Jay Smith: How did you get involved
with model aviation?
Steve Helms: My modeling career
began in the fall of 1958 with my
father when I was 10 years old.
From the first, flying RC models
was in our blood. My father’s and my
modeling directions were different.
He ended up competing in Formula
1 Pylon Racing and I choose F3A
Aerobatics, competing on three USA
World Championship teams (1981,
1983, 1987) before moving on to
helicopters in the 1990s.
JS: How has model aviation impacted
your life and/or career?
SH: In 1963, Westinghouse transferred
my father from Charlotte, North
Carolina, to Fort Worth, Texas, and
during the summer of 1964, I attended
my first Nats in Grand Prairie, Texas. It
was my first introduction to an analog
proportional system and I knew I
wanted to compete.
I began competing in Pattern in late
1964 or early 1965. In order to be a
good competitor, I was likely going to
need to work in the hobby industry. In
1968 I went to work for EK Logitrol
while I finished school.
From EK Logitrol I went to work
for Pro Line Electronics and then Kraft
Systems, where I worked with Doug
Spreng to develop the Kraft Signature
Series Radio. After this I started
my own company, Radio South, in
Pensacola, Florida, doing custom radio
work and general service.
Futaba Corporation of America,
asked me to work as a consultant. I
eventually went to work for Futaba
full time in 1985.
I still work as a Futaba
consultant because my interest
in modeling and improving
the hobby in general is a
top priority. Modeling has
impacted my life in many
ways, but the most notable
are in competition as well
as working in the hobby
JS: What disciplines of modeling
do you currently participate in?
SH: Helicopters are my primary
interest now, but I still enjoy
occasionally flying airplanes and
JS: What are your other hobbies?
SH: At this time, I do not have
any other hobbies, but in past
years I have enjoyed riding
dirt bikes and street bikes.
JS: Who (or what) has
influenced you most?
SH: There have been many people in
this hobby who have had a long-lasting
affect on me and I want to name a few.
• My father for teaching me to be
patient and to learn as much as possible
about what I was interested in.
• Jim Fosgate (owner of Pro Line
Electronics) for teaching me how to
build and maintain quality, reliable
• Phil Kraft for giving me his theory
on models and what it took to win. “I
don’t always have the best-designed
model, but I fly it until I know what it
takes to make it competitive.”
• Doug Spreng for teaching me how
to design and develop a product from
nothing until it is ready for production.
• Ron Chidgey, Jim Whitley, and Ed
Keck for truly teaching me the fine art
of trimming a model for competition.
• Yuzo Daimon for teaching me the
business aspects of the hobby industry.
JS: What would you consider to be the
biggest innovation in radios?
SH: Most people would say pulse
code modulation or spread spectrum
technology, but I consider these just
modes of transmission. They are
important, but they’re not things we
couldn’t live without. For me, there
have been three major innovations in
the past 50 years that have influenced
The first major breakthrough for me
was progressing from single channel
and reed equipment to proportional
radios. This goes back to my first
Nats when I saw Dr. Ralph Brookes
flying an early prototype Orbit analog
proportional system. To this day, all
I can remember is how smoothly his
model flew without the jerkiness of
Another was the development of
dual rates, end-point adjustment,
reversing switches, and exponential.
The development of computerized
transmitters, especially the Futaba
14MZ which used Windows as an
operating system was also a major
160 Model Aviation DECEMBER2014
Steve Helms Modeler and industry professional
by Jay Smith