North Pacific Products Co.
During the period from the mid 1950’s to the mid
1970’s, North Pacific made some of the most popular (and best remembered)
RTF airplanes. They were probably best known for their wide range of
great performing ROG’s. The company was founded in Portland (OR) in 1952
by two brothers, Charles and Wally Cleveland.
The Cleveland brothers worked at Jim Walker’s
American Junior Aircraft Co from 1946-53. While still working at AJ … and
reportedly without Walker’s knowledge … the brothers were also making and
selling their own brand of gliders from their home.
To reduce production costs, Walker wanted to take
advantage of the wood curl generated by his company’s advanced balsa
slicing machinery … especially during the wing-slicing process. He
directed Charles to create a plastic clip that could quickly affix the
sliced (and curled) wings onto the fuselages of smaller AJ gliders and
ROG’s. This would allow the company to make airfoil wings for the
lower-cost aircraft without using costly wing steaming equipment. Wally
engineered a small extrusion machine at AJ to produce the plastic clip.
Subsequently, the brothers quit American Junior and
moved to Bend (OR) in 1954 to open a new factory subsidized by the city
for their North Pacific Products brand. Walker felt the “battle lines”
were drawn when NP started mass-producing gliders in Bend in direct
competition to AJ, using similar wing clips and slicing machinery.
Although the legal fees piled up and acrimony grew,
both companies continued unabated in churning out airplanes using
machine-sliced wings and plastic clips. (Virtually every NP RTF aircraft
used the clip at the time.) It was during this period that Walker’s
health steadily deteriorated. He passed away in 1958, before the legal
issues could be totally resolved. Once Pactra Chemical Co absorbed AJ in
1963, Pactra withdrew further legal action as their interest steadily
waned in keeping the AJ product line going.
Legal issues notwithstanding, the Cleveland brothers
developed several innovative gliders and ROG’s. Their designs were
relatively easy to scale up and down, so the company was able to produce
an extensive range of aircraft sizes with excellent flight performance …
based only on a few basic designs. The light and elegant Sleek Streek ROG
was probably the best performer in its class and is affectionately
remembered by model airplane enthusiasts to this day. Likewise, the names
Strato, Skeeter, Jet Flyer, Chuck’r and Astro Gnat will spark childhood
memories in many of us.
Due to the sagging public interest in wood gliders in
the 1960’s, NP turned its attention away from gliders and ROGs. They
patented a tail-less “gliding” kite design (“glite”) in 1966 and a wooden
boomerang design in 1968. Both products went into production, but the
company continued to struggle. By the early 1980’s, North Pacific had
ceased operations completely and the company assets had been sold by its
bank to the Comet Model & Supply Co. Comet in turn was purchased by the
Paul K Guillow Company in 1998.