The H1 Racer was flown and filmed to simulate the World Speed Record attempt that Howard Hughes made in 1935 at Santa Ana, California.  The 1/2 scale replica would require the use of custom hydraulic retractable main landing gear and heavy use of composite technology would help the team build the plane quickly yet still provide a high degree of strength in the structure. 


Photo courtesy of Miramax films



Howard Hughes built his H1 Racer specifically for speed.  His goal was to break the world speed record of 314 miles per hour.  On Friday, September 13, 1935 Hughes got his chance to do just that.  He took off from Santa Ana Airport in Orange County California and then attempted multiple passes with the crew clocking his speed from the ground below.  He flew for an hour and fifteen minutes until he finally ran the H1 out of fuel.  With the landing gear up Howard Hughes landed the racer in a nearby beet field. Both he and the H1 only  sustained minor damage.


Although he ran out of fuel, Howard Hughes acheived his goal and broke the world speed record by being clocked at 352 miles per hour.



Joe Bok and his engineering design team at Aero Telemetry optimized the aerodynamic profile of the wing, engine thrust-line, CG location, main airfoil angle of attack, incidence angles (between wing and horizontal stabilizer), and vertical stabilizer offset angles of their airplane to allow it to fly safely and realistically for The Aviator's film cameras. These issues were just a few of the critical design criteria addressed and implemented correctly. All these specific details contributed directly to the success and margin of safety exemplified in all the flights of the Aero Telemetry H1 Racer.

In addition to a sophisticated hydraulic actuated retractable landing gear system the H1 Racer used a 360cc, two-stroke, two-cylinder, 30hp engine.  John Keefe and Roger Thornton, the Aero Telemetry Shop Leads, also designed a special exhaust system and modified the carburetor to squeeze more power from it.




Custom hydraulic retractable landing gear were designed and fabricated for the Hughes 1/2 scale flyable model. Due to the compressed schedule, the gear had to designed, tested, and installed in less than 3 weeks.




Aero Telemetry used a 360cc 30 hp, twin cylinder, air-cooled two-stroke engine to power the H1 Racer replica.  John and Roger also fabricated a special exhaust system and modified the carburetor to squeeze more power from it. Due to the weight of the plane, the first engine chosen for the model was entirely too small and had to removed and replaced over the weekend before the airplanes first flight. For the first flight the propeller was a 3-blade, fixed pitch, 48 inch  "Ivo-Prop" Propeller that had to be cut down slightly due to ground clearance issues. It over-ran on the engine during the first flight at El Mirage and although it successfully flew the Hughes H1 Racer it was replaced after the flight with an in-flight adjustable, variable pitch propeller of 48 inches in diameter. This proved to be the perfect fit and the Aero Telemetry H1 Racer really flew like the real one. Fast, loud, big, and beautiful...that was the H1 Racer flown for filming the aerial sequences for the movie The Aviator on November 17th, 2003 by the Aero Telemetry Team.




Click here to see the video of the H1 in flight. The H1's first flight was conducted at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed on Tuesday November 4, 2003. Due to the compressed schedule of the build (less than 3 weeks) several of the flight crew had spent the previous 40+ hours without sleep. They worked around the clock to get the plane ready for a deadline that couldn't be moved.


The Aero Telemetry H-1 Racer was piloted by seasoned pilot Jason Somes. Jason has literally thousands of hours flying both full-scale warbirds and remote control airplanes. He did a spectacular job of piloting the H-1 Racer on its maiden flight at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed. An aft Center of Gravity (CG) and an over-running propeller made the first flight extremely difficult and Jason did a great job flying and landing the plane.


The second set of flights of The Aviator H-1 Racer were on November 17, 2003 in Santa Clarita with Jason Somes at the controls was absolutely spectacular and provided the film cameras with some of the most believable aerial footage ever shot of a movie model.


As a fitting testimony to how amazing the Aero Telemetry flyable models really were, shots of our H1 Racer flying were featured on both of the theatrical and television trailers for the movie in addition to making it into the short clips played during the televised presentation of the 62nd Golden Globe Awards held on January 16th, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California.





WINGSPAN:  16 feet

LENGTH: 13.5 feet

WEIGHT:  350 lbs

ENGINE: 2-cylinder, 2-stroke, modified to 360cc high compression, gear reduction

PROPELLER: 3-blade, carbon fiber adjustable pitch 48 diameter


SPEED: up to 125 mph

ALTITUDE: up to 5,000 feet

RANGE: radio range limited to 5 miles with fuel for about 12 minutes

FLOWN:   November 4th 2003 at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed and November 17th, 2003 at Santa Clarita California Mystery Mesa film Ranch


The H-1 Racer was flown and filmed to simulate the World Speed Record attempt that Howard Hughes had made in 1935 at Santa Ana, California. For the film sequences of Hughes’ record attempt, the Aero Telemetry team tried to recreate something totally amazing. Academy Award winning Visual Effects director, Rob Legato filmed the amazing flight sequences. Joe Bok's H1 Racer piloted by Jason Somes, a veteran warbird pilot, provided the cameras and all those who witnessed the flights that day with some of the most amazing flying sequences ever captured on film.

Click the images below to read articles written about Aero Telemetry's H-1 Racer:

Model Aviation