Oba St. Clair

Biography of OBA ST. CLAIR
Modeling since 1927 | April 5, 1912 - August 14, 1986


Who is Oba St. Clair?

Oba (pronounced Obie) designed the first Control Line/gas model airplane in 1937. We will tell you about this amazing man and how his thought process worked in developing his invention.

Oba is very likable person. He was born in Richfield, Washington, April 5, 1912, but doesn't remember Richfield because he moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, at the age of two. His family moved to Dillon, Montana, the following year. Oba has a good sense of humor and pauses to laugh as he tells of his move from Dillon to Orofino, Idaho, in a covered wagon. They covered 700 miles in only 30 days because the wagon was new, the horses were good and the snow didn't come early that year. Oba was only five at the time and can remember vividly how he looked suspiciously at every tree when they passed through Bear Valley.

Oba's biggest thrill of the covered wagon trip was the day they came to a nice, flat area in the terrain. Oba was walking with his older brother, who was eight years old, when his father teasingly put the horse team in a fast trot. When the covered wagon started to pull farther and farther ahead,

Oba's older brother grabbed his hand to help him run faster. When they realized they could never run fast enough to catch up, the survival instincts overcame his brother and he released Oba's hand and went for the wagon by himself, leaving Oba all alone. Oba can still laugh as he recalls the terror that overwhelmed him when he thought he would be left alone in the wilderness. He thought he was a mile behind but now says it couldn't have been more than 100 feet! Oba now lives in Eugene, Oregon, next to his own Control Line flying field. Haven't we all had a dream of our own flying field? Oba built the field by clearing out 50 to 60 foot pine trees and leveling the ground.

You can imagine the turbulence Oba must contend with on windy days as the wind moves over the top of the tall trees. The field is fenced to keep the deer from tearing up his wood-chip flying surface.

Information about Oba St. Clair is taken from two articles that appeared in Model Builder magazine's November and December 1981 issues. The articles were written by Charles Mackey and Dale Kirn. Charles Mackey submitted the information to the AMA History Program.