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Chris Brooks, APR
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Former AMA president and executive director

John Worth: 1924-2011

MUNCIE–The Academy of Model Aeronautics has learned that former AMA president and executive director John Worth, 87, passed away Sunday at his home in Sarasota, Florida. A member of the Academy since 1938, Worth will be remembered as a pivotal player in the rescue of AMA from membership decline and tough financial times when he moved from president to executive director in 1964. He held that post until retiring in 1991, leading the AMA from a dwindling membership of 20,000 to more than 165,000 during his tenure.

“John Worth could very well be one of the most pivotal AMA leaders in the history of the organization,” said current AMA Executive Vice President Mark Smith. “It’s a sad day for aeromodeling.”

Worth, who held the AMA member number 13, was a former NASA employee who took over while the organization was in serious debt and promptly launched AMA on the path to be the collective voice for American aeromodeling, the largest such association in the world. It’s a position the organization still holds, thanks in no small way to him. Longtime AMA leader and former president Dave Brown said, “There is no person who ever gave more of his life to AMA than John Worth. In fact, I’m not sure there would even be an AMA without the work of John Worth.”

He was instrumental in providing better insurance for members, relaunching Model Aviation magazine, and enhancing service to clubs.

Worth was a longtime pursuer of Free Flight—learning the craft at an early age—flying balsa models in Manhattan’s Central Park.

“We would stop flying five minutes before the park police made their rounds in our direction,” recalled Worth in an autobiographical account of his life. “We rode the subway for an hour, and in that time we completed half-finished models, sending fellow passengers from our car because of the smell of dope [adhesive].”

Worth’s autobiography is 98 pages long and is kept in the AMA History Program files—a program he initiated in 1996. Worth was named an AMA Fellow in 1964 and was inducted into the Model Aviation Hall of Fame in 1978. He is also a member of the National Free Flight Society Hall of Fame. In 1990, he received the Howard McEntee Award. Other recognitions include the Society of Antique Modelers Hall of Fame and Elder Statesman of Aviation from the National Aeronautic Association.

During the 1960s, AMA was primarily a membership association for Free Flight and Control Line aeromodeling. The growing advent of Radio Control had much to do with AMA’s skyrocketing membership in the late ’60s and ’70s. In 1966, he successfully completed a long campaign for the FCC to give aeromodelers a group of Radio Control frequencies, freeing RC enthusiasts from needing a radio license to fly. It was then that AMA took flight.

Not only did Worth embrace this change in technology, he also saw the need to provide a first-rate magazine to members. At first, he partnered with American Modeler magazine to carry AMA news. Later, he led the purchase of that magazine and, in 1975 AMA’s flagship publication, Model Aviation, was relaunched. Today, it is a monthly, industry-leading publication of roughly 170-pages and a valued membership benefit.

After retiring from AMA, Worth remained an active supporter of aeromodeling, serving on the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale board as secretary from 1967-1992. “He was both an FAI Tissandier Diploma recipient and a National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Elder Statesman recipient–both very high honors,” said Jonathon Gaffney, president and CEO of the NAA.

Worth is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lillian, four children, a son-in-law and a grandchild.

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