2023 Flying Circus

Circus History

The Flying Circus started in 1961 as an invitational put on by World Engines.  For many years the Flying Circus was a combination invitational, fun fly, and air show. The schedule went something like this – from 1:00pm to 1:20pm Gliders, 1:20 to 1:40 Opening and Parade Fly, 1:40 to 2:00 Combat 1, 2:00 to 3:30 guest Show Team. As you can see, there was not as much action as today and not much involvement from GCRCC Members. This format worked well for many years, but some members thought it was time for a change and that we could develop the event into a fast paced air show with almost all of the flying being done by GCRCC members. We had a vision of a show that would highlight the best and most exciting aspects of model aviation being performed by GCRCC Members. This included shortening events to 10 minutes, including more specialty aircraft, and pushing the boundaries of the hobby. For example, in 1982 we bought a set of plans for a small Space Shuttle that was designed to drop from another airplane and glide back to runway. It didn’t take long to design a much larger Space Shuttle complete with remotely ignited rocket engines being dropped from a giant scale plane. The first GCRCC Space Shuttle flew in 1983 and continued to evolve each year with bigger engines, vertical launches from a pad and of course the incredible sound track.

Speaking of the music, this was another major change to the show that took place in the early 80’s. As late as 1983, we had small speakers and an endless selection of circus music at the show. A number of people teamed together to transform the music to a major part of the show and spend hundreds of hours recording the perfect music for each event.

Other developments during the 1980’s included the start of the Qualification Program, planning the show ahead of time, Inverted Balloon Bust, and WWII. Of course, what would WWII be without the great pyrotechnics. I remember some of us flying our Warbirds on a Sunday in ‘83 or ‘84 and brainstorming an event that would be as cool as the Byron Originals Striking Back show. I don’t know if we have reached that lofty goal, but I think we have come close.

WWII and scale airplanes continue to be a large part of the show.  In 1997, we saw the addition of the B-29 / Bell X-1. The original B-29 design by Jim Ryan was completed and built by Paul and then Jim built the original X-1. Today we have taken scale flying to another level with dozens of warbirds including the B-17, the WW1 reenactment, the incredible Voyager, and most recently with the Doolittle Raiders and this year’s addition of the Red Baron Stearman Squadron.

Publicity has always been an important part of the event and much of the fun. Who doesn’t like seeing themselves on TV or in the Newspapers? Since 1984 the GCRCC has been on local TV over 40 times, national TV 2 times (PM Magazine in 1985 and DIY in 2003), and dozens of articles in the local press and a few in Model Aviation including the June, 2010 addition.  In 1985 we were on PM Magazine, TV5, TV12, and the front page of the Enquirer! In the years that followed we have been on local talk shows like the Ira Joe Fisher Show, weather segments, TV9’s Sports of All Sorts, WLW’s Sports or Consequences, Cincinnati Magazine, 92.5 the Fox, WMOH and many, many more. We have spread the word about our Show at displays on Fountain Square, Toys for Adults Show, Mall Shows, Cavalcade of Customs, multiple Air Shows like Blue Ash, Boy Scout Outings, and of course on the corner of Liberty Fairfield and Route 4.

Specialty aircraft have always been a big part of the show. We have had flying cars, flying carpets, flying stops signs and other street signs, Snoopy and Harry Potter. The most significant contributions have come from Glenn Stucker. In 1998 Glenn donated 6 specialty planes to the GCRCC complete with engines and servos. All we had to do was drop in receivers and fly! Most of these planes are still flying every year at the show and Glenn continues to be an inspiration with all of the off the wall planes that grace the skies.

Many other GCRCC members have also dedicated years of effort to help us provide great food, drinks, raffle plane, goodies, ice, grills, ketchup, mustard, napkins, etc, etc, etc. I think you get the point; it takes a lot of planning and attention to details to pull this off year after year. You guys make it look easy! And let’s not forget the set-up, clean-up, and parking cars!

The tradition of Circus Pins started in 1982 and we have had a pin contest since 1984. The themes have been:

1982 – Air Circus ‘82
1983 – The Flying Circus
1984 – We Meet the Challenge
1985 – Flying Circus Silver Edition, 25 Years of Excellence
1986 – Celebrating 50 Years of the AMA
1987 – Model Aviation is Top Fun!
1988 – GCRCC Salutes the Queen City – Cincinnati’s Bicentennial
1989 – Radio Controlled for Young and Old
1990 – Climbing into the 90’s
1991 – 1941-1991 Freedom
1992 – 1492-1992 Columbus Discovers the New World
1993 – Evolution of Flight
1994 – Circus Fun
1995 – 1945 – 1995 We Remember
1996 – 100 Years Since Glider Flight by Octave Chanute
1997 – 50th Anniversary of the X-1 Breaking the Sound Barrier
1998 – United States Air Force Museum 75th Anniversary
1999 – The Field Of Dreams – A New Beginning
2000 - Fly 2K
2001 – A Flight Odyssey
2002 – 75th Anniversary of the Spirit of St. Louis
2003 – First Flight 1903
2004 – A new Century of Flight
2005 – Over 100 years and still Flying
2006 – F-14 Tomcat into the Sunset
2007 – 75th Anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s coast to coast solo Flight
2008 – USS Hornet and the Doolittle Raiders
2009 – 100 Years of Military Aviation
2010 – Celebrate 50 years of High Flying Fun at the 50th Annual Flying Circus!
2011 – 75 years of the Academy of Model Aeronautics
2012 – B-52 60 years and still flying!
2013 - P-51 Mustang - 70 Years
2014 - 100th Anniversary of WWI
2015 - Celebrating over 100 years of Air Racing
2016 - The 75th anniversary of the C-47
2017 - 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entering WWI
2018 - 100th Anniversary of U.S. Air Mail
2019 - 50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing
2020 - 75th Anniversary of WWII Ending - Due to Covid 19 the Circus was not performed for the public.
2021 - 30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm
2022 - 75th Anniversary of the US Air Force
2023 - Model Aviation - Where Imagination Takes Flight


Location, location, location – the Circus was traditionally held the GCRCC flying sites from 1961 through 2002.  In 2003 as part of the 100 years anniversary of powered flight we moved the show to the Butler County Regional Airport and we have been there ever since.  We have developed a strong relationship with Airport and FBO Management and also work closely with the FAA to make sure we are in compliance with all rules and regulations. While this change has helped us expand the show in many ways, it also adds a significant amount of time and effort to set-up and tear-down. Without the countless volunteer hours, putting this show on at the airport could never happen.

As you can see, the Flying Circus has a long and colorful history. It takes work, dedication, and commitment to pull it off every year, but that’s what the GCRCC is all about. The 1987 Flying Circus Pin sums it all up – “Model Aviation is Top Fun!”.