[Headline: King Orange International]
[Subhead: A look back at 60 years of competition]
[Author: Brian Malin]
[No photo credit listing]
[Additional online photos]
At dinner one evening in 1954, my father, a master sergeant in the Marines, announced he had just gotten new orders and we were moving. Little did I know that it was to be the start of a life with model airplanes.
At Opa-locka Naval Air Station in Miami, Florida, my dad ran the motor pool and his orders were to organize the GIs with Jeeps to retrieve Free Flight (FF) model airplanes at the first King Orange. The King Orange International (KOI) was originally organized to replace the Tangerine International that had been held in Orlando, Florida. In 1954, AMA Executive Director Russell W. Nichols approached Tom Sutor, a National Airlines pilot from Miami, and asked if he would take on the task of organizing a replacement meet.
With the support of eight Miami-area clubs, the KOI Exchange Club Youth Aviation Association was formed. Tom later became known as Mr. KOI after organizing nine KOI meets between 1954 and 1963.
The first KOI—KOI 1—was at the Marine Corps Air Station main base at Opa-locka. In subsequent years from 1955 to 1963 the meet was held at Masters Field, roughly 5 miles southeast of the main base. Masters Field was also known as Amelia Earhart field because it was a stop on Amelia Earhart’s around-the-world flight, May 23, 1937.
The KOI was held at this site until construction started on Miami-Dade Jr. College that occupies the site today. The meet moved from Miami to Sebring, Florida, from 1967 to 1969, then to Jacksonville, Florida.
In Jacksonville, the meet was initially held at Imeson Airport, and then moved to Whitehouse field in 1988. Between 1995 and 1999, the Control Line (CL) portion was held in Bunnell, Florida. In 1985 the FF component moved to Palm Bay, Florida, where it has continued to be hosted by the Florida Modelers Association. After the move from Miami, the RC world separated itself. Although held as separate events, CL and FF continue today.
CD for KOI 1 was Ray Mathews, designer of the Fubar, with events flown in morning and afternoon sessions. There were 13 FF events and 17 CL events that covered all AMA categories. Junior, Senior, and Open were listed as separate events. There was also RC Precision Aerobatics and Racing.
On the final afternoon there was a sub-Junior (12 years and younger) Hand Launch Glider (HLG) event with 29 entries; the top 20 received awards. The winner was Ray Mathews III with 3 minutes and 52 seconds! His first-place trophy has been donated to AMA’s National Model Aviation Museum.
To the delight of all, each day at 2 p.m. a demonstration was flown by Jim Walker, grandfather of “U Control,” from Portland, Oregon.
The demonstration included the 1/2A Fire Bee with a throttle for taxiing and shooting touch-and-gos. As host, the Marine Corps provide housing and meals for 200 male contestants for $1.60 per day. And for true international flavor, the Cuban government sent a delegation to fly both CL and FF.
After Bill Winter’s well-written editorial in December 1955, denoting the KOI as a midwinter natural for “snowbird flying,” KOI 2 was on the modeling world’s calendar with 60 events throughout four days. Participants included Frank Parmenter, Bill Netzeband, and Woody Blanchard.
In the Speed circles, monoline was the in thing, with Dale Kirn turning 159.51 mph in Open Jet. From an international perspective both Cuba and Guatemala were represented.
The highlight of KOI 3 was watching Bill Netzeband’s Fierce Arrow take top honors in Open CL Aerobatics (Stunt). KOI 4, saw Lew McFarland win in Open Stunt and Bill Werwage become the Junior Champion. Dr. Walt Good and Al Pinson introduced RC Combat and Larry Conover won the Payload event.
KOI 5 boasted 215 contestants. Woody Blanchard became Grand Champion and Bill Werwage introduced his Ares design.
By KOI 6, the event’s popularity had grown as had its sponsorship. Bob Sifleet took home eight trophies as Senior Champion, which included a $1,000 college scholarship. Maxey Hester of Sig Manufacturing took first in CL Scale.
During the early days, we were inspired and influenced by Open class modelers, but the ranks of the Junior category were impressive! In KOI 7, there were Junior fliers who still compete today. Bob Whitney took 1/2A Speed, Bill Avera placed fifth in CL Stunt, and Jim Bradly first in Payload Jet. Could it be that the early KOIs attracted so many Junior and Senior fliers because there was Miss Model Aviation to distribute the awards?
In 1961 during KOI 8, Betty Bell, a member of the 1961 US World Team flying in A2 Glider, received the best sportsmanship award, while Billy and Tommy Bell took top honors in 1/2A and Rise Off Water FF events as Juniors. Reportedly, the Bells were the first to use a motorized chase bike at the Nats.
Gerald Ritz, a member of the 1959 winning Nordic team, was first in Wakefield; Junior Harry Grogan took first in Combat; and Blaine Miller won HLG.
In 1962 for KOI 9, Senior Skeeter Surguine took fifth in A-1, Dean McGinnes flew HLG as a Junior, and Bob Schuttler flew FF Helicopter! Skeeter, Dean, and Bob also flew in KOI 59.
