Display

Model citizen: Tinker man turns work into play with model aircraft hobby

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Heyward "Marty" Martin's days are spent working on aircraft. He does it all day long. And when he gets home, the work continues.

On model aircraft, that is.

"I enjoy it," says Mr. Martin, an aircraft mechanic with the 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It's relaxing. This is my sanity."

Mr. Martin rigs the control cables on the KC-135 tanker aircraft, supporting the post-maintenance efforts and pre-test flight support for the aircraft coming out of maintenance at Tinker. It's important work that doesn't stop until the aircrews are satisfied and the aircraft is on its way back to the squadron.

"If they find something wrong, we go out there and support them," he says. "If the flight crew finds a defect, we go out there and fix it."

But Mr. Martin likes to take his work home with him, unwinding by recreating in scale some of the aircraft that he's maintained during his Air Force and civilian career. He got his start watching his brother build cars.

"I used to watch my brother build models," he remembers. "Bless his heart, he had the patience to teach me."

But cutting, gluing and painting scale models can be a challenge, especially for a nine-year-old just starting to learn.

"The first ones were bad," Mr. Martin admits.

But with patience and practice, he got better. After his son spotted a model display at a hobby shop at a local mall, Mr. Martin joined a local modeling club. Through their encouragement, he entered his first model contest in 2003, hosted by the local chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society. He eventually won a national award for his depiction of a KC-135 that exploded during ground pressurization tests after undergoing maintenance at Tinker.

"That was the first time it had left the house," he said. "I never thought they were good enough."

But like any good aircraft mechanic, Mr. Martin is meticulous in his research and attention to detail. It shows in the model of an AC-130 Specter he built for a friend based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., where the real aircraft are based.

"Just the cockpit alone took two weeks," he said. "The simple part was just putting the aircraft together. If I get in one of my moods, I'll get pics of the real thing and try to make is as close as I can. If I can see it, I'll try to do it."

Mr. Martin likes to work on large-scale models or models of large aircraft, saying the larger models allow him to add detail lost on a smaller scale model. Often, he'll have two or three kits on the go at the same time, working on one while waiting for glue or paint to dry on another one.

He also likes to model some of Tinker's more unusual visitors, such as NASA's Boeing 707 Vomit Comet aircraft used for weightless training of astronauts. Mr. Martin's version even includes two "weightless" astronaut trainees floating around the padded interior.

"You try to make it look like what it does in real life," he says.

His models tend to tell a story, such as his diorama depicting a KC-135 undergoing depot maintenance. It is not just a model airplane, he says, but a small-scale representation of the vital work done at Tinker.

"This is one of the most important aircraft in the Air force inventory," Mr. Martin says. "The people out here do an amazing job keeping them going. We've got some aircraft in here from 1957 and '58. These are fifty-year-old aircraft. I worked on one that was built the same year I was born -- 1957 -- and she's still going strong."

Although he has more than 700 models in his collection, there is always a new model in the works. His latest is building a diorama depicting an E-3 AWACS that suffered a collapsed nose gear.

"I think I bit off a bit more than I can chew," he says, "but I'm going to do it."