Looking back on the last 15 years
By Clarissa Potson | email@example.com | Photos provided by AMA
Park Pilot magazine was launched as a special perk for Park Pilot Program members, providing them with a magazine focused on the aircraft that they encountered throughout their corner of the hobby.
Park Pilot was initially launched in the winter of 2008, and it has been published on a quarterly basis ever since. Throughout the last 15 years, this magazine has allowed Park Pilot Program members to remain up to date on the newest aircraft, building techniques, upcoming events, and so much more, all of which fell under Park Pilot Program specifications.
This issue, Fall 2023, will be the last issue of Park Pilot to be published; however, the Park Pilot Program will remain intact. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and remanence on all that Park Pilot magazine has been through throughout the last 15 years.
This is the cover of the premier issue of Park Pilot, released in Winter 2008.
AMA staff began to notice a new, upcoming trend: the use of slow-flying, relatively small aircraft. With this trend noticed, AMA wanted to provide this niche group of fliers with focalized information, resources, building tips and tricks, and all the like. Thus, the Park Pilot Program was born.
The late Dave Mathewson, AMA president from 2008-2011, wrote in the 2008 premier issue of Park Pilot that the Park Pilot Program was “specifically designed to support small field aviators who enjoy flying models weighing no more than 2 pounds and at speeds no greater than 60 mph, [and] the program’s benefits are intended to enhance every member’s involvement in this area of model aviation.” He continued to state that “one of the key features of the new Park Pilot Program is [the] magazine … AMA envisions Park Pilot as a resource that will add to your enjoyment of our hobby, and provide informative articles that ensure its readers of greater success in their modeling endeavors.”
Furthermore, the Park Pilot Program was described as “an insightful, all-new, and simply awe-inspiring program to make every RC pilot’s park flyer experience more successful, safer, and more enjoyable” by an unspecified author in the Winter 2008 issue of Park Pilot magazine. The ultimate goal was to have a magazine that matched, and heightened, the value of the program—and that’s exactly what Park Pilot did.
Park Pilot magazine was a unique project to take on. Not only was the magazine initially proposed in 2007, but it was also launched in 2007. This means that, within less than one year, AMA staff hypothesized, collaborated, and ultimately created a full-blown, printed magazine—what a feat!
Rob Kurek, AMA’s Director of Communications, was one of the AMA employees who diligently worked on the launch of Park Pilot in 2007. He wrote that there were “just over six months from concept to the first issue being printed in early December … We basically had six months to create a magazine from scratch—concept to rolling off the printing press. Most of the work was outsourced, and the same printer that prints Model Aviation was used.
“The magazine was launched as part of the Park Pilot Program, a separate membership category. The intent was to provide members a magazine of their own, one aimed at their interests in smaller, slower, and less expensive park flyer model aircraft. It quickly became evident [that] traditional members who were not enrolled in the Park Pilot Program were interested as well, so we offered the magazine to them. The price point of $9.95 for a one-year subscription stayed the same for the duration of the magazine. Members could add this to their membership at a discounted price compared to what non-members would pay.”
When Park Pilot was first established, things looked a bit different than they do now. The initial editor for the magazine was Jeff Troy, an AMA member and current columnist for Park Pilot. Jeff edited the magazine from the initial launch in 2008 until late 2013, when Park Pilot’s publication was moved in-house.
The Table of Contents from the Winter 2012 issue of Park Pilot (top) compared to the Fall 2023 Table of Contents (bottom). Note all of their differences!
The process of compiling materials, editing said materials, and formatting the entirety of the magazine looked very different when Jeff was Park Pilot’s editor, as a lot of publication processes were done out-of-house. When asked about this process, Jeff stated the following: “My writers would send me their raw text and images. I would do a rough edit and forward the material to our gifted graphic artists, Brian ‘Curly’ Wilson and his wife, Vicki. They would work their magic to create visually dramatic page layouts in Adobe InDesign, drop the text and images, and then return the pages to me for final editing.” After 2013, these steps were all done in-house through AMA-specific staff.
