Al Martin came from a woodworking family. “My whole family was pretty much a woodworking family. Dad was a good woodworker. I’ve got two brothers; their hobbies are woodworking…. When I was a young man, I could do most anything with a piece of wood.” It should come as no surprise then, that when Al retired from a 33-year career as an aeronautical engineer at Vought, he took up woodworking as his hobby. He didn’t want to do the same things he did as a kid – he wanted to be different. According to Al, “I needed to do something unique, so I came up with the idea that I could mix a little art here with technical correctness and come out with something unique.”
What Al Martin created were four of the most detailed, functionally-accurate wooden airplane sculptures imaginable.
The individual sculptures took years to create as Al faithfully built the aircraft in 1:24 scale from plans of his own making. A couple of the aircraft were Vought products that he was intimately knowledgeable about, having helped design the real thing as an engineer. Al built a Ryan ST, a Curtiss Hawk, an F4U Corsair, and a F-8 Crusader out of American black walnut. Each aircraft features markings inlaid with American ash.
Al built the sculptures for his own enjoyment; not many people knew about his artwork. That changed when Mike Amis, Charles Johnson, and others from the Armchair Aviators group visited his home. Impressed by Al’s artwork, they reached out to the Frontiers of Flight Museum about the Martin collection. Al generously donated his collection to the Museum prior to his passing earlier this year. The Museum is grateful for the efforts of the Armchair Aviators and Al’s daughter, Karen McGrael, for their assistance.
We are pleased that Al’s woodworking masterpieces can now be viewed by the general public. The sculptures are on display on the second floor near the Love Field gallery.