History Preserved:

The Collection of the National Model Aviation Museum

This month we will present items from the collection featuring Plymouth Motor Corporation’s involvement in aeromodeling. (See the April 2010 “History Preserved” piece.) This will focus more on the company’s community of clubs that introduced thousands of youngsters to model aviation.

In the mid-to late 1940s, some Plymouth dealerships sponsored or developed local modeling clubs and sent several of the members to the 1947 and 1948 Plymouth International Model Plane Contests, or Internats.

Seeing this trend at the contests, the corporation saw an opportunity to create a formalized club structure. It named this group the Plymouth Aero League (PAL).

The first official PAL clubs were established in Detroit, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Procedures were devised for many of the clubs’ actions: how to conduct a contest, how to talk to the media, how to teach building and flying through developed tests and skill-building projects, and much more.

Each PAL club had a constitution, standardized to a point at which only a few blanks, such as location of meetings and town names, needed to be filled. The constitution stated that the purpose of each club was:

“to uphold traditions of the Plymouth Aero League and to promote building and flying of model planes … to develop skills, to increase knowledge and interest … all in the traditions of American sportsmanship and character building, to the end it will create better citizens.”

For approximately six months, new club potentials were separated from the rest of the members. Called “Squadrons,” they improved their aeromodeling skills using six projects, from ba sic cutting and construction exercises to outdoor rubber-powered model building. Students became qualified PAL club members when they obtained the required skills.

When students graduated, they participated with the other full-fledged club members, receiving advanced training with gas-powered and CL models. They participated in the dealer-run contests; the flier who placed the highest received a paid trip to compete at the Internats.

Students were given rankings based on their age and training, and they received enameled pins and badges of various colors for this education. Also available to clubs were certificates of achievement, membership cards, patches, squadron stripes, and service stars. Each club decided what it would distribute.

Plymouth intended to concentrate its aeromodeling interests on the PAL when it ended the Internats in 1953, but by late 1954 or early 1955, the company determined that it would be best to transfer the PAL to the AMA for administration under the Plymouth name.

The company retained some supervision of decisions during the first year of management. It is unknown from information in the Archives exactly what happened to the PAL or whether or not the transfer actually occurred.

From the museum’s collection of a few letters dated 1956 and 1957, it appears that Plymouth all but dropped the program as changes in staff were made and concentration was placed in other areas. Although the PAL club lasted less than a decade, it made an impression on a generation of aeromodeling interested youth.

The Archives thanks those who wrote and called with offers of photographs and other materials from the Plymouth Internats. If you have mementos that can be showcased in this monthly feature and would like to donate, please contact the National Model Aviation Museum.

Jackie Shalberg

Museum Archivist

Cover of a PAL club member booklet,

circa 1954.
A flier received a Private Pilot pin for making Senior Flyer ranking in the PAL club.
A minimum age of 8 was required to receive this ranking.