The contest moved to Sebring for KOI 14, 15, and 16, and Bob Sifleet and Jim Bradley were among the top fliers.
In 1970, KOI 17 was held at Imeson Field in Jacksonville, presided over by Joe Wagner. Harry Grogan took high points and George Perryman dominated the FF Rubber events.
In 1971, at KOI 18, Jim Bradley was the Open champion. The CL fliers were also active at Imeson where Bob Hunt appeared in CL Stunt with his F-105 Thunderchief, six years before he became the World Champion.
Charlie Reeves flew his King Cobra in Stunt and Airabonita in CL Navy Carrier. Jim Lynch flew his Volunteer in Stunt and MO Bipe in Carrier. In the 1970s, we were also introduced to Phil Hartman, founder of Blue Ridge Models and Mike Fedor.
At KOI 20 in 1973, Lew McFarland took Open Stunt followed by Tom Dixon in 1974 (10 years before winning the Al Lewis Trophy). In 1976 at KOI 22, Gene Martine came on the CL Aerobatics scene, placing fourth in Stunt.
The late 1970s were a blur and 1981 became known as the KOI lost year. There was not a CL competition but there was a FF KOI. In 1982, we had CL KOI 27 and FF KOI 28. This happened again in 1987. So in 2014, 60 years after the first KOI, we will have the 58th CL KOI event and 60th FF KOI.
In 1982, for KOI 28, Frank Carney pulled the meet together in Jacksonville. Lee Campbell was pushed out of first place overall by George Perryman and Jim Walston and World Champion Les McDonald won CL Stunt.
In 1983 at KOI 29, Tom Dixon beat Lew McFarland (1973 KOI winner and Walker Cup winner) and continued to be a top CL Stunt flier for several years. For KOI 30, Gene Martine CDed the CL meet in Jacksonville and Derek Barry competed as a Junior. Derek later became a US CL World Championships team member.
In 1993, with Jerry Wagner as CD, FF KOI 40 had 103 contestants who competed in 55 events. The event had beautiful weather all three days. One highlight was on a calm Sunday morning when an Unlimited Towline Glider flight by Dave Platt found lift and was never again seen.
Of historical modeling interest, Vic Nippert flew in 14 events that year and won F1G Coupe d’Hiver, which is significant because this was the year he and many others quit flying FAI events. This was a pivotal period in FF modeling culture when the FAI abandoned the Builder of the Model Rule and expensive, ready-to-fly models became prolific in international circles.
Norm Rosenstock, author of Tales of an Ancient Modeler, flew a Texaco Miss America. Elmer Jordan flew in 11 events and set a Payload record.
In the late 1990s, CL bounced around the Bunnell, Florida, area returning to Jacksonville in 2000 with CD Gene Martine at the helm. In FF, Ron Sharpton’s signature Dixie shirt and Confederate wings became a standard.
Dave Platt brought some class to Mulvihill Rubber with his pink silk-covered Satin Doll and Larry Davidson’s distinctive yellow-and-black color scheme is still popular to this day. In KOI 49, Bud Romak placed first in four events.
Although a FF perpetual trophy has come and gone, I think it noteworthy that the linage of the Perpetual Trophy for CL Precision Aerobatics is impressive. In 2014 the trophy was awarded to Curt Contrata.
The linage of this award goes back to 1948 when the Air Trails Perpetual Trophy was initiated at the Plymouth Internationals in Michigan. The trophy was presented each year until 1953 and now resides at the AMA’s National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Indiana. Names on the trophy are:
1948 Lew Andrews
1949 James E. Snyder
1950 Red Reinhardt
1951 George Aldrich
1952 Lloyd Curtis
1953 Don Still
The years 1954 through 1980 are missing, but the trophy was rechristened the Al Lewis Perpetual Trophy in 1980 and awarded at the KOI until 1992. That trophy also resides at the AMA museum. Names on that trophy are:
1980 Les McDonald
1982 Rodger Barrett
1983 Stan Powel
1984-1986 Tom Dixon
1988-1992 Bill Rich
In 1993, the trophy went missing and the King Orange International George Aldrich Pioneer Award was initiated in 1996. Winners of that award are:
1996 John Simpson
2004-2005 Randy Smith
2006 Curt Contrata
2007-2008 Derek Barry
2010 Steve Fitton
2011-2012 Derek Barry
2013 John Simpson
2014 Curt Contrata
For the 59th KOI, Indoor FF was introduced with enough interest for it to be included 2014. The KOI’s 60th anniversary is this year.
The FF meet will be held December 29-31, 2014, in Palm Bay. Arrive early for some test-flying at the top FF site on the East Coast, by the Florida Modelers Association. For a schedule of events including AMA, SAM, FAC, and FAI, contact CD Jim Demeritte. His contact information is listed in the “Sources” section.
The CL meet will be held January 10 and 11, 2015, at OLF Whitehouse in Jacksonville. For information contact Lynn Weedman. Contact info is listed in the “Sources” section.
You may also contact me and I will be happy to address your questions or email you data packages for the CL and FF meets.
National Free Flight Society (NFFS)
Precision Aerobatics Model Pilots Association (PAMPA)