Of course, there’s one crucial step in creating a member-centered, column-filled magazine: finding columnists! Park Pilot’s initial columnists were found by Jeff himself. Jeff stated that he “handpicked [the] writers based upon [his] personal knowledge of what they do, their standing in the hobby, and how [they] might work together.” He was very intent on building “’a legion of superstars’—the Park Pilots—who might someday become the Dave Platts, Nick Zirolis, and Chuck Cunninghams of tomorrow,” and we’d like to think that all of our Park Pilot authors have lived up to that initial goal.
With the columnists handpicked, the out-of-house processes determined, and a sense of excitement in the air, the first issue of Park Pilot was compiled and released to readers around the country.
This cover from the Fall 2014 issue of Park Pilot announces that the magazine has gone digital!
Eventually, Park Pilot magazine began offering readers a digital version of the publication. This occurred in 2014 and provided new perks to readers of the magazine. Rob stated that this digital publication “[provided] an opportunity to add bonus content [and] to include videos.” Whilst these new perks were available for readers, not too much changed for Park Pilot publication staff.
Rachelle Haughn, a former copyeditor for Park Pilot and now AMA’s Foundation Donor & Programs Specialist, wrote that “not a whole lot changed in terms of editing … We rarely had bonus content for the digital edition that needed to be proofed. As a writer and photographer, though, whenever I wrote something I had to start trying to think of things that could go into the digital edition. Instead of just featuring someone in print, I had to think about how to incorporate videos and extra photos. Sometimes that also included extra text as ‘bonus’ content.”
Whilst the publication of Park Pilot is ceasing, the digital issues of the magazine will remain available for interested readers. These issues can be viewed at TheParkPilot.org/digital.
The Winter 2015 issue of Park Pilot shows the new, redesigned cover.
AMA staff is always looking for ways to update and improve their publications, while also creating intriguing content for both current and prospective members—the publication of Park Pilot was no different.
In 2014, around the same time that Park Pilot obtained a digital edition, both the physical, printed publication and the publication’s website (TheParkPilot.org) got redesigned. According to Rob, “the idea [was] to give it a fresh look, at the very least” … and that’s exactly what Park Pilot got!
Jay Smith, the current Executive Editor of Park Pilot and Model Aviation.
Jay Smith, Executive Editor of Model Aviation magazine and Park Pilot magazine, wrote in the Spring 2014 issue of Park Pilot that the publication’s redesign changed various subtle things, such as “removing the author biographies in the columns, expanding reviews to two pages, and [instating] a renewed focus on content that falls within the guidelines of the Park Pilot Program … We have also redesigned the Park Pilot website to provide more editorial content, photos, and videos to complement the print magazine.”
Changes in Columns
In the first issue of Park Pilot, released in 2008, the magazine hosted nine columns. Throughout the years of publication, these columns changed. Some were discontinued, some had their titles changed, some were added, and others were fused together to create a more encompassing, better-related column for readers to enjoy.
Below are a few examples of how these columns have changed throughout the years.
Regardless of the changing columns, Park Pilot has always offered readers a broad coverage of Park Pilot Program-specific information. As this portion of the hobby changed, evolved, and grew, the Park Pilot columns and material did the same.
For More Than Airplanes
For a long while, the Park Pilot Program only ever saw pilots flying lightweight airplanes; however, as time went on and this niche part of the hobby grew, drones became more popular. Smaller drones that fit the specifications of the Park Pilot Program were welcomed with open arms—so much so, that in the Spring 2014 issue of the magazine, Park Pilot had its first drone on the cover!
The Spring 2014 cover of Park Pilot. This was the first issue of the magazine that featured a drone on the cover!
As years passed, Park Pilot began featuring non-flying sides of the hobby as well. For example, RC trucks, cars, and buggies were featured throughout the magazine. In the Summer 2023 issue, Jerry Parks wrote “Rock Crawler,” which detailed his experience with various RC trucks and buggies. Furthermore, Jay Smith wrote a review of an RC Jeep in the Fall 2020 issue.
“Rock Crawler,” written by Jerry Parks in the Summer 2023 issue of Park Pilot, is one of the non-aircraft features that allowed the magazine to cater to every corner of the hobby.
Park Pilot was always striving to encompass all that it could relating to the Park Pilot Program. This was evident throughout the evolving content provided in each and every issue.
The Park Pilot Program’s Impact on the National Model Aviation Museum
The Park Pilot Program, alongside Park Pilot magazine, allowed pilots of small, slow-flying aircraft to become better incorporated into the world of model aviation. In turn, many important, memorable aircraft became known throughout the hobby—and where better to display them than the National Model Aviation Museum!
