Michael in 2004 at his design desk, with an
Alula prototype. Ashley Richter photo.
know when you have a winner—one that
you will take to molded production?
MR: If a model continues to intrigue me,
even after I’m done with the design and
testing phase, that’s important. Bottom
line, it’s got to bring a smile to my face.
It’s always a bonus when you can
make something that is versatile in the
air. Of course, the design also has to lend
itself to manufacturing. If a design can
combine these elements, then we usually
feel compelled to explore production of
the model. The design should also exude
DG: What advice do you have for those
considering selling model airplane kits?
MR: Don’t quit your day job! In all
seriousness, having a passion for the
aircraft is as important as the follow-through with the business side of things.
I had so much personal time with the
hobby growing up that I was ready to
add the business facet to it. I realized
that combining the cathartic process of
designing and building model aircraft
with work was a way to break up the
other parts of the job.
Turning one’s hobby into a business
is not for everyone. There will be some hairy moments along
the way as you figure stuff out, but for me, the sense of
accomplishment in the end and witnessing the enjoyment of
customers has made it all worthwhile. If, during the journey,
you are fortunate enough to have the support of your
customers, family, and friends, that makes it a whole lot easier.
DG: Dream-Flight is known for its state-of-the-art molded-foam
models. Tell us a little about designing for the production of molded
MR: One of my customers called these models “highly evolved
beer-cooler technology.” I got a good laugh out of that, but it’s
In a nutshell, we refine the flight performance and function
of a design through building several prototype iterations. The
Alula EVO took 11 prototypes before I sent the CAD files to
the mold makers. These gliders must be lightweight, efficient,
and fairly durable, so we are mindful of part thicknesses,
reinforcement areas, spars, etc. Things can get heavy and
clunky fast, and then the flight character quickly starts to
When we are finally happy with a design, we submit our
CAD drawings and a final handmade prototype to the factory.
A discussion ensues where we massage some of the finer
details for manufacturing.
Typically, the entire process takes one year from concept to
114 Model Aviation DECEMBER2014