McGrath runs model plane business


McGrath shows off the streamlined and consistent Loose Change kit, which is available for sale in his shop. “A typical rule is to have the plane fly for two minutes for a number of times throughout the day. If you can get a two minute flight, that’s impressive for a rubber powered model,” McGrath said. “Because it can’t be done just with the motor, you have to catch a thermal, which can be so powerful it can cause your plane to fly away, so we need a way to get models out of the sky.”

Anthony Steffens, Ranger Review Reporter

Math teacher John McGrath runs Laser-Cut Planes, a business where he designs, makes and sells model plane kits online based on a lifelong hobby. He came into aero-modeling at a young age and has participated for his whole life.

“I was six or eight years old when I started building model airplanes. I had an uncle growing up who was into model building. In the summertime we’d control light planes on the ends of strings, bringing me into the hobby,” McGrath said. “All the way through school, high school, college and post college, I have been into model aviation in one form or another.”

McGrath was prompted to start his business by noticing that students rarely had successful flights with model planes in a science olympiad event. He saw a need in his community and decided to fill it using his specialized skills.

“About 15 or 17 years ago, I realized that students in an event called The Wright Stuff had difficulties succeeding unless they knew a bona fide model builder at a high level,” McGrath said. “I thought that was an opportunity to serve that population better so I developed a line of kits that were able to be built by students of average talent who may not have ever made a model airplane before.”

The models and business remained receptive to change in order to better serve students and other enthusiasts. The business also offers a small compensation, even though it isn’t run for profit.

“Each year with the science olympiad rule changes I address them in the form of a kit, which is designed to be simple and comprehensive,” McGrath said. “Since then, I’ve branched out into different types of planes and different events, but kits mostly run for around 18 to 22 dollars. It’s been a nice little side hustle for me for a number of years.”

The business that McGrath runs took a lot of financial risk and uncertainty to pursue his passion in the form of a small business. His preferred division of the hobby requires precise design and execution to be effective.

“The corner of model aviation that I specialize in is free flight, where we launch planes, either indoors or outdoors and we time them. The winner is the one who keeps it in the air the longest,” McGrath said. “My business took a big initial investment because I had to purchase a laser cutter. In the end I recouped my money so it’s been a nice little supplement to my teacher pay ever since.”

McGrath understands the commitment and sacrifice required to run a business but still considers it a personal pastime. He plans to continue the hobby for years in the future.

“Model aircraft designing and flying is my lifelong hobby. I’m not getting rich from it but it’s something I can do when I retire that I enjoy doing. I admit that late at night when I have to go down to the shop and cut wood that gets old, so there is an obligation involved,” McGrath said. “Overall, it’s not a huge hobby, but it’s pretty well served and is something that I’ll likely do for the rest of my life.”