It’s been an interesting and eye-opening period recently for model aviation.
The International Miniature Aircraft Association (IMAA) ceased operations in mid-August. IMAA, an AMA special interest group (SIG), was dedicated to “fostering and advancing the operation of large scale radio controlled model aircraft.” Organized in 1980, IMAA quickly grew to become AMA’s largest SIG.
The foundation of this growth was the exponential explosion in larger-size model aircraft. At its peak, the IMAA boasted more than 12,000 members. At a time when there was a need, IMAA recognized that need a found a way to fill it. Throughout the 80s, 90s, and into the early 2000s, IMAA played a significant role in the evolution of the Giant Scale model aircraft and this, no doubt, will be its legacy.
Shortly after the IMAA announcement, Carstens Publications closed its doors permanently on August 22, 2014. One of Carstens’ titles, Flying Models, was a mainstay in the model aviation community for more than 50 years. At one time it was the “go-to” publication for aeromodeling hobbyists.
The magazine was known for its construction articles and features focused on the technical aspects of model building and flying. In addition to Flying Models, Carstens published two other magazines dedicated to the model railroad hobby. While another publisher has acquired the model railroading-related publications, Flying Models was not included in the acquisition.
So, what is it that has gotten us to this point? Many will argue that it’s the result of changes that have occurred within model aviation.
I was a longtime member of IMAA and a subscriber to Flying Models. Membership in the association and a subscription to the magazine enhanced my enjoyment of the model aviation that I, and many of you, grew up with.
But, let’s face it. Things change and the model aviation that some of us knew from years ago, the model aviation that many of us grew up with, has also changed. As much as some of us enjoy the building aspect of aeromodeling, it’s not that way for everyone.
Sometimes, between a lack of interest to build a model to the lack of time necessary in today’s fast-paced environment to actually have the time to build, I suspect a number of us have turned to ARFs and RFTs simply as a way to stay in the air. Without them, the alternative would be not to fly at all.
As much value that we received from belonging to IMAA a decade ago, it’s not the same today. Today larger models are not unique as they once were. Information about large-scale models and the ability to get together with others who share a common interest is no longer found only within a niche community as it once was. Today it’s as common to see larger models at the field as it is any of the many other modeling disciplines that our members enjoy.
It really boils down to evolving to remain relevant. The IMAA leadership would likely be the first to tell you that the beginnings of the association’s decline was the inability to find that one thing that they could offer their membership that was unavailable anywhere else. Giant Scale model aviation changed and IMAA simply wasn’t able to change along with it to remain relevant.
The same may hold true for Flying Models. Although many of us enjoyed the construction articles and technical features that comprised the magazine, we have to recognize that today not all model aviation enthusiasts are like us.
Today’s modeler has changed, model aviation has changed and, for whatever reason, the magazine didn’t change along with it. This was not necessarily a bad thing for those of us who appreciated and valued what Flying Models brought to the table, but it’s obvious that maybe there aren’t enough of us left to sustain what had been a valued contribution to the modeling community.
AMA needs to evaluate what is occurring in the modeling world, and evolve along with these changes to remain a viable, relevant, and vibrant association.
Evolving doesn’t necessarily mean a complete makeover of the mission that has made our association as successful as it has been for so long. It does mean we need to be cognizant of changes that occur and react to those changes so that we can remain the organization that so many rely on to enhance their ability to participate in and enjoy model aviation—no matter what your discipline of choice is.
See you next time.