I have only been in the R/C hobby for a decade, Dave Brown was the
only AMA President that I had heard of. When I started my hobby,
he had already served as president for two years, and been involved
in the AMA since 1980, so his legacy was well known. After almost
three decades of service on the AMA Executive Council, Dave has
retired from the council. Although I never met him personally, I
can admire his efforts to improve model aviation, thank him for
his service to our hobby, and wish him good health.
2002, the AMA membership hit its peak. Since then, a steady
decline (shown on right) has resulted annually. A lack of
participation from recent voting members has also revealed
more evidence of a broken system.
dramatic rise in park flyers in the last few years has literally
been an explosion. New technologies, Ready-To-Fly packages,
and lower cost imports have flooded the market. Why has this
increasing trend of electric flight not affected AMA membership?
With an average AMA member age of about 58, has technology
or social change outdated the need for the AMA? These questions,
and many more, are investigated in this month's AMP'D as the
AMA Gets Electrified!
A New Era
AMA President Dave Mathewson
Dave Mathewson as the newly elected President of the Academy
of Model Aeronautics (AMA). Dave served as the District
II Vice President for many years so I have seen him at shows
in the New York area doing his part to investigate change
and promote the hobby. Dave is a real gentleman and is a
pleasure to talk to. He always makes time for modeler's
questions or concerns.
has entered his new position with a formidable set of tasks
to accomplish for the AMA. His experience in model aviation,
fresh outlook, and sensible approach to everything should
provide an energized boost to the issues at hand.
a monthly report of Dave's thoughts and direction, read
his "President's Perspective" column in Model
Aviation. For those that do not have a subscription, you
can view the columns on-line at the link below.
recently had an opportunity to see Dave at a local club meeting
where he was invited to give a presentation on his objectives
and long range plans for the AMA. The Rochester
Aero Modeling Society (RAMS) hosted the presentation at
a pub on the East side of Rochester, NY.
the presentation, I had some one on one time with Dave and
asked him several very candid questions.
AMP'D: Congratulations, Dave, on your successful bid
to become the next AMA president. We have known each other
for years and I feel that you will bring a new acceptance
to changes we are seeing in technology. What are the key issues
you are concerned with when it comes to the popularity of
electric flight? When it comes to the future of the AMA?
Dave:Thanks, Greg. I don't know that there are any key issues
that I'm really concerned about. Maybe just the opposite.
Electric powered model aviation has grown exponentially over
the last few years and I see that only as a positive thing.
I'm not sure there's anything you can't do today with an electric
powered model that can be done with an internal combustion
powered model. Flying sites are the lifeblood of what we do.
Quiet flight opens up new doors to modelers when it comes
to finding places to fly and that helps paint a bright future
for modeling. I think, overall, electric powered flight will
play a strong role in AMA's future. As you know, the sale
of smaller, electric powered RC models is exploding and, up
until now, AMA really didn't have a package of benefits that
modelers entering the hobby through this discipline found
attractive. To help with that, we've created our new Park
It seems that most R/C issues involving the AMA are debated
with great passion and the new Park Pilot Program is no exception.
Is this new program just another attempt at a tiered membership?
While the traditional hobbyist seems to be disappearing, can
the AMA realistically attract park fliers as members of a
new class or have the technological and social changes already
closed the door on this path?
Dave:AMA's new Park Pilot Program was launched recently at the
AMA Convention in Ontario, CA. I was more than pleasantly
surprised at the positive reception it received. I think it's
fair to say that tiered memberships can be defined as someone
paying a different price based on, say the type of model they
fly, for essentially the same benefits. The Park Pilot membership
is anything but a tiered membership. What we've learned from
our research over the last two years was that it wasn't necessarily
the cost of membership that was keeping park fliers from joining
AMA. It was the fact that the benefits of membership we offered
were not a perceived value to these modelers. So we created
a benefits package for Park Pilots that we think will be more
attractive to these modelers. The foundation of this program
is a package we've put together that members can use as a
tool to help them approach property owners in their area about
obtaining access to public areas for use as flying sites.
The Park Pilot membership focuses on smaller quiet powered
models. Areas like parks, schoolyards, soccer fields, etc.
- the types of small open areas you find in more urban areas
- make perfect flying sites for those that fly these models.
With more and more communities creating ordinances that prohibit
the flying of models in public areas, we think we can help
reverse that trend.
What is the deal with this new membership directory for the
AMA? Why do so many current members feel it is just a scam
to sell their personal information to vendors?
