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The Star Press - Muncie

The Star Press

Stars of the skies

Above:  The Aero Telemetry crew prepares to launch the model of the XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft that Howard Hughes built, flew and nearly died in after World War II.  The firm was hired by mega-director Martin Scorsese to build models for his movie The Aviator.

AMA's 75th anniversary celebration to feature models of some famous planes Taking off Thursday, the four-day event will also feature airshows, demonstrations, contests and flights for kids.

Written by: John Carlson
Date: July 12, 2011
 

MUNCIE -- The skies are coming historically alive this week out at the Academy of Model Aeronautics, where folks will be celebrating the organization's 75th anniversary.

The huge event, which is free, runs Thursday through Sunday at the flying site 5161 E. Memorial Drive.  Joe Bock, a Californian by residence, will be there.

"I think when people see that airplane, they're going to be stunned," said the aeronautical engineer and former University of Southern California Trojans inside linebacker.  "That airplane" is his huge sleek model of late billionaire Howard Hughes' gorgeous race plane, the H1.

By the way, you might have seen it and other examples of Bock's handiwork - plus the handiwork of his firm, Aero Telemetry - in the hit movie The Aviator, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and for which the H1 model was designed in less than eight weeks.

For that movie, Bock and company produced dead-on versions of Hughes' legendary aircraft, also including the XF-11 twin-engine reconnaissance place (remember the endless out-of-control landing scene?) and the mammoth Spruce Goose, at the behest of no less a personage than Hollywood director Martin Scorsese.

"We built those places from photographs and old blueprints," Bock recalled, a little breathlessly.   He added that at some point, the issue of back-up models was raised, the assumption being extras would be needed when the first ones crashed.

Crashed?  Bock rejected the notion outright.  "They worked perfectly," he happily reported of the original models his firm built. 

In preparing for the AMA's 75th gala Bock and company - which specializes in commercially producing sophisticated unmanned air vehicles for filling any number of roles - has been paring weights to meet stringent new AMA guidelines, taking one aircraft from 250 pounds down to half that weight. 

The effort and technology necessary to accomplish this trick emphasize the fact that, folks, these aircrafts aren't toys.

"We've been able to tap into the local talent here at Boeing and Northrop," Bock noted of the help he received from employees of major aircraft manufacturers.  By any measure he promises some jaws will drop at the flying site as folks see what's soaring.

This is at the AMA's request.  "They asked us to come up with something special," he said.

Other highlights of the celebration will include daily airshows, demonstrations, contests, a display from the Central Indiana Soaring Society and Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles flights for kids at nearby Reese Airport. 

Notable folks taking part in the festivities, by the way, will include Bock, Navy pilot/modeler Capt. Tom Huff and another legendary flier and veteran astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson. 

By the way, Bock is an enthusiastic AMA member.  "I've been modeling since the '90s," he said, noting his work for The Aviator "was pretty much the culmination of my whole career."  Considering he's been an engineer and successful businessman, as well as a modeler, that's saying something.

Another important point:  He might be a skilled modeler, be he hired even more skilled model pilots to put that amazing H1 through its paces in the air.  "I was too nervous to take the controls," he said with a laugh.

Article reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011.