Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Edgy Business of Stunt Flying

Mentioned the original Flight of the Phoenix movie in the last post, and it reminded me of the risky business of stunt flying, before computer generated imagery. Pilot Paul Mantz was killed in 1965 during the filming, while doing an "insurance shot." The director had a usable shot in the can but didn't know for sure at the time, and wanted one more shot of the triumphant, edgy takeoff so he could be sure. The crew had built a flyable aircraft out of parts of other planes to portray the Phoenix, but its strength was marginal and the plane broke up after touching down on soft ground. One of the wings pinned Mantz, killing him.

Contrast that with the success in filming the "helicopter bridge" scene in Terminator 2. This snip from my book The God Machine:

During a night-time chase scene, a Bell JetRanger dips down -- bringing its skids nearly to the pavement -- to fly under an overpass. It was director James Cameron's idea. Veteran pilot Chuck Tamburro put his helicopter on wheels and rolled it under the bridge to measure the clearance (five feet above and four feet on each side). He flew the stunt twice at a speed of sixty knots. No special effects were used.

Tamburro told me he just followed the highway stripe and by keeping the skids barely off the pavement, had all the cues he he needed for a safe flight.

Tamburro has a cameo earlier in the movie, when the T-1000 tells a pilot to jump out of a hovering helicopter. That's Tamburro.

1 comment:

  1. My dad is a straight G!!! Best pilot in the business!!!