Fifty Years of Nats History

Written by Jackie Shalberg National Model Aviation Museum: History Preserved As seen in the July 2017 issue of Model Aviation.

Fifty years ago this July—specifically July 24-30—was the 1967 National Model Airplane Championships (Nats), sponsored by the AMA and hosted by the U.S. Navy. Taking place at the Naval Air Station at Los Alamitos, California, this was one of 25 Nats hosted by the Navy.
“The third contest flight proved disastrous for young [Ronald Freeman’s] model … Ronald ... has four other models he has qualified for the contests, and although this one won’t fly again, Ronald will.” Release No. MM96/67. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

Station locations rotated every few years. The Nats were held at the Los Alamitos station in 1952, 1955, 1959, 1963, and 1967. The contests were also held at air stations in Olathe, Kansas (1948-1949, and 1968); Dallas, Texas (1950-1951, 1956, 1960, and 1964); Glenview, Illinois (1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970-1972); and Willow Grove, Pennsylvania (1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, and 1969.)
Debbie Hannon receives her trophy for second place in Junior Class B Speed. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

In the National Model Aviation Museum archives, we have approximately a cubic foot of papers and photographs from the 1967 Nats, not including the objects we have in our permanent collection from that year’s competition.
Ed Keck readies his airplane for takeoff. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

Many of the photographs we have from the 1967 Nats were taken by Navy staff. The Navy’s professional photographers didn’t just take excellent photos, they also typed descriptions of the people and events they captured, which have proven to be highly useful for research. They’ve given us a glimpse into the contestants’ experiences during that splendid (and sometimes arduous) week of competition.
(L-R): Cliff Telford and Lt. Bob Violett pictured with their airplane. They competed as a team in Class B Speed. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

We have included a few photos of that busy week of competition with this article. All are official U.S. Navy photographs. More photos from the 1967 Nats will be posted on the museum’s blog.
Members of the Valley Circle Burners (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

Here are a few fun facts about the 1967 Nats: • This was the 20th consecutive year that the Navy hosted the Nats. • A final report stated that there were 868 total advance and late entries, and 183 total mechanic entries. • More than 500 trophies and prizes were awarded at this Nats. • There were several “National Champion” categories. • Reid Simpson won the Grand National Champion and Open National Champion titles. • Bill Hunter was Senior National Champion. • Dan Wakerly was Junior National Champion. • The Oakland Cloud Dusters club was Club Team Champion. • The United States Air Force team was the National Team Champion. • Three official events were added to Control Line in this year, and one official and two unofficial events were added to Free Flight (FF). The number of RC events remained the same as the previous year. • The event with the most registered contestants was FF 1/2A Gas, with 289 entries and 182 pilots making official flights. A close second was A Gas, with 265 entries and 172 of those entrants making official flights. • Although the National Aeromodeling Championships is referred to as the Nats today, for many years some of the 1967 press materials also referred to it as the “world series” of model aviation. • ABC’s Wide World of Sports featured Nats competition as a segment in a program that aired in September 1967, according to papers in the museum’s archives. The Little League World Series was also featured on that episode.
Married fliers, Bonnie and Mike Olson, with their jet Speed models. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.)

Navy personnel Don Kinder helps 8-year-old Wayne Friebis register for the Hand-Launch Glider event. (Source: National Model Aviation Museum Archives, #0001 AMA Collection.

—Jackie Shalberg [email protected]

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Still remember clearly the NATS at Willow Grove NAS, think it was 1965 (I was nine!) and the British were there with a Vulcan bomber. My father and I slept in the Navy bunks one of the nights which I thought was cool!

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