Junior Justin Tam is Soaring Beyond Expectations


Photo by Jordan Lee

In his free time, Tam constructs his own R/C planes using interchangeable motors, styrofoam wings and circuitry he designed himself.

Jane Zou, Staff Writer

Hours of jury-rigging planes and practicing maneuvers culminate with shattered pieces, but junior Justin Tam is not deterred. With the patience and expertise developed over the past five years, he is eager to revive the plane and use its spare parts for his future projects.

Tam is a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) by flying planes at competitions and the AMA headquarters in Indiana. One of Tam’s greatest achievements was being the one out of 30 possible AMA members to attend the AMA Camp in Indiana, where he bonded with other aviation enthusiasts.

His career in aviation began with his avid gaming in elementary school. In fifth grade, Tam attended a local fair and flew his first plane.

“I met some lovely folks who let me fly planes on a remote control (R/C) simulator,” Tam said. “They asked if I was a gamer because they told me that gamers tend to fly better than others. From there, I decided to give this activity a chance.”

Tam began experimenting by building his own model planes from scratch and jury-rigging, or modifying, the pre-owned planes he purchased. Each plane and body design requires a different wing shape, engine and electrical power, which Tam designs with styrofoam and pre-existing plane parts. Such a process can take hours of diligence and focus, but the planes demonstrate his dedication.

“I have to check the center of gravity because if the plane is tail-heavy, the plane will crash,” Tam said. “To jury-rig a plane can be simply exchanging a motor, servos or even the plane’s overall shape…Every change I make, I have things to check, just like when I build airplanes.”

What commenced as childlike curiosity spiraled into a serious hobby that he indulges in his spare time; Tam is ardent about pursuing aviation in a professional sense. His goal is to design scale plans of models from scratch to the point where it looks similar to a plane that consumers can buy from accessible retailers.

Over the course of five years, Tam has developed his skill in making quality models; he understands how to experiment with his planes each flight and how to improve his next design.

Tam has also dedicated his time to teaching others how to fly model planes to share this hobby and possibly inspire someone to build and fly aviation models. Tam said he enjoys how aviation has opened up an entire community to him and is a stress reliever from his academics.

“The most rewarding part of flying is the social aspect where you get to fly and talk to people whom you have a common interest with,” Tam said. “And from there, I get to meet different people and have fun with a large group of people.”