Written by Jay Smith
50 Years of Crosses and Roundels
Photos by the author or as noted
As seen in the January 2016 issue of Model Aviation.
During the same week that Star Trek fans were chanting “live long and prosper” and displaying the Vulcan hand gesture to celebrate 50 years of the television series, approximately 100 modelers and 3,000 spectators gathered in Rhinebeck, New York, at Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to commemorate 50 years of the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree event.
The 107-acre farm that would become the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was purchased by Cole in 1958 as a place to house and fly his World War I aircraft. Shortly afterward, the site hosted its first full-scale air show. It was at one of these shows that the idea came up about using the site to host an RC flying event by members of the then IBM Radio Control Club, which would later be renamed the Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society.
With Cole’s complete backing and support, the first Old Rhinebeck Jamboree was held on September 23, 1967, with Dick Allen as the contest director (CD). Cole even offered vintage aircraft instruments as prizes to winning contestants.
Bob Noll was one of three pilots who took home an award—his in Scale competition with his Nieuport 27. Other contestants at the first event included Ralph Jackson, Nick Ziroli, Sr., Hale Wallace, Walt Moucha, Jim Hoover, and Lou Perretti. An estimated 17 model aircraft were present.
Cole Palen at the first Old Rhinebeck Jamboree held at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in September 1967. Photo by Ron Revelle.
Bob Noll proudly displayed his Nieuport 27 and the award it won at the inaugural Old Rhinebeck Jamboree.
Ronald Revelle recalled the first Old Rhinebeck Jamboree. “Upon approaching the field, suddenly a beautiful miniature-scale World War I biplane appeared in the sky flying at a fairly low altitude, under perfect control, and flying at a scale speed.”
For Ronald, it was an amazing site—one that would prompt him to join both the AMA and the IBM Radio Control Club that year. At the field, some of the participating RC pilots wore clothing representing pilots of the WW I period.
Bill Coons noted in an article, “It was without a doubt the finest collection of vintage model aircraft assembled at one time. The authenticity and attention to detail were truly amazing, and as each contestant flew his turn, the applause seemed to place it far above the usual Pattern event seen at most contests. This is real spectator sport.”
Interestingly, a few saw the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree as a fad and that it would probably only be a one-time event. Quite the opposite happened as Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome continued to entice WW I aviation enthusiasts. Throughout the years, while the models grew in size, so did the number of those in attendance.
The event would have three times greater attendance the second year and by the fifth year, more than 150 pilots turned up from 24 states. The fifth year also advertised that 1/3-scale WW I models would be in attendance for the first time.
A sign that indicates an exciting adventure awaits aviation enthusiasts of all ages.
Fifty Years Later
The Golden Jubilee event was held the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome with Warren Batson as the CD. Friday’s focus was on the model aircraft and a return to competition flying (Balloon Burst, Bomb Drop, and Spot Landing), as well as primarily being a fun-fly.
It also provided an excellent opportunity to see the vast collection of aircraft, vintage cars, and early aviation memorabilia. I even discovered a Gray Eagle model D-4 35 hp motor manufactured by Kemp Machine Works in Muncie, Indiana, also home to the AMA!
This Fokker Dr.I was one of many aircraft that participated in balloon bursting.
The weekend full-scale air show included vintage automobiles, motorcycles, and even a little theatrics.
Saturday and Sunday began with a morning Free Flight launch in honor of Cole, combined with RC flying and a splendid full-scale air show each day. The theme of the full-scale show on Saturday was Golden Age Aviation and Sunday’s was WW I. Jim Hare, Old Rhinebeck’s air show announcer, did a nice job of keeping the crowd excited. Many of the full-scale aircraft displayed and flown can only been seen at Old Rhinebeck. Seeing them, hearing them, and smelling the castor oil was a thrill for everyone in attendance.
A look inside one of the hangars provides a glimpse of early aviation.
One of two full-scale Fokker Dr.Is that flew during the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree weekend.
The Curtiss JN-4H Jenny takes flight with a dummy attached to the wing, playing the part of an escaped prisoner.
On Saturday night, the museum hosted a banquet and two of the original participants, Bob Noll and Nick Ziroli Sr., spoke about the event. Bob shared some great information about the beginnings of the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree, while Nick shared photos and memories with everyone. Nick also relayed a story about his daughter wanting to get married on the same weekend as the Jamboree one year, and how he delicately told her to change the date or she would walk the aisle alone!
Nick Ziroli Sr. shared his experiences of the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree throughout the years with the banquet attendees.
At the banquet, Balsa USA was presented an Award of Recognition for its support of the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree and WW I modeling. Mark Enderby, Dave Lewis, Chad Asmus, and John Stauder accepted the award.
Balsa USA was presented with an Award of Recognition for its support of the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree and WW I aeromodeling. Presented by Eric Williams (L), Mark Enderby, Dave Lewis, Chad Asmus, and John Stauder graciously accepted the award.
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a special place where the love of aviation is shared and passed on to future generations. In a way, it’s like a photograph from a postcard—always a magical place that doesn’t seem to change much in appearance, and you find it much the way you remember it. The passion and commitment to preserving aviation that Cole started is always present.
Pete Reed probably summed it up best by saying, “What more could you want as the atmosphere for a WW I RC event than Cole Palen’s famous Rhinebeck Airport/Museum in New York?”
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome provides the perfect backdrop to fly WW I and early aviation model aircraft.
These two 1/3-scale Fokker D.VII aircraft were piloted by Greg Hahn and Dan Landis.
This close-up of Greg Hahn’s Gotha shows the level of detail that can be found in his 17-foot model.
Curtis Switzer’s 168-inch wingspan Curtiss B-2 Condor is as impressive in flight as it is on the ground.
Fifty years later, model airplanes continue to take to the sky at the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree, which stands as a lasting tribute to Cole and to all who have contributed, supported, and attended this very special event.
National Aeromodeling Heritage Program
Both the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and the Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society were honored with plaques at the Old Rhinebeck Jamboree as part of AMA’s National Aeromodeling Heritage Program. Established in 2003, it is an official list of historic organizations, businesses, and sites.
Ron Revelle received an AMA Award of Recognition from AMA District II Vice President Eric Williams. Ron played a big part in helping ORA and the Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society be recognized by the National Aeromodeling Heritage Program.
The Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society received the National Aeromodeling Historic Organization award, presented by Eric Williams (center).
CD Warren Batson (L) and ORA president Michael DiGiacomio (R) accept the bronze plaque commemorating ORA as a National Aeromodeling Historic Landmark from AMA District II Vice President Eric Williams.
The plaque, designating Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome as a National Aeromodeling Historic Landmark, was presented during the gathering
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome (ORA)
Cole Palen purchased this property in 1958, and created a replica World War I Aerodrome, complete with full-size flying aircraft, vehicles and hangars. This unique setting offered an ideal location to fly WWI model aircraft.
In 1967, the Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society, with support from ORA and AMA, sponsored the first WWI Jamboree—the first such event devoted exclusively to WWI models. The annual Jamboree attracts modelers from around the world, drawing in excess of 8,000 spectators at its peak.
Dedicated September 10, 2016
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Mid-Hudson Radio Control Society