93 Model Aviation AUGUS T 2012 www.ModelAviation.com
Harold deBolt remembered
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> Trooper glider
L.A. Johnson presents his large deBolt
Blitzkreig. L.A. also built the original
smaller version. Photo by James
Harold deBolt, who passed away in 2005, was known as Hal, or in later years as “Pappy” deBolt. I
never met him, but neither did I meet
Charlton Heston. Still, I feel as though I
knew them both.
Hal was in his prime after World War
II when I started flying CL. He was out
of the Navy and CL was in its heyday.
DeBolt designs, kits, and the DMECO
brand name were well known to local
club members. At that time, I’d have
assumed that CL was Hal’s only interest,
but that would have been a short-sighted assumption.
Prominently listed at the top of
the official AMA deBolt biography
is “Modeler, Designer, Manufacturer,
Author, Competitor, and Contest
Director.” His activities under any one
of those headings would constitute as
much or more than most modelers
achieve in a lifetime.
The deBolt CL designs and kits I
remember best are the Speed Wagon
and Stunt Wagon series, the Biplane,
Sport Wing, and All American Stunt
series. But those of you who flew early
RC probably best remember the Live
Wire and all of its derivatives.
In addition to being a superior
modeler and contestant, Hal was a good
businessman. He’d typically develop a
model, win a series of events and/or
championships, and then kit it. That
basic model served to spawn a series of
kits and sizes to suit most of the popular
engines available. He used variations of
the original name for those kits so the
heritage was evident.
One of my flying buddies, Dick
Fischer, met Hal on one occasion and
was impressed with his down-to-earth
attitude and graciousness. Dick was on
a business trip to Buffalo, New York,
and called Hal who invited Dick to
his home for an enjoyable evening.
He displayed and discussed his many
current models, then concluded with a
trip to an “archives” room, where many formerly flown
models hung from the ceiling. Dick said it was a glimpse
into modeling history.
Dick enjoyed Hal’s description of his approach to
weekend flying, even when not at a contest. Hal said that,
as a modeling professional, he felt it was important to
look as though he always knew what he was doing. Before
heading to the field, he’d fuel up his engine(s) and choke
and flip them through a few times so that he could later
get a one- or two-flip engine start.
One of my favorite “wanna build someday” designs is
the deBolt Blitzkreig. It’s a sleek model with an inverted
engine and a main wheel projecting from its belly. It was a 1939 magazine article
that was never kitted. The Blitzkreig was originally a small model with a 64-inch
wingspan and was 330 square inches. It was later republished as an 80-inch span,
550 square-inch version in the November 1989 issue of Model Airplane News.
For Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) competition purposes, the Blitzkreig
was first classified as an Old-Timer (post-1938 design), but later reclassified to
Antique, probably based on publishing lead times. The Antique designation makes
it eligible to compete in more OT events.
A catastrophic fire at the DMECO plant destroyed nearly everything. The plant
was rebuilt in another location, but along with the production equipment, many
records, trophies, models, and much modeling history was lost.
I’d been looking forward to the opportunity to finally meet Hal in 1997, the
year we were both inducted into the SAM Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, his health
was such that he was unable to attend the ceremony.
If you’d like to see much more information about Hal deBolt, I recommend the
biographical section of the AMA website that is listed in “Sources.”