The museum’s director, Michael Smith, once stated that “Park Pilot Program models represent another avenue of RC aeromodeling They allow modelers to enjoy model aircraft in flying areas that would otherwise not be available to larger aircraft, and they are also very conveniently sized aircraft!” With that stated, it makes sense that the museum would inevitably gain various aircraft that applied to Park Pilot Program specifications.
One of the aircraft in the National Model Aviation Museum that falls under Park Pilot Program specifications: A reproduction of Chris Soenksen’s aircraft, circa 1964.
When asked about aircraft in the museum that are applicable to the Park Pilot Program, Michael listed the following: Dan McClain’s Gnat, a reproduction of Chris Soenksen’s aircraft, Mattel’s Super Star, a Dan Kreigh-designed IFO, George Hick’s E-flite Tensor 4-D, and Robert Larson’s AgCat. While this is an impressive collection on its own, those are not the only Park Pilot Program-specific aircraft that the museum houses.
The National Model Aviation Museum is excited to see just how many more artifacts will come their way as the Park Pilot Program continues to expand and grow.
The relationship between the Park Pilot Program, Park Pilot, and the National Model Aviation Museum is only possible due to the pilots of Park Pilot Program-specific aircraft. Without these fliers and their dedication to this corner of model aviation, the hobby would not be complete—new aircraft would not have been designed and new history would not have been made. The Park Pilot Program and Park Pilot truly took this hobby to a new level, and AMA is honored to have been a part of the process.
To view the other Park Pilot Program aircraft, all issues of Park Pilot magazine, and various documents from the archives, stop by the National Model Aviation Museum, or visit their website (modelaircraft.org/welcome-national-model-aviation-museum) for a virtual tour. To read an interview with Michael that provides additional details about the relationship between the museum and the Park Pilot Program, visit “The Other Side of the Tree Line” in Park Pilot’s Summer 2023 issue.
It has been a privilege for AMA to provide Park Pilot magazine to our readers for the last 15 years. From start to finish, this publication has proven to be a unique, yet satisfying, project for all involved.
Park Pilot went through a very fast creation, but no details were spared. From the beginning, the magazine has offered readers topnotch information on all things Park Pilot Program-related. AMA staff worked diligently on ensuring that this niche side of the hobby was provided with just as good of material as non-Park Pilot Program fliers, allowing all sides of the hobby to meet, intertwine, and grow together.
This publication would not have been possible without the hard work of our columnists, feature writers, AMA staff members, and readers. Each individual played a crucial role in the success of Park Pilot magazine, and it would not have lived to see 15 years if it weren’t for all involved. AMA graciously thanks each and every one of our readers and magazine contributors. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading Park Pilot as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it for you.
The Park Pilot Program will continue to thrive, and material from Park Pilot will be included in future issues of Model Aviation (ModelAviation.com). Starting in 2024, Park Pilot Program members will receive Model Aviation Digital (ModelAviation.com/digital).
Three of the individuals who worked on the publication throughout its lifetime, Rob, Rachelle, and Jeff, had these final statements to share about the magazine:
“Creating a magazine from scratch is not for the faint of heart! On the other hand, it was a rewarding experience, one worth learning from. Of all of the newspaper, newsletter, website, and magazine launches that I have been a part of, this one was probably the most challenging and rewarding at the same time. I’m glad we had the opportunity to serve this special niche of members with the magazine, which will live on through digital archives for years to come.” —Rob Kurek,
Rob Kurek, one of the AMA employees who worked effortlessly to ensure the success of Park Pilot’s launch.
“Overall, I was sad to see Park Pilot go. It was kind of like my baby for a time. I enjoyed interacting with our members and having the opportunities to meet fascinating people.” —Rachelle Haughn
Rachelle Haughn, former copy editor and staff writer for Park Pilot magazine.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience—working with former colleagues at AMA, editing my first consumer magazine, offering new promotional avenues to my many industry contacts, and bringing so much valuable information and inspiration to hungry readers.” —Jeff Troy
Jeff Troy, the first editor of Park Pilot and author of the “Model Builder” column.
To read extended interviews with Rob, Rachelle, and Jeff, visit the links below.