First National Model Airplane Trophy to Be Displayed
One hundred years ago this October, the first national
trophy for a model airplane contest was awarded. That trophy,
the Henry S. Villard Trophy, will be on exhibit at the National
Model Aviation Museum from June through August 2015 in
celebration of this centennial.
Sponsored by the Aero Club of America in 1915, the
first national model contest was formatted for maximum
participation without the hassle of travel or shipping models
to be proxy flown. Instead, the national contest was actually a
series of local events. It worked like this:
• Each club held elimination rounds and the four winners
and four runners-up would represent their club at the official
• Official contests were held at places selected by the model
clubs during a timeframe set by the Aero Club of America.
They were judged by members of the larger clubs.
• There were three events: Distance Flown After Hand
Launch, Flight Duration After
Rise-Off-Water, and Flight
Duration After Rise-Off-Ground.
• The results of the contests
were mailed to the Aero Club
of America to determine the
• There were cash prizes for
individuals, but the Henry S.
Villard Trophy went to the club
whose members collectively
made the largest score during
the three months, which was
determined by a point system.
The Illinois Model Aero Club
won the Villard Trophy in 1915,
1916, and 1917. It was then
retired to the club. In 1992, the
trophy was returned to Henry
Villard who presented it to the
San Diego Air & Space Museum the following year.
Henry Villard was born in the US in 1900. When he was
12 years old and living in France, he fell in love with aviation.
It was there that he took his first airplane ride and interacted
with many European aviation pioneers.
His family moved to the US and his
continued fascination with aviation
inspired him to sponsor the Villard
Trophy in 1915. A later article about
the trophy noted that 15-year-old
Henry used his own money to sponsor
the trophy. Throughout his life, Henry
continued to enjoy aviation and wrote
two books on the subject.
The Henry S. Villard Trophy will
be at the National Model Aviation
Museum thanks to a loan from the San
Diego Air & Space Museum. It will be
displayed in the Nats exhibit, along
with some of Henry’s personal items,
on loan from his friend, Willis Allen, of
Allen Airways Flying Museum.
Please visit the museum sometime this summer to see the
Henry S. Villard Trophy and watch the museum’s social media
for ways to celebrate the centennial of modeling competition.
—National Model Aviation Museum staff
The Henry S. Villard Trophy, courtesy of the San
Diego Air & Space Museum.
The Villard Trophy on display at the San Diego Air & Space
13 Model Aviation JUNE 2015 www.ModelAviation.com