“How does all this feel?” we asked Mark Holt of his wildly-painted personal spaceship, a 2010 Embraer Phenom 100 business jet that combines Star Wars with Star Trek and throws in a motif or two from Back to the Future. “It feels like I left Starship Enterprise in orbit and I’m descending to Earth in a shuttle.” A self-confessed space movie nut, Holt decided to go overboard when he acquired his Phenom, so he called famed airbrush-artist John Stahr, owner of Stahr Design and Artistic Aviation in Eugene, Oregon, and found that he, too, is a space nut. For five months the two egged each other on with ever-wilder ideas until Holt said “Enough. Let’s paint the thing.”
Holt bought his Phenom 100 so he could travel faster and because it has one engine more than his TBM700. “But this paint job has added an hour to every fuel stop,” he jokes. “People just go nuts over it,” as indeed they are here at Oshkosh.
The airplane was delivered to Flying Colors Aviation, based at Southwest Michigan Regional Airport, Benton Harbor, Michigan, for prep work and basic paint. Then John Starr arrived with his airbrush, and the five-week transformation into a starship began. Illusionary systems were painted on; trompe l’oeil rivets appeared where there had been none before. Even the N-number is riveted on!
United Federation of Planets
There’s even a gaping battle wound painted on the belly of the aircraft—a phaser strike. “Couldn’t that have been a meteor that did it? Holt asked Stahr. “No,” he replied. “A meteor would have gone right through.”
Pratt & Whitney Canada engines get real hot when you push them to warp speed, so hot that the cowlings glow nearly as hot as the metal beneath. At least they do when John Stahr’s airbrush gets to work.
Fake thrusters adorn the tail. Look closely to see which fasteners are real, and which are painted on. The giveaway – the real screw has a Phillips head.
From Dairy to Dilithium
The aircraft was delivered in May, and Holt has brought it to Oshkosh to launch his charitable campaigns. He’s able to do so after selling his Iowa-based dairy company, from which he bought the business jet for his own use.
A Touch of Reality
“This is the pinnacle of my flying career, and I really believe in giving back,” Holt says. He also flies a 1957 deHavilland Beaver and a Cessna 182 on Wipare floats; the TBM700 has been sold, and his Carbon Cub is expected to make way for a roomier ride.
It is Holt’s ideas with the kids that are most intriguing. He believes that even by packing them into his starship and flying them to airshows he can get them involved in aviation. “Perhaps we can do a couple of fly-bys and they can ride down airshow lane waving to the crowds; it will make them performers, heroes for the day.”
Clouds of Fantasy
Holt’s spaceship cools off after another fast and furious adventure to where no man has gone before. Now he’s planning to take others with him.
The intergalactic Embraer Phenom 100 painted in a combination of Star Wars with Star Trek themes by Flying Colors Aviation will be dedicated to providing transport for Veterans Airlift Command and other charitable activities aimed at introducing aviation to children with debilitating disease.
John has led Aviation Week's ShowNews, the best-read daily news magazine of aerospace trade shows, for nearly two decades. His background in business journalism before joining Aviation Week includes stints at Reuters, the American Banker daily banking newspaper and as business news editor at the Milwaukee Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer.