Orrville’s father and son bond over an aeromodelling hobby

ORRVILLE — Entering his father’s workshop, Ray Hostetler stretched out his arms to proudly show a visitor where their model airplanes meet.

“When we go out here it’s like heaven,” he said. “That’s where the magic is.”

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Among all the tools and workbenches in the shop, two of the most recent creations of father and son.

Ray, 66, learned the hobby at a young age from his father, Wendell, 93, who became addicted aged 6 after watching another boy fly a jet-propelled model plane rubber – radio-controlled model airplanes arrived a few years later.

“I have a photo where he’s 2 years old and I’m working on models, so that’s his background,” Wendell said of his oldest child of three and only boy. “He’s been on the flying field with me since he was 3.”

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While at home during college vacation, Ray’s interest shifted from pleasure to all-out consumerism, he said. That’s when remote control helicopter models came out and his dad had just bought a “beautiful painted helicopter model”, he added.

“I thought to myself, ‘I have to fly full-time to make a living,'” said Ray, who moved to California soon after to take helicopter lessons, became a helicopter pilot there and eventually found a career as an executive jet pilot, a job he still does in the West.

When he’s not flying with the rich and famous—many celebrities he’s flown with include Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, and Steve Jobs—Ray returns to Orrville to visit his parents.

A photo of Wendell's wife and Ray Hostetler's mother, Phyllis, with one of their model airplanes is in Wendell's model airplane shop.

Wife and mother support the hobby that brings father and son together

Overlooking Wendell’s workshop is a photo of his 68-year-old wife and Ray’s mother, Phyllis, with one of their model airplanes.

While the 89-year-old has never had an interest in the hobby, she has always been supportive of their love for it, both Ray and Wendell Hostetler agree.

“Most modelers have a spouse to go to for money to buy what they need for the hobby,” Wendell said. “Fortunately, I haven’t touched the grocery money in 40 years. My wife likes it. As a reward, I take her to lunch every day. We go for a walk and have a two-hour lunch .

“No grocery money comes from this business,” he added with a smile.

Wendy’s, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell are some of the restaurants they go to for lunch.

The car they usually drive is next to his workshop, which takes up half of the couple’s garage.

Facing the car on the wall dividing the garage is a picture of Wendell, Phyllis and Ray at a model airplane display in Toledo that was held every year until the COVID pandemic put it there end.

Also pictured is one of Ray’s sisters, who, like her mother, enjoyed attending the multi-day exhibit, although she had no interest in the hobby. His other sister didn’t get into model airplanes either.

“It was always the first week of April,” Ray said of the Toledo exhibit. “Dad used that as an incentive to finish a model. He was showing the model and selling new plans.

“And so I would come in and we would go to the Toledo show and come home and we would discuss what the new model would be for next year,” added Ray, who also often visits the summer and l fall every year.

Ray, left, and Wendell Hostetler pose next to a photo of themselves at a model airplane display in Toledo and below some of their model airplanes while touching the printer that Wendell now uses to make their plans for their model airplanes.

Wendell is developing a parallel activity of manufacturing and selling model aircraft plans

When model airplanes began to get bigger in the mid-1970s with no intention of helping build them, Wendell combined his drawing training as an industrial arts teacher with his knowledge of model airplanes. planes to create his own drawings, which he turned into a side business.

“I tell my hobbyist friends that realistically I make about 25 cents an hour,” Wendell said. “My hobbyist friends say it’s more than they make. At 25 cents an hour if you work 10 hours a day, that 25 cents adds up.”

That was enough to avoid dipping into grocery money for all those lunches with his wife, he noted.

Ray, left, and Wendell Hostetler holding one of Wendell's model airplane blueprint drawings.

Donating Model Aeroplans to the Academy of Model Aeronautics

Wendell intends to donate his plans to the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics), headquartered in Muncie, Indiana.

Last year, one of his clients named him to the AMA Hall of Fame and he was inducted in October.

“Ray came from California and the guy who nominated me was from Washington State and he also came for the induction ceremony, so that was a big deal,” Wendell said. “They choose people who have been involved in modeling all their lives, so most of us are older people.”

Ray had the opportunity to take over his father’s plan business, but it really doesn’t pay enough for the liability that comes with it, he said.

“Also, my garage in California isn’t big enough for this printer,” Ray added with a laugh as he nodded at his dad’s large printer.

Like his father, Ray said he was able to pay for his hobby by making instructional DVDs on model helicopters.

And like his father, his wife never took an interest in this hobby, neither did his son and daughter.

Ray said he’s okay with that since the hobby is moving towards more ARFs (aircraft almost ready to fly) that only take a few hours – or less – to get ready to fly.

Ray, left, and Wendell Hostetler with one of the model planes they built.

Near-ready-to-fly model airplanes, taking the know-how out of a hobby

“The art of building something like that is diminishing,” Ray said as he pulled out one of the eight model airplanes they still have from his dad’s garage in the front yard for a better look.

“We each have our strengths,” Ray said. “He builds the frame, so his specialty is the frame. My specialty is radio and engine installation. He does the major construction and then I do the detail work.”

Although they haven’t discussed whether their most recent creation is their last together, Ray said he plans to continue flying them with his dad on his visits – and if they build more model airplanes, that’s even better.

“Here is green grass, the flying fields are beautiful. It’s a modeler’s paradise,” Ray said. “In California, all the flying fields are dirt. I do very little flying in California.”

Then, with a big smile at his dad, Ray added, “I really like flying here and can share it with dad.”

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