Model Builders Inc Blog

Model Builders Inc. founder is a 2013 inductee in AMA Hall of Fame

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:20 PM

Model maker William H. Chaffee (Bill), the founder of Model Builders, Inc, was inducted in 2013 into the Academy of Model Aeronautics Hall of Fame located in Muncie, IN. To see his Hall of Fame biography go to: .

Many of the model airplane builder noteables that Bill competed against in the late 1920's and early 1930's are in this Hall of Fame. By 1929 there were over 300,000 members in the Airplane Model League of America (A.M.L.A.) which ran the National contests. "Beginning to Fly" The Book of Model Airplanes by Merrill Hamburg the Secretary and technical advisor to the A.M.L.A. is probably the best book on this era of model plane building. An interesting side note is that MIT student Robert Clary in 1932 invented microfilm to replace the heavier Japanese imperial tissue paper on the wings. Microfilm cut the model plane weight by about 20 percent.

Model plane - William Chaffee

William Chaffee held the National Indoor record for rubber band powered flight at 173 seconds  in 1927 when he was 15 years old. Page 72 in "Beginning to Fly" is shown above.

1928 April 2 William  Chaffee White House

AMLA's four contest winners were flown to Washington, DC and on April 2, 1928 and they flew their model planes on the south lawn of the White House for President Calvin Coolidge . William Chaffee is on the far left and President Coolidge is third from the left. The Detroit Free Press reported that "The boys left two of the model planes dangling from the tall poplar trees adjacent to the executive offices, and two landed on the roof of the offices."

William Chaffee White House 1929

William and other national model contest winners flew their planes for President Herbert Hoover on the south lawn of the White House on April 4, 1929. Merrill Hamburg Secretary of and technial advisor to the A.M.L.A. is on the far left. William Chaffee is pictured in the middle and Aram Abgarian on the right. 

William Chaffee Boeing P-12B model airplane1930

William Chaffee's Boeing P-12B won 1st prize in 1930 for scale model planes in The American Boy magazine contest.

Boeing P-12B model William Chaffee 1930

William Chaffee's BOEING TYPE P-12B U.S. Army Pursuit plane scale model

William spent over 500 hours constructing the model and even machined his own propeller out of aluminum. All of the flaps move accurately when the levers are pulled or pushed in the cockpit. All entrants in the contest used exactly the same set of to scale drawings with a model wingspan of the upper wing at exactly 24". First prize in this contest was a 6 week trip to England and France plus a silver cup and $200.00.

While in England he competed in the Wakefield International Cup fuselage model plane contest and won 6th place. The planes were all rubber band powered fuselage models.

Chaffee C-4 fuselage model airplane

Chaffee C-4 Indoor Fuselage rubber band powered model

In 1930 William designed the Chaffee C-4 Indoor Fuselage Model (see pp. 164-172 in "Beginning to Fly"). The AMLA was interested in moving American model airplane builders from "flying sticks" to fuselage models to advance their skills and add a new contest category. The AMLA sold the Chaffee C-4 as a kit from their supply division and it became a favorite of model builders. The rubber band powered C-4 flies for about 3 minutes. 

1933 SPEE-D-FLYR glider


In 1933 at the age of 21 William designed the balsa wood SPEE-D-FLYR Soaring Glider No. 333 and sold 24,000 of them to S.S. Kresge. Chaffee buillt the gliders in conjunction with pattern maker Emory Zimmerman.

Kettering Collection WPAFB resized 600

Kettering Collection of 600 scale model planes at theNational Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, OH

In the early 1930's Eugene W. Kettering started his collection of about 600 scale model aircraft at 4mm (5/32" to the foot) scale  representing military and civilian aircraft of many nations. This collection since the late 1960's has been on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Gene had his good friend William Chaffee make or supervise the construction of the planes in this collection.

From 1932 on William Chaffee stayed in the fields he loved best - model building, prototyping and inventing.  In 1950 he founded Model Builders, Inc. and in 1960 a subsidiary Technical Exhibits Corp.

Model Builders, Inc. did prototype work for Raymond Loewy Associates, Richard Latham, Dave Chapman and other well known industrial designers. Other work was for large corporations, institutions and individuals. One project was to build the underseas section of the GM exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. Several projects were for NASA and for aviation companies. There were 1,000's of projects. Bill also has eight patents and two design patents. Six of the patents are the basis of products that were produced and sold. William continued to work until the end of his life in 1994

Model Builders, Inc. and Technical Exhibits Corp. continue to work on the design and fabrication of a wide variety of models and prototypes.  A recent project was to build a full scale replica of the exterior of the Apollo 8 Command Module for a traveling museum exhibit.

Model Builders, Inc. is known for helping industrial designers, manufacturers, institutions and individuals go from idea to reality. Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: aviation models, model planes, model builders, model maker, model makers, model builder, airplane models