've had the pleasure of knowing Thayer Syme for a number of years. Thayer is a talented builder of scale model aircraft and is also a prolific writer, authoring several columns. He has even purchased Flying Models magazine from the now defunct Carsten Publications.
One of the columns Thayer pens is 'Around the Patch,’ which appears in the AMA's publication Model Aviation on a regular basis. In his July editorial, Thayer poses the question, “Is the art of building models truly dead?” Like all of Thayer's columns, the editorial is well written, but the focus is on scale. And even though I've made no secret that fixed-wing scale, primarily early aviation, is my preferred discipline, it is far from the only form of radio contol modeling.
The club I belong to, Fox Valley Aero Club, is a large club (around 220 members) and like all clubs, although the common interest is model aviation, the membership carries with it a large variety of skill levels. The one thing I find interesting, though, is almost everyone likes to build, or at the very least, has the opportunity to give building a try.
The number one reason cited for not building isn't time; even though our current society is centered around the thought of instant gratification, this excuse has been worn so thin that like melting ice, it no longer carries any weight.
Locally, cost is now cited as the number one reason that modelers no longer build. I'm not talking about scale models, where a modeler can spend a small fortune on accessories like cockpits and retractable landing gear, but the basic knock around sport aircraft. Two perfect examples are the ever popular Kaos and Contender. The Kaos, now only offered as an ARF, is only a few dollars more expensive than the Contender, a kit. To take this a step further, not only is the Kaos built, covered and almost ready to fly; it also comes with everything — fuel tank, wheels, pushrods, etc — the modeler needs to get the airframe ready. The Contender, on the other hand, will require at least double the price of the basic kit to finish.
To build a model from scratch is another animal altogether. Not that long ago, the weekend sky was filled with fun airplanes such as the Hots. To build a model of this type in today's price structure would cost a modeler hundreds of dollars in balsa, plywood and hardware. No wonder people aren't building. It's not from lack of desire, it's due to basic economics.
Is building dead? Not even close. In the pages of this magazine alone, you have me and Dennis Andreas. As of late, I only build ARF models. I admit to not having built a kit, let alone something from scratch, in years. However, the other Dennis rarely flies a model that he hasn't built with his own hands, and he's only one of many modelers who keep an open eye for swap meets and online estate sales where kits and other building supplies can be found at bargain prices.
It can be fun now that I'm no longer on a leash and have to constantly watch what I say to avoid offending a potential customer. During a recent conversation one of our club members was complaining that the local HobbyTown didn't have anything he needed. My reply was curt and to the point. “Jeremy and Summer have a great selection of hobby products to satisfy almost every need. As owners of a hobby store, their concern is making a living, not catering to the whims of your obscure desires.”
Next time someone walks into your store complaining about some crabby overweight guy with a sharp tongue, who knows, maybe I was attending an event in your neighborhood. HM
Until next month,