17 Jan 2024

Jim Richmond: remembering an Aeromodelling legend

Jim Richmond, a true legend in the world of aeromodelling, sadly passed away on 15 December 2023 at the age of 96, leaving a remarkable legacy that spans over nine decades. He was a genuine CIAM Legend.

Born on 22 November 1927, Jim's passion for aviation ignited at the tender age of five. From there, he embarked on a journey that would see him create groundbreaking innovations, win numerous competitions, receive prestigious awards, and inspire new generations of pilots.

Early beginnings and success

Jim’s interest in aviation began early in his life, winning model aircraft contests as young as 15. His talent and dedication propelled him to even greater heights in the years to come.

Triumph on the international stage

His relentless pursuit of excellence led him to win numerous regional, national, and international competitions. He proudly represented the United States on the international aeromodelling scene, participating in no less than 15 FAI World Championships.

Notably, Jim earned an impressive eight FAI World Champion titles in the Free Flight class F1D in 1968, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 2002 and 2004. Additionally, he secured three silver and two bronze medals, which showcases his consistency and superiority in the field.

Jim also won four Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) National Indoor Aeromodelling Championships and was the United States Indoor Grand Champion in 1988.

Eight World Records

Aside from his remarkable competition achievements, Jim also dedicated himself to setting records. He set eight world records and 61 national indoor records, further solidifying his status as a true legend.


Flim-Flam model containing the VD prop details

One of Jim’s most significant innovations was the variable diameter (vd) propeller. This propeller was able to produce the required thrust to climb slowly at a high torque with minimal energy loss, for indoor free flight model aircraft. Jim engineered the propeller system in such a manner that as the torque decreased, the propeller would “fold” so that the model could fly efficiently at the normal torque value. This innovation meant that the climb could be controlled without wasting energy, resulting in flight times that increased by over 5%.

Another speciality of Jim was the "Richmond number" that aeromodellers are using as an approximate parameter for qualifying the rubbers by fast testing.

Recognition and legacy

Jim’s accomplishments have been recognised through dozens of prestigious awards. From the FAI, he received the Paul Tissandier Diploma and the Alphonse Penaud Diploma. In 2023 he was also awarded with the CIAM Legends Medal which honours the remarkable pilots who have won the title of FAI World Champion in any Aeromodelling or Spacemodelling Competition at least three times.

His exceptional accomplishments have also earned him numerous prestigious awards and accolades in his home country. They include the AMA Distinguished Service Award, induction into the AMA Hall of Fame, recognition in the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) Hall of Fame, and the NAA Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award.

Antonis Papadopoulos, President of the FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM), said:

“Jim’s legacy will continue to inspire pilots for generations to come, ensuring that his name will forever be synonymous with excellence and innovation in the field. As we bid farewell to this legendary figure, we pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and the lasting impact he has had on the world of Aeromodelling.”

Sources: AMA, NAA, NFFS, FAI