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Written by Model Aviation Staff.
As featured on page 9 in the January 2012 issue.

Rich Jorn will occasionally find a package with a partially finished model aircraft sitting on his doorstep. Rich’s father, Gene Jorn, who lives in a neighboring state, has been a model pilot for more than 50 years. Although unable to fly, Gene continues to build models and often sends his son unfinished aircraft to complete. For years this father-and-son team built many airplanes in this manner.

Roughly a year ago, Gene gave his son Ole Reliable. Unlike the other airplanes Rich received, Ole Reliable was an older aircraft that he remembered as a child seeing his dad fly. Gene built the model in 1978 after the airplane was featured on the cover of June’s MA.

In that issue, Ole Reliable was modernized from a 1938 FF model. Gene was drawn to the design and flew Ole Reliable for many years, but ultimately Gene’s beautiful slow flyer landed in storage and eventually was no longer airworthy.

Rich took the on the Ole Reliable restoration project with the help of his club, the Effingham Sport Flyers. The team salvaged Ole Reliable’s fuselage, rebuilt the wings, and upgraded the aircraft from an Enya .19 to a four-stroke Saito FA30.

After the rebuild, Rich took the aircraft out on its maiden voyage. While taxiing on the runway, it became apparent that Ole Reliable was indeed originally designed to be a FF model. The airplane ground looped many times before taking off; any crosswind would flip the model over.

Rich commented that once you get Ole Reliable in the air, flying is a piece of cake. This floater averages 25 minutes per flight on only 4 ounces of fuel.

Gene was unable to view the rebuilt Ole Reliable’s maiden flight in person, but Rich did send his father photos. Gene was thrilled to see his aircraft take to the skies again.

Rich’s 11-year-old son, who is also plans builder, suggested his dad enter Ole Reliable in’s plans-built promotion. The month-long promotion invited modelers to submit an entry then vote for the best plans-built aircraft.

At the end of the voting, Ole Reliable earned the top spot. You can see the voting results and Ole Reliable’s competition at

Ole Reliable still takes to the skies. Rich even brought the model to the AMA 75th Anniversary event. He joked that it’s not uncommon to see his father’s airplane putting slowly along next to 3-D models and jets, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Read the original article from 1978 that inspired Rich's father Gene to build Ole Reliable

Read more about the plans-built promotion at


I built this plane back In the late 70's and was the plane I learned to fly on. 3 channels and an OS-25. Mine was white with translucent blue Monokote. No buddy box back in those days so it was a quick hand-off from the instructor to me and back again when I got in trouble. Only problem was, I only got 50% stick time. Not because I was a lousy student pilot; my instructor was having too much fun flying it. Sadly, Ole Reliable succumbed to a mid air collision one morning. I still have the plans and now that I'm retired, plan to rebuild it (as an electric) as it was a real fun plane to fly.

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