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Up Close with Frank Tiano — The Father of Top Gun

Up Close with Frank Tiano — The Father of Top Gun

Definitely considered an “Influencer” today,  Frank Tiano is world famous for his many amazing RC events which he hosts at Paradise Field in Lakeland, FL. Of course his first ever serious event is, and has continued to be, the Top Gun Scale Invitations. Having just celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, Frank has redefined how scale events are run and has set a very high standard for excellence.

We chatted with Frank recently and asked him about his involvement in the RC hobby and industry. Here’s what he had to say.

MAN:  As the man who gave us Top Gun, can you give us a short version of how you pull such a major and important event together?

FT: Well, the event relies on several factors to be a success. Of these many factors, not one is any more important than the others because they must all work together to contribute to Top Gun being the most colorful, exciting and the largest Scale event in the World today. Those components include lots of Sponsorship, (the kind that writes a check), a great Model Club with dedicated volunteers, (currently, The Imperial RC Club in Lakeland), intense media coverage, schooled and knowledgeable judges, and great coordination. Top Gun is a business as well as a fun event. Its budget approaches $100,000 and there is an extensive payroll, prize money and costly rental fees. By learning from past mistakes and aligning ourselves with the right kinds of companies and people, we get a lot of bang for our buck, which hopefully, will ultimately produce a successful event.

 

MAN:  What do you see as the most important issues for the future of RC (scale or otherwise)?

 FT: That’s easy. We simply cannot allow one or two companies to be in control of the entire industry. When that happens, it stifles new developments. If a new item becomes available but the large distributors have so much control that they refuse to allow that product to become available to the public, it suppresses some growth. I think that is a shame that there are principals in this industry that cannot see eye to eye. I have never seen an industry where competitors actually “hate” each other. If they would swallow their “freeking” egos they could do a lot for the growth of the sport. By combining their resources, they could start channeling their efforts in a different way and perhaps be very successful in educating more folks, especially younger ones, and turn them into true hobbyists.

 

MAN:  With your involvement in RC scale, Zap and the RC industry in general, what’s the driving force or motivator that keeps you excited about the hobby.

 FT: That’s an easy one! I love life and I love some of the finer things it has to offer. I’m not a sailboat or yacht guy, don’t own a full scale airplane and don’t have multiple homes throughout the country or abroad. What I do enjoy is the ability and freedom to take a mini vacation once in awhile, go to nice places for lunch or dinner and purchase what I need for my hobby. Being able to do this keeps me excited, but only because it all revolves around model aviation!

 

When I started in this business, over 30 years ago, there was something like 6,000 serious hobby shops large and small. Today there are less than 2000! There are many reasons for this and we, the modelers, (the ultimate purchasers), are somewhat responsible. Greed, on the part of several larger companies, is responsible for the balance. If we continue to show little or no support for our local shops, soon their numbers may be in the dozens and we just might find ourselves tripping though the puzzle aisle to find that “Made in the USA” Du-Bro fuel tank!

 

Updated: April 17, 2019 — 10:52 AM

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