Dave:AMA falls way short in the association world when it comes
to the percentage of our overall revenue that we generate
from non-dues sources. Every dollar that we produce from these
types of programs is one less dollar that needs to come from
membership dues. All of the costs associated with these programs,
by the way, are borne by companies we partner with. It costs
AMA absolutely nothing to be involved in or administer the
program yet the potential is there for us to reap a fair benefit.
The two current programs we're involved in, the TN Marketing
program and the Harris Connect directory program have produced
for us in the 2005 to 2007 period over a quarter of a million
dollars. Where we've fallen short in the past, is that we
haven't done nearly enough to explain to our members the value
of these programs and how they work. A simple notice to our
members prior to the launch of any new program like this would
go a long way in helping eliminate the displeasure some of
our members have when programs like this get dropped on them
out of the blue. I'm not sure if we will or won't become involved
in programs like this in the future but, if we do, we'll work
to handle this better.
There are so many different types of R/C flying, electric,
helicopter, giant scale, micro-flight, turbine jet, control
line, and free flight are just a few that come to mind. As
an AMA member, what can I do to help bring cohesiveness to
this great hobby?
Dave:My friend, Dean Pappas one of our more prominent members,
writes a column for Model Aviation called "If It Flies?.".
Dean starts every column with the sentence, "If it flies,
I'm interested in it." What a great line. And the truth
is we should all feel that way. You and I fly in pretty much
the same circle of friends and modelers. I think it's safe
to say that this is the positive attitude we most often find
among the group we fly with. It's a simple matter of respect.
I look at some of the other modeling disciplines, even those
outside the scope of RC, and I'm in awe of what I see. A rubber
powered indoor Free Flight model that has the ability to stay
aloft for nearly an hour or a pilot who can create geometric
shapes with a Control Line model sharper than I can probably
draw them takes a special talent. And it's that same special
talent that someone needs to be able to hover a 3D profile
model, fly radical aerobatics with a model helicopter, or
build and fly a scale model capable of winning a National
Championship. The common denominator among all of us is we
all fly model aircraft. The only thing that's different is
the type and what we prefer to do with it.
key objectives that Dave talked about are highlighted
on the left. A decline in AMA membership and in designated
flying sites was among his highest concerns.
will play a key part in many of the AMA's objectives.
Making members more aware of programs that are already
available through the AMA, broadcasting information to
members about revenue plans, looking for ways to obtain
new flying sites while promoting the AMA, and working
with government agencies like the Department of Homeland
Security are just some of the key objectives in the AMA's
long range strategy.
Dave previously described in one of his answers to my questions
above, the Park Pilot Program (PPP) is a benefits package
for Park Pilots. The foundation of which can be used as a
tool to help members (through insurance coverage) approach
property owners in their area about obtaining access to public
areas for use as flying sites. The Park Pilot membership focuses
on smaller quiet powered models. Areas like parks, schoolyards,
soccer fields, etc.
goal of the PPP is to increase the overall AMA membership
and help reverse the current trend of lost flying sites
due to noise ordinances or lack of proper liability and
educating new pilots on the benefits of the PPP, we all
gain a greater voice from local facilities to government
Park Pilot Program should be recommended to all non-AMA
R/Cers who fly only park flyer models. Most new R/C pilots
are not aware of the AMA and not inclined to spend $58 annually
for services they don't really need.
very first issue of AMP'D was dedicated to the definition
is a Parkflyer?". The perspective of the column
revealed how elusive this definition became when viewed
by many perspectives, skill levels, and interests. The
goal was to promote safety to people that fly in parks
without an AMA license or who were not properly educated
on the potential for danger.
AMA has defined the "Park
Flyer" in a way that can be used to determine
what are and are not appropriate sites to fly. The ?Legal
Aircraft? Logo Program of the PPP is an identification
program that will help both aero modeling consumers
and clubs easily identify those aircraft that meet the
AMA?s specifications for the Park Pilot Program.
Participating manufacturers will be allowed to use this
new logo on their park flyer products including box
art, inserts, etc.
Park Pilot Program is very new so there are more questions than
results at this time. A page of PPP Frequently
Asked Questions (FAQ) can be visited by those that wish
to know more details. A quick reference comparison of Open
vs. PPP memberships is also available on-line.
Food For Thought
Dave Mathewson still enjoys being an R/C
social change can sometimes be difficult to understand or
accept, changes in technology are usually easier to follow.
The often difficult task of embracing change in our hobby
many times leads us to finger pointing.
a 50 year old engineer that has only been in the hobby for
a decade, my passion for electric flight has often skewed
my perspective on the AMA, clubs, hobby shops, and the Internet.
