IN 1923, the Illinois Model Aero Club got the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to support a national model airplane contest. NAA Vice President Bernard Mulvihill agreed to pay for a perpetual trophy for the event.
The Illinois Model Aero Club then got the St. Louis Air Race Contest Committee to add a model airplane event to the 1923 full-scale air races. Event No. 6 was for Free Flight Duration, with a rubber band-powered model airplane. First place received $100 and temporary custody of the new Mulvihill trophy, which is now located in the AMA National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Indiana. Ed Lange, age 16, and president of the Illinois Model Aero Club, won with a 4-minute, 22-3/5-second flight.
A national model airplane contest, or "Nats," was held every summer afterward, until the outbreak of World War II. During this time, more events were added, including the first Indoor Nats in 1927 and the first RC event in 1936. No Nats were held during the war from 1942 through 1945. In 1946, the Victory Nats welcomed modelers back to competition, and for the first time it included Control Line events!
Today, we continue the Nats tradition by hosting the Outdoor events at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, Indiana, each summer. Although 2023 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Mulvihill event, because of the break during World War II, the 100th Nats will be celebrated in 2026.