November 5, 2009
When the filmmakers at Fox Searchlight needed a Lockheed Electra for their movie about Amelia Earhart, it took only a couple of phone calls to lead them to Joe Shepherd, a retired airline pilot with a beauty of an Electra gleaming in his custom-built hangar in Fayatteville, Ga. "There were 130 of these that were built, and 23 now on the registry," he said on Wednesday, as he rested in the shade beneath a shiny wing at AOPA Summit's flight line, at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. Of those 23, as far he knows, about a dozen are flying, and maybe five have been brought up to prime condition like his. He spent about 20 hours flying it for the Amelia movie, which opened in theaters on Oct. 23. "We worked long hours, dawn till dark," he said. "It was an incredible amount of work, but we had a wonderful time."
Shepherd acquired the Electra back in 1988, and has been working on it, along with a contingent of friends and relatives, ever since. It had been neglected when he bought it, and he got it flying for the trip home, but then decided it needed a thorough overhaul. One thing led to another, and 18 years later, it flew again. Since then, he's logged about 200 hours of flying, and many hundreds more in polishing. Click here to visit his Web site with more about the Electra.