Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Norm Rosenstock – Tales of an Ancient Modeler

History is more interesting to me as I get older; studying it I believe gives one a better appreciation of what others have contributed in the past and a better understanding of what the future could hold. For a few years I was creating documentary videos of local history. One of the videos was about the local full-scale aviation hero Max Conrad. The interest in Max started after reading the Book into the Wind the biography of Max Conrad.

Another Interesting Book 

More recently I have been more active in outdoor free flight competition and was a contestant last summer in the Outdoor Free Flight Nationals in Muncie Indiana. Along with a huge number of types of free flight models were the old time models both rubber powered and gasoline engine powered. For the first time I did a tour of the National Model Aviation Museum on the site, it was the closest thing to time travelling to be able to see the many older and famous models.

National Model Aviation Museum Muncie Indiana
Norm was cutting parts for this kit at one of his jobs

Carl Goldberg Valkyrie in Museum 
1950's Hobby Shop Recreated at Museum

After losing my first Tales of an Ancient Modeler book I recently ordered a used one in good shape for a reasonable price. Norman Rosenstock begins his modeling story in 1932 when he built his first model airplane at the age of eight, probably about when I started also. When Norm was 14 he got his first gas engine a Brown Jr. which cost $10, a lot of money during the Depression. To fly the large gas engine powered free flight models he designed and built, Norman and his friends would make the one hour subway ride to Van Courtland Park in the Bronx New York.  It was interesting to me that another famous modeler Frank Zaic was also riding the subway to Van Courtland Park to fly a few years earlier. 

Oldtimer Flying Muncie 2016

What I take away from reading this book is the hardship the young people of this time period endured to fly the model airplanes they built with inferior materials and tools. Norm tells of an incident where he wanted a new engine really bad and skipped lunch for weeks to pay it off. Before 1941 free flight models did not have dethermalizers to bring the plane down, so no doubt many models were lost.  It is interesting also how many famous modelers did come from the New York area such as Sal Taibi,  Joe Raspante, Larry Davidson, and more.  Larry has emailed me about his friendship with Norm.

Larry Davidson photo Lanzo Bomber

Larry Davidson photo Brown engine

I am going to end this blog report with a bunch of sources to check out further and a list of vendors selling materials related to older model aircraft. In the second half of the book Norm describes his adventures into radio control models, I will write another blog post on that. Some of the video links are of 1930’s subways, ignition model engines running, and old model planes flying but not in New York. Another book that relates to the history of model aviation is Do You Speak Model Airplane by Dave Thornburg, I plan to read that book again

Bill Kuhl

Update Norm is mentioned in this article on the Mite 098 Diesel. http://www.modelenginenews.org/drj/mite.html  

Tales of an Ancient Modeler by Norman Rosenstock 
Paperback: 179 pages Publisher: N. Rosenstock; First edition (August 25, 1989)
Language: English ISBN-10: 093457510X ISBN-13: 978-0934575102

Do You Speak Model Airplane  by Dave Thornburg
Publisher: Pony X Press (January 1, 1992)  ASIN: B002ANRY8G

Phd Dissertation on Model Aviation in the past almost 400 pages

Really interesting reading from AMA website
AMA Model Aviation Hall of Fame “Established in 1969, the Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made significant contributions to the sport of aeromodeling. Contributions may be in volunteer or administrative activities, product development, competition performance, or a variety or combination of activities.”  http://www.modelaircraft.org/museum/hoflist.aspx

National Model Aviation Museum http://www.modelaircraft.org/museum/museum.aspx

Ask Claire from Nation Model Aviation Museum – I have been watching the live broadcasts through Facebook http://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amamuseum/2016/09/16/adventures-in-digital-engagement/

Vendors of Related to Older Free Flight Model Airplanes
Larry Davidson - http://www.modelflight.com/larrydavidson.html - ignition engine parts
Texas Timers – http://www.texastimers.com – timers for ignition engines
Jim O’Reilly Plans - http://www.jimoreillymodelplans.com/  plans and short kits
BMJR Models - http://www.bmjrmodels.com/   kits
http://volareproducts.com/BUY/  Old Time Rubber models and propellers
http://www.goldenagereproductions.com/model_plane_kits   plans
http://www.easybuiltmodels.com/  kits
http://www.bhplans.com/OTELEC.html  Bob Holman Plans and short kits
http://www.freeflightsupplies.co.uk/index.php  Free Flight Supplies Mike Woodhouse UK
https://freeflight.org/product-category/plans/  plans National Free Flight Society
http://www.trexlerballoonwheel.com/  Balloon Wheels
Aero Dyne  http://www.freeflightmodels.com/  - plan website is in process of being transferred.
http://outerzone.co.uk/ Outerzone free plans to download
 Hip Pocket Aeronautics Builder’s Plan Gallery http://www.hippocketaeronautics.com/hpa_plans/index.php free plans to download must be a member 
SAM - The Society of Antique Modelers http://www.antiquemodeler.org/   find additional vendors on the website and a wealth of information.  

Just Added - Belair Vintage Kits http://www.belairdigital.co.uk/content.asp?id=9 
http://www.brooklynskyscrapers.org/gallery.html  Norm Rosenstock appears in group photo.

Video Links
https://youtu.be/ytuRVTkUAnw   Borough Hall subway in the 1930s - Brooklyn, New York
https://youtu.be/L65ka66Kbh4   Mighty Atom model airplane engine 1934
https://youtu.be/JDG_-mA7Dvw   Pioneers of Model Aviation - Carl Goldberg
https://youtu.be/wCFHE010GDQ   Newsreel of 1936 Model Airplanes Championship, Brown Jr. Engine
https://youtu.be/m44VQdaDQ6A    Brown Jr airplane engine running
  https://youtu.be/BxgEHE42-6w  1939 model flying Dublin Ireland


  1. Thank you Jim. We sure have some amazing equipment and materials available to us today. There sure were a lot more people interested in model aviation back then however.

  2. When you visit the AMA museum, make sure you check out the library. They have virtually every book and magazine ever published on model airplanes. When I go to Muncie, I always have a list of articles that I want to look up and books that I want to look at and typically spend a few hours in the library. Also, the museum gift shop has a lot of model airplane books that you can't buy anywhere else, so my Visa card usually takes a beating! It's a wonderful place!

  3. You will almost always find that those early modelers moved to Southern California for the onetime open areas to fly, short mild winters and jobs in aerospace industries. Well we still have short mild winters.