Photos Courtesy of Joe Shepherd
When Joe Shepherd of Fayetteville, Ga., traded a Cessna 195 for a Lockheed 12A Electra Junior in 1988, he never thought that he’d spend the next 18 years restoring the airplane. He certainly never expected to find himself sweating in its cockpit on a hot summer day, wearing a wig and scarf intended to make him look—from a distance—like Amelia Earhart.
Or maybe it was Hilary Swank that Shepherd was supposed to resemble. She stars as aviatrix Amelia Earhart in the movie Amelia, about the pilot who disappeared over the Pacific during an attempted around-the-world flight in 1937. The film, directed by Mira Nair, opens in theaters on Friday, Oct. 23. You can meet Shepherd and see his lovingly restored Lockheed at AOPA Aviation Summit in Tampa, Fla., Nov. 5 through 7.
A Canadian pilot landed Shepherd and his airplane in the movie. When Peter Ramm bought a Lockheed 12, Shepherd checked him out in the twin-engine taildragger. Ramm was asked to participate in the movie but his Lockheed was under restoration. “He asked if I’d be interested in using my airplane in the movie,” Shepherd said. Earhart flew a Lockheed 10 on her fateful trip, but the movie’s producers couldn’t find one to use—so they chose the similar, but smaller and faster, Lockheed 12.
During the summer of 2008, Shepherd made three trips to Canada for filming. Two weeks were spent in a World War II-era hangar in Toronto, and the flying sequences were filmed in St. Catharines. “When I got up to Canada they painted the airplane up just like Amelia’s Lockheed 10. It was called removable paint—when they were done with it, they put a solution on there and hosed it right off. It was movie magic.”
One morning he arrived at the airport and was sent to makeup. “They said, this moustache is going to go. I said, ‘OK’…they paid me for the moustache,” Shepherd said. “They shaved it and put makeup on me, and a scarf, and a wig, and a long leather jacket. I have to tell you, it wasn’t pretty. It’s supposed to give the appearance of a blonde woman flying.”
He spent a steamy day taxiing and flying, and couldn’t get out of the airplane. “We really got hot in there,” Shepherd recalled. The retired airline pilot and proud 40-year AOPA member had never done a movie before. Jay McClure, a friend from Atlanta who also owns a Lockheed 12, flew as co-pilot. “That was a really nice bunch of folks to be around. It was hard work but it was a lot of fun.”
Shepherd is planning to fly his Lockheed to New York for an Oct. 16 promotional appearance with the film’s actors. “We’re getting it polished now,’ he said. Soon after that he’ll head south for AOPA Aviation Summit in Tampa, where the airplane will be displayed at Peter O. Knight Airport.