For most aero modelers the acronym SAMAA is closely associated with the hobby. But the organization we know now once had a humble beginning.
SAMAA traces its history back to 1937 when it was started by Vivian Gracey as a way of expanding the hobby to other parts of the country. In 1961 it became known as South African Model Aeronautic Association. In the late 50's with the advent of the Second World War the guys started to build radios out of surplus war radios and spares. In 1962 STARS (The Southern Territories Amateur Radio Society) produced the first team to compete at an international event and they did so for 3 years before they lost interest and stopped going. In 1966 Dries Welgemoed started SAARF (South Africa Association of Radio Fliers) that again only focused on radio control. In 1984 all the disciplines combined to create SAMAA (South African Model Aircraft associations).
Old radios and planes displayed at SAMAA's offices
The future of SAMAA according to Bob Skinner, the general manager of SAMAA is to focus on bringing youth back into the hobby but Bob also admitted that the competition to get youth involved is more difficult than it was the 80's. These days youth rather choose playing video games or school events before thinking about joining the hobby. Sub-sections of SAMAA is called Special Interest Groups and in the last few years SAMAA added two new special interest groups to its list. Multirotor (or FPV) is a popular one among younger members where model skydiving is also starting to gain a fellowship.
A future SAAMA member
SAMAA currently has a membership number of 3500 pilots and 180 aero clubs to fly at. The lowest time for SAMAA membership came in 1995 when membership numbers was just 900 pilots. Through club visits SAMAA managed to reach an all-time high of 4000 members in 2010. The average age of members of SAMAA is between 40 and 50. SAMAA currently have 10 Special Interest Groups (SIG) under their control. In the next few weeks we will focus a bit more on each of the SIG in details.
Special interest groups cover the whole spectrum of model aircraft flying.
SAMAA's mission is a simple one but also one of utmost importance. Their first aim is to promote not just the hobby but to promote it as a sport in whole. SAMMA'S other aim is one of safety and also one of enforcing rules.