Hazel Sig Admiration Day

Hazel Sig Admiration Day

AMA Declares National Hazel Sig Admiration Day

President’s Perspective

As seen in the June 2022 issue of Model Aviation.

THERE ARE FEW NAMES in the hobby better known than Sig, a name that has become part of our aeromodeling heritage. It’s a name that has virtually become a lexicon in the aeromodeling vocabulary and one that represents a manufacturer that has been a stalwart of model aviation for more than a half century. It also represents the family of Hazel Sig-Hester and her husband, Glen Sigafoose, who, in 1951, began selling precut balsa at the low cost of 10¢ a sheet. It eventually became the Sig Manufacturing Company.

On March 3, 2022, Hazel Sig-Hester celebrated her 100th birthday, a feat that is worthy of admiration, but more importantly, it represents a life spent dedicated and committed to aeromodeling and full-scale aviation.

Model aviation would not be what it is today without the determination of the innovators and the pioneers who broke ground on this great hobby, and Hazel Sig-Hester and the Sig family have been at the forefront of this endeavor.

On April 9, 2022, in honor of Hazel’s 100th birthday and in recognition of her lifelong contributions to model aviation, the AMA Executive Council declared Saturday, June 25, 2022, to be National Hazel Sig Admiration Day, and put forward the following proclamation:

"Whereas, on March 3, 2022, Hazel Sig-Hester celebrated her 100th birthday; and …

"Whereas, at 3 months old, Hazel Sig took her first airplane ride with Charles Lindbergh, flew her first airplane when she was 17, and went on to become a commercial instructor pilot, and flew aerobatics in her blue-and-white clipped-wing Cub; and …

"Whereas, Hazel Sig first built and flew model airplanes as a young child, and, in 1951, began selling precut balsa with her husband Glen "Poncho" Sigafoose at the low cost of 10¢ a sheet, which ultimately became the start of the Sig Manufacturing Company; and …

"Whereas, the name Sig has become synonymous with eminent model aircraft, model aircraft parts, products, and components, and is now a part of the aeromodeling lexicon; and …

"Whereas, for more than half a century, Hazel Sig and the Sig family have enabled, sponsored, and supported the advancement and preservation of model aviation, and have furthered the education of scores of young aviation enthusiasts through funding provided by the Glen Sig Memorial Scholarship Fund.

"Now, therefore, be it known that the Academy of Model Aeronautics declares this day, Saturday, June 25, 2022, to be National Hazel Sig Admiration Day, and Hazel Sig-Hester is deemed to be a true Aeromodeling Centenarian!"

From the March 2018 Model Aviation, written by the National Model Aviation Museum staff:

If you’ve been in the aeromodeling hobby for any amount of time, chances are that you’ve heard of Sig Manufacturing Company. However, you might not be familiar with its fearless daredevil of a cofounder, Hazel Sig-Hester. Born the third child on Third Street in the third town that her parents had lived in on the third day of the third month of 1922, Hazel considered herself to have been born lucky. With a race car-driving father whose favorite story to tell was the time he flew with Charles Lindbergh, Hazel was born with a need for speed.

A self-professed tomboy, Hazel grew up climbing trees, shooting BB guns, and loving motorcycles and model airplanes. Lucky for her, this tall, "outlandish" young dental assistant would soon find her match in the young man who "roared into town on his Indian Motorcycle in 1942." Hazel’s new boyfriend, Glen "Poncho" Sigafoose, took a job as a Linotype operator at the Montezuma Republican newspaper and opened an Indian Motorcycle dealership on the side with her. They were married in 1943. Together, they ran the dealership until the Korean War began, cutting off their aluminum supply.

The couple never intended to get into the model aviation business. Aeromodeling had been a lifelong interest for both Hazel and Poncho, but they were rapidly growing frustrated by the lack of availability of cut balsa wood for scratch-built models. So, in approximately 1951, they took matters into their own hands. Poncho bought 120 feet of balsa, which he cut into thin sheets. The Sigafooses then took out an advertisement in a hobby magazine, offering free information regarding the precut balsa. To their surprise, they received no response from the community.

Hazel Sig

They made another, more successful attempt—this time offering information about the balsa at the low cost of 10¢! The couple was soon inundated with requests. Five years after publishing its first advertisement, the Sig Manufacturing Company was able to purchase its first building. Sig quickly grew.

The couple expanded their catalog to include not only balsa wood, but also engines, radios, and kits from other manufacturers. They began to manufacture their own kits under the Sig name, and even recruited well-known model designers and competitors to design an exclusive line of model airplanes.

But Hazel wasn’t content to stick exclusively to model aviation. Her eye was still on full-scale airplanes. At roughly the same time that Sig Manufacturing was beginning to take off, she and Poncho rode their Indian Motorcycles from Montezuma, Iowa, to Sigourney, Iowa, to take fullscale aircraft flying lessons. Hazel initially learned how to fly an Aeronca Model 7 Champion—colloquially known simply as a "Champ"—but later transitioned to a Cessna 140 for teaching purposes. She also became an accomplished aerobatics pilot shortly thereafter.

According to Hazel, there were few aerobatics instructors in the mid-1950s, so she traveled to Nebraska to learn in a clipped-wing Cub. She furthered her studies through Duane Cole’s technical manual, Roll Around a Point, which she read both on the ground and in the air for pointers. She would continue to fly both her clipped-wing Cub and a homebuilt Spacewalker for more than 30 years.

The clipped-wing Cub remained a popular airplane with Hazel, and eventually a model version was made available for purchase through Sig Manufacturing. It remains one of the most popular Sig kits, along with the Kadet and a non-clipped-wing version of the Cub.

It should come as no surprise that Sig Manufacturing remains a strong competitor in the aeromodeling market. Nearly everything available from Sig is manufactured from scratch—paint, glue, and airplane fuel included. Raw balsa is imported from Ecuador and plywood from Finland. Many aeromodelers are familiar with the Sig catalog, which was frequently referred to as the "model builder’s wish book."

So, the next time you’re flipping through the Sig website and considering a new Piper Cub kit, remember the airplane-loving, motorcycle-riding, spitfire of a cofounder who helped make it all possible: Hazel Sig-Hester.

Keep ’em safe, keep ’em flying, and continue to enjoy this great hobby!

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This was an amazing day of friends, Airplanes, Rockets and Drones and best of all Hazel Sig who was a major influence in our model building from 10 years old until today. Thanks Hazel for getting us into building airplanes and for being a major force in bringing this hobby to the people.

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