviation education; click Wild Blue Wonders; click

The Boy Scouts of America's Advancement Plan features a Merit Badge Program. The scout must demonstrate the necessary knowledge required of a given subject to earn its merit badge. The requirements are specified in Merit Badge Pamphlets sold through the scout organization.

The Aviation Merit Badge Pamphlet contains a chapter called Model Aviators that describes links to the Academy of Model Aeronautics and what must be accomplished to earn this badge. See for more information.

The Future Scientists and Engineers of America is structured to involve working scientists, engineers, retirees, college students, teachers and parents.

Each FSEA chapter consists of a sponsor, mentors, FSEA student members, a teacher and a parent coordinator. See The FSEA has two model aviation related projects utilizing rubber powered models. The project instructions can be seen at:

Despite the best efforts of the above organizations, the integration of model aviation into the school curriculum is difficult. Many demands are placed on teachers, leaving little time for seemingly extra-curricular activity. Accordingly, experienced modelers should present their plan to educators in an organized, professional manner. In the past various organizations have assisted by preparing lesson plans to be used in this way. Now, there are excellent instructions, examples and guidelines on the Internet that enable modelers to prepare a proposed plan for use by the teacher. See Lesson Plan Preparation at Appendix C for details.

Every effort should be made to follow-up on these basic programs so those students continue to build models and benefit from the abilities they develop while pursuing the hobby. These abilities include the following:

  • The ability to read and understand technical drawings and instructions. These are the languages of engineering, manufacturing and the building trades.
  • Familiarity with research techniques; knowing where to look for information.
  • An acquired tenacity that is needed to complete a challenging project. Long attention spans are in short supply.

In addition to such abilities, or skills, there are benefits such as:

  • Persuading youth to consider technical careers.
  • Introducing the student to a wide variety of such careers. New technologies and knowledge are developing so rapidly that it is crucial for students to try to match their interests and educational opportunities with their life's goals as early as possible.
  • Providing an absorbing alternative to passive activities.
  • Strengthening the national defense. The military, as well as the private sector, faces a shortage of applicants that possess the very knowledge and skills developed in the pursuit of the hobby. More on this in Chapter 1.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the selection of follow-on projects after the basic programs outlined above have taken place. The choice is complicated by the diversity in the number of different pathways that one can take after the first-step programs. Students should be made aware of their options so they can make informed choices of the projects most likely to interest them. It would require a number of volumes to describe the various facets of model aviation, so the categories will be discussed in general terms and will be supplemented with references to Internet sites that contain relevant detailed information. To make these frequent references easier to find, they will be cited within the running text where applicable. The following format will be used:

  • Internet sites will be shown like this example, and will open in a new browser window when you click on them.

  • For Internet sources that are to be located by navigating within the referenced Web site, the notation "and click" on an icon or text will be used to indicate a link to the next page. e.g. and click about AMA and click special interest groups.

  • Reference book sources will be enclosed within brackets. [Zaic, Frank. Model Airplanes and the American Boy, Northridge, CA: Model Aeronautic Publ., 1982, 158].

Because Internet sites rise and fall with the pace of changing technology, I will try to reference the more stable ones. Some referenced sites will have links to other sites that cascade to still more locations on the Net. However, the reader is cautioned that the Web sites referenced were active as of the time of the last Web site update. To enable the reader to locate "lost" Web pages the process of locating Internet sites is explained further in Appendix A.

In the next chapter and beyond the reader will be gradually exposed to the wonderful and challenging complexity of aircraft modeling. It's recognized that youthful readers may want to get on with the actual start of their first model. In that case, they can skip to Chapter 6 and get started. Later, when they need the information, they can always come back for it.


The author has applied diligence and judgment in locating and using reliable sources for the information contained herein. However, no guarantee or warranty can be given, and all responsibility and liability for loss or damage are hereby disclaimed by the author of this publication with respect to the accuracy, correctness, value and sufficiency of the data, methods, and other information contained herein as applied for any particular purpose or use.

Before undertaking any potentially hazardous action, obtain and understand all available information on the subject. Do not use this publication as a substitute for skilled instruction in the subjects addressed herein.

Proceed to Chapter 1

Copyright 2002, Robert S. Munson. All Rights Reserved