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Written by Jay Smith
Enter to win an Eastbourne Monoplane Kit
As featured in the May 2015 issue of
Model Aviation.



I first met Mark Freeland in 2009, when he visited the AMA with a vintage suitcase in tow. He was eager not only to share with then-Model Aviation editor Michael Ramsey and me his newly designed aircraft, he wanted us to fly it. When he cracked open the suitcase, we were surprised to find that two 32-inch wingspan models were packed inside.

We looked the models over with interest and shared equal time on the sticks. The e’Moth performed admirably, especially given the windy conditions. Little did we know at the time that we were witnessing the beginning of a new model aircraft company and its very first model! A link to the video of Michael’s test flight is listed in the “Sources.”

Mark grew up in Belfast, Ireland, and shared with me that his interest in aviation began at roughly the age of five. Constructing Airfix plastic model kits as a youngster started the process of learning to build with his hands. When he was nine, Mark won a static model contest at a local supermarket entering a plastic airplane. His prize was another kit to build.

After discovering a hobby shop in downtown Belfast and Aero Modeller magazine, it was time to move from plastic models to flying models. A small Keil Kraft Phantom Mite Control Line aircraft, powered by an .049 engine, would prove challenging to get running properly and on lines, so Mark opted to hand launch the model and allow it to fly untethered. An exciting 15 to 20 seconds of flight thrilled the young modeler until contact with the ground permanently retired it. Undaunted, Mark looked at this as an opportunity to reuse the engine and build another model.

He found success in his second model, a 1/2A combat wing Mini Early Bird, built from free Aero Modeller plans. He even competed in the Irish Junior Nationals, earning second place.

Mark found his true passion in Free Flight (FF). His first model, the Little Deer, was lost on its maiden flight. In his excitement, he had forgotten to light the DT fuse. This model would later provide inspiration for the Wee Devil sold by Retro RC.

Mark shared with me that the majority of his early modeling experience was mostly self-taught until he was roughly 16 when he joined the Belfast Model Flying Club and started a modeling club at school. When it came time to try RC, a Keil Kraft Mini Super with an O.S. Max .10 would be his guide.

He attended college at Queens University Belfast. He majored in mechanical engineering because no scholarships were available for his first choice of aeronautical engineering. After graduating with honors, he was offered a position with a company that manufactured missiles, which he declined. He instead moved to England and began working for Ford Motor Company.

Opportunities within Ford throughout his 27-year career would take Mark to the US in 1986, where he focused on research. After retiring from Ford, Mark remained in the US and met Barbara, who later became his wife.

Looking for something to occupy his spare time, a friend talked Mark into designing an aircraft for him. He wanted an electric-powered model that was aerobatic and easily packed into a suitcase so that it could be taken on vacation. The model was inspired by and loosely based on the Clancy Lazy Bee.

Ironically, its first flight took place at Freeland High School in Michigan. The test model needed some changes—namely an increase in the tail surfaces—but it soon performed to Mark’s satisfaction. Because the revised tail design was similar to that of the Tiger Moth, it was named the e’Moth (short for electric Moth). In 2008, with the help of Sig Manufacturing, which supplied the laser-cut kits, the model went on sale.

Needing a name for his new modeling company, Mark settled on Retro RC. It came from a combination of Mark’s interest in retro models and because his first design was RC. Mark and Barbara designed the logo using an image of the e’Moth.

By the time the Toledo R/C Expo rolled around in 2009, Mark had two designs to share with the modeling world. The e’Moth was joined by the Kat’Ana, a high-performance, rubber-powered flying wing that had been successfully used to teach school children about building and flying.

Thrilled with the reception he received at Toledo and wanting to “control your own destiny” as he explained it, he invested in a laser cutter to aid in model design and implementation. This was a Christmas present to himself in 2009.

At this point in our conversation, I inquired how Mark determines what models to make. “My inner passions and my personality are in the models I select. Some are original designs and some are recreations of something from the past that I have admired. Often I use RC in ultimately what will be a FF model. I try to have a balance of RC and FF kits to meet market demand,” he answered.

Customer feedback, he told me, influenced the design of the aircraft, making them easier to build and constantly improving the instruction manuals to aid in building.

Beyond FF and RC models, Mark has released glue caddies, a magnetic building jig system, a toolbox, and many other accessories, all of which started out as a way to fulfill his own modeling needs. They were later added to the product offerings and have done well.

When not designing new models, one of Mark’s passions is to get kids working with their hands. This was more than evident in how Mark answered my next question. I asked, “How does it feel to see others enjoy your model?”

“It puts a big smile on my face. It really fires me up and gives me enthusiasm for putting more products out—particularly, when I see what joy it brings kids to see something that they built fly. It gives them the knowledge that they can build and create something that works. That’s the biggest reward of all,” he said.

During out conversation, it was clear that Mark has a lot of interesting plans for the future, including some exciting new models being tested. Another is his acquisition of Campbell’s Custom Kits and Brand X, which he plans to keep in production.

I ended our call by asking him what advice he would give to someone new to building. “Start with something simple,” he said. “Have someone help you if you can, to ensure early success. Don’t try to stretch yourself too far or you may never finish the model and it will never fly.

“I honestly think a FF model is the fastest, cheapest, and most successful way to achieve early success. You don’t have to spend much money or learn many things. Personally, I like gliders. A FF glider is the way to go.”

You only have to meet Mark once to realize that he truly has a passion for aviation that has lasted a lifetime. His eagerness to start a modeling club at school as a kid has fostered into creating programs at local middle schools, teaching the skills that will benefit youth for a lifetime.

These contributions have not gone unnoticed and Mark was awarded the Carl and Beth Goldberg Vital People award in 2013.

Enter to Win a 1913 Eastbourne Monoplane Kit

Sorry, registration is closed. We will contact our winner on or before June 5, 2015. Good luck!

7 comments

My first month as a RC subscriber and the first contest requires you to understand the lingo. I have no idea what FF even means .....

Hi Tim! FF stands for Free Flight. Good luck with the contest!

Great looking kit

Great contest, I know that if I don't win I will be buying the kit anyway.

What is the website for this company?

retrorc.us.com

Mark Freeland was a very good choice for the Carl and Beth Goldberg Vital People Award. I have met Mark several times and his enthusiasm for model aviation is infectious! The RetroRC product line is delightful and economical. Mark Freeland and RetroRC should be commended for promoting model aviation to the youth of today! Thank you Mark Freeland!

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