Winter must be a terrible time for Jim Van Loo, but you would never guess it by his disposition.

Winter must be a terrible time for Jim Van Loo, but you would never guess it by his disposition.

The 75-year-old Blue Springs resident is as pleasant and good humored during the cold months as he is when it’s warm, those months when you can find him piloting one of his several model airplanes.

These aren’t the models you find on dresser tops, though; they are the large scale models you find floating, twisting, soaring and looping in the sky. Locally you can find Van Loo at the airfield at Lake Jacomo, powering one of his planes.

“It’s in the blood,” he said from his basement in Blue Springs. “I always say that flying is in my blood. From the start.”

Van Loo is no mere hobbyist. Consider this quick biography: author, innovator, teacher, manufacturer, businessman. Most, if not all, of those titles are closely connected to his tireless advancement of model aviation.

His interest began where most interests do – in childhood. As a 7-year-old living in Clinton, Iowa, Van Loo took a ride in a Ford Tri- Motor, the “Tin Goose,” which is father had performed maintenance on.

When he turned 11-year’s old, he began his modeling career in earnest, putting together a Comet kit in his bedroom.

“I had the measles,” he said. “I was quarantined and had to do something to keep busy.”

His interest blossomed and he began doing odd jobs to pay for modeling projects, including a Bantam 19 ignition engine that he eventually put into a Strato-Kitten control line plane. He began flying the planes in fields, attracting attention.

He began his competitive career at the age of 15, at one point fetching third place in a 15-mile derby. But that was only the beginning. He would eventually compete internationally.

After five years  in the Air Force, Van Loo returned home and took a job in the Federal Aviation Administration, becoming an air traffic controller and, later, control supervisor. He would later retire after 32 years of service.

Model airplanes, though, weren’t far from his mind during this time.

“Once I got into it, I knew I’d always be into it,” he said. “Really, you know, my generation... We grew up during the romance of airplanes. The big props. The big old planes. That had something to do with it.”

By 1962, he was competing in national events, using some of  the planes he purchased and some that he designed. One of the contestants even used one of Van Loo’s airplanes he designed. Among those models he designed include Mystyere, Mystere II and Chipmonk control line designs, some of which are still in circulation to this day.

If that wasn’t enough, in 1985, Jim and his wife, Ruth, along with some friends, formed the company R/C Extra in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. The operation was a bit small at first, but it expanded, first starting in a garage and then moving to his home. Several more designs emerged, but a variety of friendships emerged, too, from as close to Iowa to Italy.

In 1990, he sold the business to Ace Manufacturing Company in Higginsville, Mo. He continued to work for Ace, helping them develop their Big Bingo and Whiz .40 planes, contributing to the development of new radio control systems.

“There isn’t much that I haven’t done in this field,” he said.

Van Loo was also president of the International Miniature Aircraft Association for four years. One of his jobs was publishing the magazine, experience he would carry with him throughout his life.

“I’ve written over 100 articles for plane magazines,” he said. “But I’m not boasting about it. A friend of mine told me that you should go through life doing the right thing and that way it works out for you. I live by that.”

These days, there’s his basement on Lee Drive. There he tinkers and toys with planes. He spends time with his wife of 53 years and visits with his grandchildren when he can. During the spring and summer months, Van Loo can be found at Lake Jacomo, where he said the sport of R/C miniature planes is thriving.

“People are into electric motors now,” he said. “There are a few spectacular models out there. Flying these things keep me young.”

Van Loo also speaks publicly and performs public announcing at model and full scale flying events, including Hazel Sig’s tandem parachute jump, several local and regional fly-ins, and the Air Force Thunderbirds Arrival Show.

“He does a lot of it for free,” his wife said.

In August 2008, Van Loo came full circle. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Academy of Model Aeronautics, located in Muncie, Ind. With about 130,000 members, the academy selects three to four inductees each year.

While his service in model aviation was certainly a factor for  his nomination, it was his designs, still sold today, that convinced the judges.

Ruth, his wife, is all smiles.

“He should be honored for what he’s done,” she said. “When I first met him, I had no idea he was into model airplanes. Do you believe that? No, we’ve been very fortunate.”