WILLIAM T. THOMAS
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       with the locals and tourists alike. There were four other model midget car tracks in Florida and the car owners would visit each other's tracks to participate in racing.
     With his many model planes and cars, Bill Jr. won numerous contests all around the state and set some world speed records. Thomas Sr. was elected president of the Daytona Model Plane and Car Club, and he hosted the meetings at his home. He opened up his workshop to the local model plane and car enthusiasts and gave help to anyone needing it. He served as an official at the model airplane contests and was a district vice president of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
     As a note to his enthusiasm for things that flew, Thomas Sr. was also a student of entomology (the study of insects). He concentrated mainly on butterflies and moths. He had an extensive collection that was mounted in elaborate showcases located in a dedicated room in his house. He collected many of his specimens during trips to Argentina to visit his brother.
Thomas was a member of The Early Birds of Aviation. The membership of this legendary aviation group was limited to those who made a solo flight in a glider, airplane or gas balloon prior to December 17, 1916. In 1958, a Fly-In was held at the DeLand Airport to honor some of these early pioneers of flight.. Thomas attended the event and enjoyed the opportunity to associate with some of his fellow colleagues. The last surviving Early Bird passed away in 1998.
     In 1960, Thomas and Bill Jr. built one of the first experimental working models of a Wankel Rotary engine to be run successfully in this country. This radical concept of an internal combustion engine was invented by a German engineer, Dr. Felix Wankel. The main component in this unique engine is a continuously rotating triangular rotor instead of using a conventional piston.
This writer was one of those boys who grew up in Daytona during the 1940s and early 1950s. This was a time that building and flying model airplanes was one of the most popular hobbies in the country. We kids affectionately referred to William Thomas Sr. as "Mr. T." He was always friendly to us and was never too busy to encourage us and give us advice and help with our models. All of us have fond memories of this less heralded but deserving of recognition, early aviation pioneer and long-time resident of Daytona.
 
 
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