Most people involved in model aeronautics would know of longtime Davisite Doug Galbreath — who recently accepted the 2013 Academy of Model Aeronautics Hall of Fame award — even though he’s not flying anymore.
“I’m really (more) widely known as an engine guy,” he says.
Galbreath — longtime owner of The Printer on Cowell Boulevard in South Davis — receives and repairs model engines sent daily to him. “I get stuff to do every day from somewhere. Most of it’s from overseas,” he says.
Most of the engines he’s sent are from fellow model aviators. They usually know Galbreath personally or by reputation, which is to be expected, because the community of people involved in “free flight” model airplanes — which fly using altitude-controlling timers rather than remote radio-control — is fairly small, numbers-wise.
Still, over 70 years, Galbreath’s made many friends from all over the world while competing, racking up multiple world records.
“I started playing with model airplanes when I was 7 years old,” he said. “(But) I didn’t really get into flying models until I was 10, when I got my first gas engine after World War II.”
Galbreath has been an avid model aviation enthusiast ever since, and now he’s been recognized for it by receiving the AMA’s 2013 Hall of Fame award.
“Usually there’s two to three people per year that get nominated and inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Galbreath said when asked about the awards selection process. “It’s a pretty select group.”
It’s a select group he certainly deserves to be included in, and not just because of his history.
“There aren’t very many people anymore who know what makes these run,” Galbreath said of the model engines. But at The Printer he has all the equipment necessary for building the model engines in his workshop.
“I bought good tools,” he said of the high-precision lathe, precision grinder and milling machine , all of which must be operated by hand rather than computers.
“I have to drive every one of them,” he said. “They don’t even make this equipment anymore.”
That’s one of the challenges free-flight enthusiasts face these days, along with things such as the decline of suitable places to fly and the increasing popularity of radio-controlled model airplanes.
“For years and years and years we’ve said, ‘If you’re going to compete in these free-flight events, not the world championships, but in free-flight events, you have to build your own airplane,’ ” Galbreath said. “Well nowadays, nobody is learning how to use their hands when they’re young.
“I really wish there was some way we could make it so that kids would be taught to build things, because we really are going to need that.”
For more information on the Academy of Model Aeronautics, please go to http://www.modelaircraft.org/