Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hobbico Bankruptcy

Hobbico, the Champaign, IL company which owns Estes Industries (along with a large number of hobby outfitters), is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and layoffs may begin in April, according to an article on the Champaign News-Gazette website.

I do not know what this means for the future of Estes (though I have read a lot of speculation online), but I am quite concerned. One line in the article in particular has me worried:
Hobbico “has determined that it may be necessary in the near future to permanently close and discontinue all of its operations in connection with a bankruptcy case to be filed under chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code,” wrote human resources Director Howard Salazar in a letter dated Wednesday obtained by The News-Gazette.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not necessarily mean going out of business, but it may mean that Hobbico will have to sell off what it can. And though those of us in this hobby love Estes, in today's climate where this is rather an underground hobby, who will buy a model rocket company? 

Somebody, I hope! This is not the first time Estes has been up for auction. But nothing is guaranteed in this world. There are other model rocket companies, but as of right now there are no other low power model rocket motor manufacturers, and that's key.

Estes isn't really in the model rocket kit business - it's in the model rocket motor business. The kits are what they make so we'll have something to burn motors in. That's how they make money, and it's why we need them.

There are other model rocket kit companies, and you can always design your own and build from scratch. And, of course, there are AeroTech and Cesaroni composite motors - most of them mid and high power, but a few smaller ones. Once AeroTech/Quest come out with their line of Q-Jet composite motors, you'll have something low power to fly your standard 18mm model rocket kits on.

But without small, easy-to-use black powder model rocket motors, I worry for the future of this hobby. BP motors are cheap, and simple enough for kids to use without too much fiddling. And you've got to keep getting kids into this hobby if you want it to remain strong and not die out.

I'm usually pretty skeptical when I see people in online forums claiming the sky is falling after seeing a news article about something negative happening in model rocketry. Whenever there's an incident or accident, someone always claims that this is the end, folks. And it never has been so far.

But guys, I just got into this thing a few years ago, and it means so much to me! So this is one news story which actually has me rather worried.

So, let's all hope for the best, and maybe pool our money...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go check my PowerBall ticket, to see if I can afford to buy a model rocket company.

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  1. Yes, production of Estes BP motors is the main worry. Have not heard much lately about the AT Q-jets, so not too confident there. The BP motor production is still done in the US I think so it has value to a buyer like AT/Quest if it goes that far.

    Good luck with your lottery ticket!

  2. Considering how solvent Estes traditionally has been this would be a tragic demise. Cox dissolves into Estes, Estes dissolves into Hobbico.. the whole lot decomposes.

    Welcome to the 21st century I guess.

    I've been in the hobby since '74 and when has there not always been a company promising the next best thing in the motor arena. The one format that has been eternal is the affordable BP hobby motor. Without the foundation of the hobby.. I shudder to think of the mod-roc future.

  3. SCR currently sells low power motors with their own label. Don't know if they're rebadged Estes, but the performance of their c6-5 was significantly different (flight test with altimeter on the same model). They can be ordered at,I don't know if they're available elsewhere.

  4. I should hope that the high-profile Space X launches and the publicity around Tessla and Bowie orbiting the sun would stimulate some interest. Also, we can help sew the seeds for the next generation of Model Rocketry by helping to PROMOTE events like "Yuri's Night" in April, and take bulk packs of SIMPLE model rockets to sell AT COST to families and kids who show up at such events. Slipping a card or flier inviting them to the next club launch can encourage them to build the rocket kit as a family and then attend for an hour or two to see it fly for themselves! Plus, sponsoring showings of "Rocket Boys" or "October Sky" in schools and public events like Saturday morning cinema events, can also work to our advantage.