By Aaron Waldron
Though no official announcement has been made, the Airtronics brand will no longer exist. The news was reported by multiple sources with ties to both the company and its Japanese parent brand, Sanwa Denshi.
No, this is not an April Fool's joke. It's still March 31.
Airtronics was founded by Lee Renaud in 1971, when the former aerospace engineer began selling home-built model airplane kits from his home in Pasadena, CA. In 1982, Lee and his wife, Barbara, sold a share of Airtronics Japanese international manufacturing conglomerate Sanwa, obtaining much-needed financial backing as well as expanding Airtronics' product portfolio to include re-badged radio systems and servos.
Lee Renaud passed away in 1983, and Barbara took command of the company. An Airtronics/Sanwa radio won its first IFMAR World championship in 1985, a total which now stands at 47 after both Spencer Rivkin and Bruno Coelho used the current flagship M12S to win the 2WD and 4WD titles last year in Japan.
The Airtronics brand continued manufacturing airplane kits and selling Sanwa equipment as a family operation in its Irvine, CA headquarters until 2007, when Sanwa approached Global Hobby Distributors to take over sales and service within North America. The agreement between Global and Sanwa is what allegedly ended today.
Sanwa-made products may not totally disappear from the U.S. market, though. At least one high-profile Airtronics driver will be making the switch to represent Sanwa, and it's expected that the products may continue to be sold in the U.S. under the Sanwa name.
UPDATE: 3/31 7:09 PM CT - Global Hobby Distributors' Craig Kaplan issued a response clarifying details of the situation.