History of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the National Model Aviation Museum

Before the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) came into existence, aeromodelers belonged to a variety of organizations, including the Junior Air League, the Junior Aviation League, and the Junior NAA (the aeromodeling branch of the National Aeronautic Association.) The Junior NAA, although sponsoring the first "National Aeromodeling Championships" (what we refer to today as the "Nats") in 1923, struggled to be a true aeromodeling organization. The idea for the AMA began in 1935 (perhaps even before that) at the National Championships in Detroit, Michigan. Leaders and contestants were interested in a self-governing body of aeromodeling experts, the thought being that there should be expert guidance of, for, and by model builders. Modelers wanted a single voice to develop national rules for aeromodeling contests, as well as one voice to speak to the government.

First known as the American Academy for Model Aeronautics (AAMA), the organization dropped 'American' from its official title and changed "for" with "of" within a few years. The AMA’s first mailing address, 1732 RCA Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, solidified its legitimacy in 1936. Later that year, the headquarters of the AMA moved to Dupont Circle, Washington D.C. as part of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA).

AMA elected officials included an Executive Committee, Advisory Board, and Council, and a publication, Model Aviation. The first issue of Model Aviation, June 1936, included a list of these newly elected officials, a two-page description of the 1936 Nats, and seven pages listing the eighteen events, contestants, and results.

Both the NAA and AMA moved their offices to the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. in 1940. While in the same building, it was the first time that the AMA had separate offices from the NAA, along with its own budget and officers. However, it was not until 1966 that the AMA became fully independent from the NAA.

In 1979, a little over an acre of land was purchased in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C., for a new AMA Headquarters and National Model Aviation Museum. Design architect and AMA member John Hunton drew the plans for the two-story, 3,000 square foot building. In 1980, a building fund was started, asking AMA members to help with the project, and by April 1982, aeromodeling clubs, along with industry donors, reached the goal of $160,000. In five days, three very important events happened: on June 24, a building permit was issued, on June 27, the official groundbreaking ceremony was held, and on June 28, the loan arrangements between the AMA and the Maryland National Bank were signed. The loan was officially closed. September 24-25, 1983 officially opened the new Reston location with over 200 people attending the ribbon cutting.

Now that the AMA had a location for a museum, artifacts were needed. Frank Ehling, AMA Technical Director, spent over a year acquiring donations for the museum. Today, the collection includes 10,000+ objects. These include airplanes, badges, pins, kits, parts, and apparel, among many other model-related artifacts.
In 1988, the AMA Executive Council formed a search committee with the goal of finding properties for a new headquarters and national flying site. The committee felt that the move would benefit all AMA clubs and the community in which it would reside. The Midwest became the choice region due to location and land availability after over 50 proposals were reviewed. By the end of 1990, Muncie, Indiana was the chosen location. On June 13-14, 1992, a Grand Opening was held for the new national flying site.
Two years later, on June 11, 1994, after moving the collection from Reston, Virginia, the museum reopened to the public. The 25,000 square-foot Frank V. Ehling Complex not only housed the Museum but also the Lee Renaud Memorial Library and the AMA headquarters.

The move to Muncie cramped the entire AMA into one small building; space was needed. Ten years in the making, the new headquarters building groundbreaking occurred on March 31, 2000.

June 7-10, 2001 marked the opening of the new headquarters building for the AMA. Designed by Gooden and Ellis Architects, LLP of Muncie, this 25,000 square-foot building now housed the administrative side of the AMA.

Thanks to the generous donation from the estate of Claude McCullough, the Claude McCullough Educational Facility was built onto the National Model Aviation Museum building. Click here to see a video of the July 7, 2009 groundbreaking ceremony on YouTube.

Click here to see some of the AMA's past logos.

A very brief history of Model Aviation magazine

In 2000, Model Aviation (MA) magazine celebrated 25 years of publication in its current format. The magazine existed in many different physical formats since it first appeared in 1936 as a newsletter-type publication. Distribution was originally limited to AMA leaders and subscribers until 1954, when circulation was expanded to all members.

In 1966, the AMA approached the publishers of American Aircraft Modeler (AAM) magazine about the possibility of incorporating a section called AMA News into their magazine rather than printing the small but costly MA. AMA members received AAM featuring AMA News as part of their membership beginning with the July/August 1966 issue and ending with the March 1975 issue. AAM went bankrupt in February of 1975, leaving the AMA with no means to communicate with its members. AMA officers realized that a magazine rather than a newsletter was more beneficial to AMA members, and thus resurrected MA as a magazine. To this day, AMA members continue to receive MA as a member benefit.


AMA Presidents, 1936-current (as of 2017)

1936 - 1937: Capt. Willis C. Brown, 1st President, elected to serve in 1936 by Council, elected to serve in 1937 by membership ballot
1938: Albert L. Lewis, 2nd President, elected by membership to serve through calendar year
1939 - 1942: Edward Roberts, 3rd President
1943 - 1946: Irwin G. Ohlsson, 4th President
1947 - 1948: Everett N. Angus, 5th President
1949 - 1950: C.O. Wright, 6th President
1951: Kenneth Held, 7th President
1952: Frank B. Bushey, 8th President
1953 - 1956: Keith H. Storey, 9th President
1957 - 1958: Claude McCullough, 10th President
1959 - 1960: Dr. Walter A. Good, PhD, 11th President
1961 - 1962: Peter J. Sotich, 12th President
1963 - January 1964: John Worth, 13th President
February 1964 - December 1964: Maynard Hill, 14th President (Interim)
1965 - 1966: Howard E. Johnson, 15th President. Note: Two - year terms were initiated in 1965: The rule lasted through 1970.
1967 - 1968: Cliff Weirick, 16th President
1969 - 1970: John E. Patton, 17th President
1971 - 1978: John Clemens, 18th President
1979 - 1980: Earl Witt, 19th President
1981 - 1986: John Grigg, 20th President
1987 - 1995: Don Lowe, 21st President
1996 - 2007: Dave Brown, 22nd President
2008 - April 15, 2011: Dave Mathewson, 23rd President
April 15, 2011 - December 2011: Mark Smith, as EVP, served as Interim President, assuming presidential responsibilities per the AMA bylaws until presidential elections concluded. The voting process started in September 2011.
2012 - 2016: Bob Brown, 24th President
2017 – Current (as of January 2018): Richard D. (Rich) Hanson, 25th President

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