EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
What started as a father-and-son hobby between Rodger and Brent Hecht with the Muroc Model Masters (MMM) Radio-Controlled Club nearly 20 years ago not only paved a way for a lifetime hobby and a career in the aviation industry, but an interest to take model building to a whole new scale.
That new scale resulted in a 12-foot long T-38 Talon R/C replica that demonstrates the dedication and hard work of a father and son who have a love for all that is aviation.
"I grew up flying out here. After moving out here in 1989, I joined this club right away and flew out here for years where Brent eventually learned," said Rodger, Northrop Grumman low observable technician attached to the 419th Flight Test Squadron.
"I was probably out here every Saturday since the time I was 7 to 18 and I learned how to fly model airplanes out here at the Muroc Model Masters Club," added Brent, Northrop Grumman model technician. "This project started about two years ago when a friend and I decided we wanted to build T-38s we had seen at Edwards. We originally didn't plan on building something this big, but it eventually developed into a big project."
Aside from the length, their T-38 has an 82-inch wingspan, weighs approximately 45 pounds, has two 5-inch electric ducted fans powered by brushless motors and is made of blue foam, carbon fiber, fiber glass, balsa wood and plywood, according to Brent. In addition to this, their T-38 R/C airplane has 10 pounds worth of Lithium Polymer batteries and uses 12 cells for each fan.
"Initially, we had three views we pulled off the internet and had a print shop blow it up to the size we currently have it. We then took the drawings and started building it based off the three views, so there were no plans or instructions." Rodger said. "We then used a hot wire and a bow to get the perfect shape."
"Since there were no instructions, it all had to be hand carved, so it's 100-percent scratch built," added Brent. "I came up with my own airfoils for the wings and tails and had another company make the canopy and decals. For the smaller details, I decided to place a California sectional map and an Edwards patch on the pilots shoulder within the cockpit to give it that additional uniqueness."
After the shape was formed, Brent said the real work began with working out each of the details with the replica, which he said was no quick task.
"I've estimated about 1,000 hours to get to this in the air. It crashed on the first flight because of a power system failure and I had to rebuild the whole thing. I stripped all the paint off because it was too heavy and rebuilt the whole thing while adding some upgrades. For the upgrades, that took three to four months just to fix it," said Brent. "After calculating it, the original build time took about a year, so you can say it was somewhat of a long project. Now, it's got about 30 flights and it has got to the point where we could fly it without having to fix anything."
When asked why Brent decided to build a T-38 over any other Edwards aircraft, he simply credited it to two factors.
"I've always loved T-38s; plus working for Northrop had something to do with it as well. I built a number of F-5s and F-20s, but I've never built a T-38. It's just a nice-looking airplane, especially in the all-white paint scheme. I can only imagine what the real plane flies like," said Brent. "As for the tail number, I picked tail number 559 because there were a lot of photos from the base and as an R/C builder you need good photos to replicate the markings. My friend built one as well, tail number 903. We both chose Edwards tail numbers with the hope of flying them together one day."
After the project was completed, Roger said the partnership was what made the building project all worthwhile.
"It's been a fun project to see it come to fruition and see [Brent's] talents progress. He's definitely got the right career for his skillset. Of this whole thing, I really enjoyed the time that we get to spend together, plus it's really a neat thing to see your son follow in your footsteps," said Rodger. "I definitely recommend this as a great family hobby. Everything I learned building models, I put to use at Northrop and able to apply working out here at Edwards. There's body work, painting, aerodynamic and all these different skills are used in R/C building but at a much smaller scale."
"Brent, for me, is a fine example of a young man who grew up on the Rosamond Dry Lakebed flying model airplanes and then turned that passion into a career. We try to educate people about how important model aviation is not only in the Antelope Valley but at Edwards, because some of the talented folks who go off onto the aviation industry got their start right out here and Brent is a perfect example of why this R/C club has been here for more than 30 years," said Tony Accurso, 412th Maintenance Group base support logistics manager and MMM club vice-president.
For those newcomers or experts, the club holds meetings every second Tuesday of each month in order to inform those who want to inquire about the club, the sport and those who are eventually looking to join.
The Muroc Model Masters is an organization for the dissemination and enjoyment of the hobby and sport of model aircraft fabrication and operation. The MMM is a chartered Academy of Model Aeronautics chapter and operates under the safety regulations and insurance of the AMA. The MMM operates as a private organization on Edwards, under Air Force Instruction 34-223.
For more information about club meetings and membership, visit the Muroc Model Masters website at www.murocmodelmasters.org