Whenever I hear from Ronnie, I know two things. One, I’m going to be on the phone for a bit. Two, I’m going to enjoy the conversation.

After checking my calendar for upcoming appointments, I got comfortable and spoke with Ronnie at length, discussing a little-known group of aviation enthusiasts who came together in 1940 to create the Air Youth of America (AYA). We spoke about the efforts of this group from decades ago and the relevancy of the lessons learned, to those of us today, who work to inspire a passion for flight in those around us.

The AYA was founded outside of AMA but was closely aligned with our organization. In the February 1940 issue of The Academy of Model Aeronautics Journal, Ernest Gamache outlined the AYA and its close ties to AMA.

He outlined the pathway to educating youth in America, stating, "We believe the most effective way youth can learn about aviation, especially as to its fundamentals, is to become immersed in it. You know how well it worked in your own individual cases. One phase of this immersion is in the building and flying of models. Another, is the study of text material presented in a way the youthful mind can grasp. Another, and probably the most important, is competent guidance and stimulation by informed leadership."

An AYA booklet published in the early 1940s titled, What Your Community Can Do For Its Youth in Aviation, states "… the recreational aspects of aviation hold a promise of future developments which are as yet unsuspected, and may eventually equal in scope and importance any other phase of the activity," going on to further state, "Model planes are widely used by aviation engineers and pilots for study and experimental work."

So, what’s the point of discussing an aviation group from the 1940s? It’s tempting to assume that our access to nearly instant information/entertainment reduces our need to connect within an in-person community. I would argue that, in most cases, the role of a mentor is even more important in today’s world.

Here’s why: Newcomers to the hobby of model aviation are seeking to learn more. When these individuals explore online the fountain of knowledge to quench this curiosity, the information that is available to them can quickly become a tsunami. This might result in giving up because it all seems too complicated and dead ends are encountered. Instead, mentors offer content in easy-to-swallow portions, building a stable foundation that sets the learner up for success.

As a mentor, you can accomplish this by offering multiple opportunities to familiarize newcomers with model aviation. Offer buddy-boxing, group builds, and/or small competitions that utilize Free Flight aircraft. Even the humble paper airplane can inspire a passion for flight!

When the passion for aviation is ignited, the key to continued involvement and progression is to consistently invite learners to the next event. Discuss how things work in small doses. Progress into building more advanced aircraft/capabilities. Offer materials to research that are specific by sending links to appropriate lessons, projects, and information online as "at home" work. By curating their progression, you ensure that they don’t inadvertently waste time, efforts, resources, and energy.

Finding More Information

The materials and methodology that motivated educational outreach within the AYA were merged into the NAA in January 1942, and these materials were subsequently transferred to AMA. As the AYA recognized many years ago, model aviation has the power to inspire and educate, sparking a passion for flying. This torch was passed to AMA, which faithfully pursues these efforts today, serving those who are passionate about model aircraft and the enjoyment that is to be found within.

Bringing newcomers into the hobby is a consistent theme among the members who reach out to the AMA Education team. Whether conducting outreach programs at a local school, STEM/STE(A)M nights, classroom lessons, or handouts at a parade, their ultimate goal is to bring a love of aviation through model aviation to the community that surrounds them. We provide materials to these members to support these efforts. Contact us directly at [email protected] to learn more about these resources!