For Joe Bok, The Aviator Project, which started with the construction of the worlds largest flyable model airplane, the Hughes XF-11 reconnaissance plane, suddenly took on greater proportions after "The Aviator's" visual effects team lost their full-scale replica of the Hughes Racer following a crash that destroyed the plane and took the owner's life.
Now, filming believable flying sequences of Howard Hughes' H-1 Racer would be very difficult if left to CG and static models shot in front of a green screen. For his Academy Award Winning film, The Aviator, Martin Scorsese contacted Joe Bok, a FAA licensed pilot, and his engineering team at Aero Telemetry to design, build, and fly the world’s largest flyable model of the Hughes H1 Racer airplane. At that time, Joe Bok's team was already heavily involved with the design of two of the other airplanes being readied for film flights. When completed, these 2 other principal airplanes used for filming the flying sequences for The Aviator, would be world record setting Unmannned Air Vehicles (UAV) in terms of size, type, class, and category. They were the Hughes XF-11 and the Spruce Goose or Hughes Flying Boat.
In addition to the Hughes H1 Racer, the primary scale models being built for The Aviator movie were Howard Hughes' XF-11, which Hughes crashed, and the Hughes H-4 Hercules or Spruce Goose. Both of these airplanes would be designed and fabricated over a period of 3 months exclusively by Joe Bok and his Aero Design team. The monster-scale drones would require many custom built components and castings, all of which were fabricated in house. At the time, these airplanes would be the worlds largest (unmanned) flyable scale aircraft ever built for a movie.
The compressed time schedule necessitated the use of many aluminum and carbon fiber composite structures, castings and components, all built by Aero Telemetry specifically for the H-1 project. In addition, a suitable engine and propeller combination would have to be sourced, obtained, and tested almost overnight to accommodate the ridiculous original 3-week schedule. This engine would have to be powerful enough to propel the heavy airplane to speeds fast enough to simulate the world record speed set by the real Hughes Racer. Complicating the project further was the fact that the team had to design and manufacture from scratch a high-pressure hydraulic system to actuate the retractable landing gear. Lastly, the radio electronics equipment for the command and control systems on the airplane had to be upgraded to near military standards to allow safe control of the vehicle at the extended range and speeds that aircraft had to operate at.
WINGSPAN: approximately 16 feet
LENGTH: approximately 13.5 feet
WEIGHT: approximately 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 and 17th, 2003
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.
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