A Few Things About the Nats

A Few Things About the Nats

A Few Things About the Nats

History Preserved

By Jackie Shalberg, National Model Aviation Museum Archivist and Historian | [email protected]

As seen in the March 2024 issue of Model Aviation.

AS WE HEAD INTO SPRING, modelers might have the upcoming Nats already on their minds, ramping up their preparation for the summer’s competition. We thought now would be a good time to mention two details about the Nats. The first topic is one that we are frequently asked at the National Model Aviation Museum and the second is something that we need in the museum.

This is a shared adventure this month: one question that we’ll answer with one request that we hope you can answer!

Nats Is the Nationals

We are often asked what the word Nats means. We might have mentioned this briefly in this column before, but we are asked about it frequently and thought we would devote a section of an article to it.

What do the letters NATS stand for? Some advertisements, articles, and logo designs for the Nats display the word in all caps (NATS); however, so far, from our ongoing research into all things Nats, we have found that Nats is just a simple, shortened version of the word Nationals.

Not a recent change, the shrinking of the competition’s long title started early in national championship history. It seems that the word Nationals started being used to describe the competition in print by the mid-1930s. In the September 1936 issue of Model Airplane News, the Nats article was titled "The 1936 ‘Nationals’: Highlights and Complete Results of the Annual International Model Airplane Competition." Also, in the September issue of Flying Aces that same year, an article by Philip Zecchitella refered to the competition as The Nationals. And perhaps outside of our research, the competition could have been referred to as the Nationals even further back.

The word Nats started to pop up a little in print by the mid-1940s, perhaps even earlier. For instance, a headquarters report headline in the May 1946 issue of Model Aviation reads, "August Date for Nats Meets General Approval," and in the November 1949 issue of Air Trails, the article about the competition was titled, "The ‘49 Nats."

There is always room for more research on this topic, and the archives have many magazines and newsletters, artifacts, and archival material covering the Nats that we have yet to go through. We might also find instances of both of these words being used colloquially even earlier by Nats participants and organizers.

The long title used for the Nats has seen changes throughout the years (sometimes varying among advertising material in the same year). Some titles that we’ve seen include "National Championship Model Airplane Meet" (on a 1935 Nats ribbon, 2006.01.441); "National Model Airplane Meet" (on the cover of a 1948 Nats brochure, A2017.20.128); "National Model Airplane Championship" (on the front of a 1964 Nats envelope, A2017.20.223a); "AMA National Model Airplane Championships and Convention" (on a 1984 Nats bumper sticker, 2007.13.238); and the currently used "National Aeromodeling Championships" (on a 2004 Nats bumper sticker, 2005.02.89). Gee, it sure does make using the word Nats seem so much easier, right?

1935 Nats ribbon (2006.01.441, found in collection).

1935 Nats ribbon (2006.01.441, found in collection).

 The Erbach family).

1948 Nats brochure (A2017.20.128. Credit: The Erbach family).

 The Erbach family).

1964 Nats envelope (A2017.20.223a. Credit: The Erbach family).


1984 Nats bumper sticker (2007.13.238. Credit: AMA).

 collected by staff).

2004 Nats bumper sticker (2005.02.89. Credit: collected by staff).

Would you be interested in us taking a deeper dive into the history of Nats titles? Let us know if that’s something you’d like to read about—email us at [email protected] or call (800) 435-9262, ext. 511!

2008 Nats Memorabilia Needed

Can you believe that we do not have official Nats memorabilia from 2008 in our collection, such as T-shirts, stickers, or lapel pins? We can’t either! We usually add examples of official Nats memorabilia to the collection during or soon after the Nats, but for some reason, we skipped collecting those items that year. Perhaps all of the items ran out before we could get to them.

We have had these particular items on our museum wish list page for quite a while, but we have yet to receive any. If you have these items and would like to donate them to the museum, we’d like to hear from you! (Fortunately, we do have three copies of the 2008 program guide for the Outdoor Nats competition, pictured in this article, stored in our archives.)

2008 Nats program guide, Outdoor events (#0001 AMA Collection. Credit: AMA).

2008 Nats program guide, Outdoor events (#0001 AMA Collection. Credit: AMA).

Are there any aeromodeling questions that you’ve been pondering and would like answered? Is there a topic that you’ve been dying to read about? Let us know and maybe it will appear in a future column.

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