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Joe’s “Micro-Flying” column appears bi-monthly, in the January, March, May, July, September, and November issues of Model Aviation. His email is: joemal@echoes.net.
Model aviation and full-scale aviation have been a major part of my life ever since I was a boy. I was only around four or five years old when my Mom let me play with my Dad’s U-Control model that he had built and flown. I was very fascinated with the model, and all things that fly. My Dad passed away a few months before I was born, and I think it was meant for me to have that model. I am not sure what happened to the airplane, but I think it really kick-started my interest in model airplanes.

My first experience flying an RC model was when I was around 12. My mom took me to our local hobby shop, which had several RC airplanes hanging from the ceiling. I was so interested; I just had to learn how to fly. The owner sold me a single-channel model that was built up and ready to fly with a Cox engine and an Ace Pulse Commander RC system installed. I learned to fly the model all by myself, as no one around me knew how to fly RC airplanes.

I was very fortunate to grow up around a family of full-scale pilots who regularly flew off our privately owned grass airstrip. My Uncle Lou would take me up in his Aeronca Chief and let me fly. My cousin Gene would also take me up and let me fly as much as he could to give me some flight time; my dad taught him to fly. I soloed at the age of 16, and stated my journey of becoming a professional pilot by attending the Prescott, Arizona, campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

In school I became the president of an RC club called “Little Riddle Fliers;” we had fun traveling to modeling events that were held throughout the year. It was at one event, the One Eight Air Force Fly-In in Phoenix, Arizona, that I watched my first micro-sized model airplane fly. It had close to a 25-inch wingspan with the Cannon RC system installed—the smallest available system at the time. I was instantly hooked, and ordered a system to experiment with. I converted some all-foam, 19-inch wingspan, FF Scale model airplanes to micro RC and flew them at the next One Eight Air force event!

I graduated from Embry Riddle in 1986 with a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science and shortly afterward started my first flying job as a flight instructor at Mac Dan Aviation flying at the Caldwell Airport in New Jersey. I spent two years as a flight instructor before landing my first airline job as a co-pilot with Pocono Airlines, Inc. The company unfortunately went out of business, and I had to find another flying job. Most of the pilots, including myself, were hired by Suburban Airlines, flying the Shorts 330 and 360. I now work for US Airways Express/Piedmont Airlines, Inc. as a captain on the De Havilland DH-8 100 and 300. To date, I have accumulated more than 22,000 hours of flight time flying many different types of aircraft.

After college I continued my quest to build smaller and lighter airplanes. I started experimenting with the new CETO micro RC system and soon realized that I needed a lightweight power system to fly my airplanes. I played around with CO2 motors when I was a boy in some FF models, but needed a little more information on them, so I contacted Henry Pasquet, an expert on CO2 motors, and we quickly became friends.

I love to build Scale models, and I thought that it would be great to build models in the same scale as plastic models. With this idea in mind, I built the world’s first 1/72-scale RC model airplane, which first flew in the summer of 2002. My 1/72-scale F4U Corsair weighed only 5 grams and used a one-gram Gasparin G2.6 CO2 motor and a 500mg single-channel receiver. I recently built the world’s first 1/72-scale electric ducted-fan powered jet, a MiG 15, which first flew on August 10, 2010. The model ended up winning the Best Jet award at the 2010 JR Indoor Electric Festival.

I have happily designed several airplanes for Plantraco Microflight, around their Butterfly receiver. I designed the Plantraco 1/48-scale Classroom Fighters, 1/72-scale models, and the Micro Butterfly.

Other highlights of my modeling experience include becoming involved with the National Indoor Remote Control Aircraft Council (NIRAC), on which I served as vice president for two years. I also organized and ran the Indoor Night at the NEAT Fair for several years with my wife, Cindy.

I met Cindy in 1989 at the Lincoln Park Airport in New Jersey, when I was furloughed from Pocono Airlines; we were married two years later. Cindy developed an interest in model airplanes after watching me build them in my basement, so I helped her start her first model, a Peck Polymers Nesmith Cougar Peanut-Scale kit powered by a Brown A23 C02 motor with a very lightweight single-channel receiver built by Fritz Mueller. She flew it at the 1998 Small Fly-In and won the coveted Flying ACE Award with her first airplane!

Today, Cindy and I are still building and flying micro RC models together. We love to travel to some of the various modeling events across the country, hopefully inspiring others with our micro airplanes!