The wide dynamic scope of electric flight has provided me
with models weighing less than an ounce to almost 30lbs. My
original "club" was a great group of guys on the
E-Zone back in the late '90s. I am neither an old "hat"
nor a young "gun" but I have learned much from both
of the primary functions of the AMA is to bring together
a community of R/C flyers and promote R/C flying. Has
the Internet replaced this AMA function? Recent polls
on several of the popular forums reveal that 2/3 (66%)
of the on-line members are also AMA members. This demonstrates
that the Internet is merely a tool that most of us are
using to supplement club participation, acquire knowledge,
and obtain hobby products. Perhaps the new Park Pilot
Program will attract the third of members that are not
currently in the AMA.
The chart on the right details the age group percentages
of on-line R/Cers. The numbers are age groups and the
slice of pie the percentage polled. This reveals that
while the average age of an AMA member is around 58, the
average age of an on-line R/Cer may be much younger.
am guilty of using Almost-Ready-to Fly (ARF) planes and of ordering
on the Internet. I am also guilty of wanting instant gratification
in my hobby. Some may think that this makes me a poor modeler
or a pure pilot. More often than not, people in my local clubs
and flying show circuit flock to see my trailer filled with the
latest technology and most recent models. In return, I have received
a wealth of information that benefits my knowledge on building
techniques, materials, set-up, covering, and other forms of power
like glow, gas, turbine, and thermal. We learn from each other
and use each other as parts of a whole group...just like on the
Internet. This relationship can only exist with mutual respect.
that the AMA's shrinking membership is not unique to the R/C airplane
hobby can be seen in the sport pilot industry. The Experimental
Aircraft Association (EAA)
has seen "the number of active private pilots decline
by almost 30% since 1984 and active student pilots had declined
by 42%". After determining that "the root causes
were time and money", their solution was to create a
program that could get pilots in the air for less then half the
price. The media and electronic tools of today all compete for
our time and money. We do much more in a single day today than
we did a few decades ago. This change enhances our lives and should
be embraced with the future, not compared against the past.
key areas for AMA growth are in education and awareness. This
must be done at all levels from the President to its members.
By listening to it members, the AMA's direction will stay true.
By informing new and existing hobbyists about AMA programs, we
will all benefit from the promotion of model aviation as a revered
recreational and educational activity. Our passion for model aviation
still exists, it has simply evolved.
AMA has seen some major changes this year. The new Park
Pilot Program will attempt to increase the overall AMA membership
and help reverse the current trend of lost flying sites
due to noise ordinances or lack of proper liability and
damage insurance. An array of AMA
Programs for Members are available to aid in promoting
the hobby, support education, recognize clubs and individuals,
and provide additional benefits.
new AMA president, Dave Mathewson, will provide a fresh
outlook, and sensible approach to give an energized boost
to the issues at hand. I sincerely believe that model aviation
enthusiasts, new and old, are witnessing a revolution in
the hobby. The social
often lags behind any technical advancement so we need patience
and determination to help stay on course. In 2008 and beyond,
we should all participate in the changes, as the AMA Gets
you fly electric, fly clean, fly quiet, and fly safe!
Special thanks for contributions
"Papa Jeff" Ring
section of AMP'D covers some of the questions that our
readers have sent in and I thought would be interesting
from the UK asks: "Hi Greg,
Did you finish developing VTOL Magister for transitional
flight? Are you considering a currently available model
for next phase?
We will begin the final testing of the VTOL Magister
in late April or May as I plan to demo it this
season which culminates at the NEAT Fair in September.
I have solicited Ray
Stacy to help me. Ray is the helicopter columnist
for the AMA's Model Aviation magazine and his
young son Kyle, now 12, will fly the demos. Kyle
has placed 1st and 3rd in two categories of the
World Indoor Heli Championships. He is quite a
3D heli expert.
Look for a complete 2-part write-up coming soon
in AMP'D. Thank you for your interest!
W. asks: "Is running a 4350mAh pack and a 5000mAh
pack in series ok?
In general, it is safer to say that it is not a good
idea for several reasons. People may not be balancing
the packs or trying to recharge them together. In reality,
it is ok as long as the packs have similar current delivery
(like both 20C) and that you recharge and balance each
pack afterwards separately.
In the real world, our packs all have slightly different
capacity because they vary with age, abuse, and cell
quality. When the lower capacity 4350mAh pack is done,
you won't be able to fly anymore. You can measure the
cell voltages after the first few flights as a sanity
check to see that they are all over 3v/cell when unloaded.
After that, fly it and forget it.