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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

Old 19th Mar 2018, 20:13
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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

Down route a while ago in my hotel room I found myself watching (once again) The film Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines which was made in 1964. I have always been interested in the making of this film. I understand some aircraft were originals, some were made for the film and some contraptions were doubtless incapable of flight and only "flew" due to cranes and wires that were not visible. Apparently there were 6 planes that actually flew and they were flown by 6 pilots I thought I might ask a few questions as although I have trawled the internet I have not found the answers.

I believe one aircraft landed on the Long Walk that leads up to Windsor Castle. I very much doubt anyone could jump through the hoops required to get approval to do that these days. Was it really the Long Walk or just somewhere else made to look like it? I know that what was meant to be Brooklands was actually Booker.

Does anyone know if there were any (unintentional) aviation accidents or incidents during the filming?

My favourite aircraft was the Demoiselle flown by Joan Hughes. Did that continue to fly after the film came out or did it only fly during the filming?

It’s a remarkable film considering it was done without trick photography. I suppose any similar film these days would fall foul of health and safety regulations, need hi viz jackets and would not get CAA approval ? Also much of it would be considered racist, politically incorrect . “There is nothing a German officer cannot do” etc. The film is another example of something that could be done in the 60’s but probably could not be done now. I am sure anyone involved n the making of the film would be quite elderly now and it would be a shame if any really interesting snippets, locations and anecdotes about the making of the film and the flying never come to light. So anyone’s experiences would be welcome. ( I have seen all the interviews of certain cast members and the director on Youtube.)
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Old 19th Mar 2018, 21:02
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I learned to fly at Thruxton in 1964, but after the filming. I heard stories at the bar, but have no recollections. There were some kids around who should still be alive - I was 23.
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Old 19th Mar 2018, 21:14
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There is much interesting information and detail about the building of and the operation of the A/C used during the filming in the book - Building Aeroplanes for Those Magnificent Men by Air Commodore Allen Wheeler.

There is also a chapter about flying 'Those Magnificent Men' A/C in Delta Papa by Derek Piggott.

Great film which we watch occasionally
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Old 19th Mar 2018, 21:18
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Agree with Longer Ron, both books are well worth seeking out. Derek Piggott is still around! Tony Bianchi was probably involved with those replicas built by PPS.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 06:24
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The Demoiselle was in Melbourne Australia I think for the premier of the film.

My father an Ansett Captain at the time and 6ft 1 was In the middle of a conversion course and as the aircraft was in the Ansett Hangar tried his luck and got into it. Much to his consternation couldn't get out without much assistance and mirth from his fellow pilots.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 07:40
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I've read that book on the making of the film and thoroughly recommend it. On the Demoiselle; from what I remember of the book it could only commit aviation with one very light female pilot (was it Anne Welch, or did my memory make that up?). All of the male pilots were too heavy and couldn't persuade it to lift off!

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Old 20th Mar 2018, 08:44
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(was it Anne Welch, or did my memory make that up?).
I believe that it was Joan Hughes, as stated by draglift (she was the CFI at Booker at the time).
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 08:54
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The director Ken Annakin said that Joan Hughes was great and that the best pilot had been a cropduster in Rhodesia. I was amused that he said the worst pilot and the one they were always having a bit of trouble with had flown Comets. As 1964 was just before Dan Air acquired Comets this would imply he was a BOAC pilot.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 08:58
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I believe that many were originals belonging to The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden

Shuttleworth | The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, the Swiss Garden - a great visitor attraction!
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 09:31
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I should be able to answer the question as I was actually in the film!

However I was very young at the time and didn’t take much notice...
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 09:54
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Originally Posted by draglift View Post
Down route a while ago in my hotel room I found myself watching (once again) The film Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines which was made in 1964. I have always been interested in the making of this film. I understand some aircraft were originals, some were made for the film and some contraptions were doubtless incapable of flight and only "flew" due to cranes and wires that were not visible. Apparently there were 6 planes that actually flew and they were flown by 6 pilots I thought I might ask a few questions as although I have trawled the internet I have not found the answers.

I believe one aircraft landed on the Long Walk that leads up to Windsor Castle. I very much doubt anyone could jump through the hoops required to get approval to do that these days. Was it really the Long Walk or just somewhere else made to look like it? I know that what was meant to be Brooklands was actually Booker.

Does anyone know if there were any (unintentional) aviation accidents or incidents during the filming?

My favourite aircraft was the Demoiselle flown by Joan Hughes. Did that continue to fly after the film came out or did it only fly during the filming?

It’s a remarkable film considering it was done without trick photography. I suppose any similar film these days would fall foul of health and safety regulations, need hi viz jackets and would not get CAA approval ? Also much of it would be considered racist, politically incorrect . “There is nothing a German officer cannot do” etc. The film is another example of something that could be done in the 60’s but probably could not be done now. I am sure anyone involved n the making of the film would be quite elderly now and it would be a shame if any really interesting snippets, locations and anecdotes about the making of the film and the flying never come to light. So anyone’s experiences would be welcome. ( I have seen all the interviews of certain cast members and the director on Youtube.)
Don't think 'The Long Walk' in Windsor Great Park was used, it's too undulating; I always thought they had used somewhere like 'Wimpole Hall' near Cambridge.
Much of the flying was done at Booker. My brother worked at a factory just down the road at the time and he told me the set of Brookley/Brooklands (including the sh1t works) was on the north side where the clay shooting range is now.
The Boxkite was another which was underpowered using I think a VW engine which was 'cowelled in' to disguise it and hence causing overheating problems. On one occasion transitting from Old Warden back to Booker, it failed to gain enough height to cross the Chiltern Hills and had to lob into Halton to allow the engine to cool down (story told to me by the late 'Honey Monster' who was a staff cadet on 613 GS at the time)
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 09:56
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Originally Posted by draglift View Post
The director Ken Annakin said that Joan Hughes was great and that the best pilot had been a cropduster in Rhodesia. I was amused that he said the worst pilot and the one they were always having a bit of trouble with had flown Comets. As 1964 was just before Dan Air acquired Comets this would imply he was a BOAC pilot.
Or a BEA one or possibly ex RAF.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 10:00
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All the aircraft that flew in the film were replicas built by Personal Plane Services at White Waltham/Booker, The Hampshire Aeroplane Club at Southampton, Hants and Sussex Aviation at Portsmouth, or Miles at Shoreham. Can't think of any other companies involved.

Shuttleworth's Blackburn Monoplane certainly appeared in the film but didn't fly.

Pilots included Derek Piggott, Tim Clutterbuck, Joan Hughes, Peter Hillwood, David Watson and Allen Wheeler.

Might watch it again later, mmmm, Irina Demick...


Edit: Tim Clutterbuck may have been the crop duster, looks like he flew helicopters for Autair.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 10:13
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Memory is failing on the details but two of the aircraft were brought to Cranfield after the filming was completed. I thought that one was the Boxkite and the other was the Avro triplane. They were flown in by the Chief Pilot of Cranfield Aeronautical College who was allowed to fly them while they were there.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 10:37
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One bit of filming that wasn't at Booker was the sequence where an aeroplane landed on a train to be further smashed by a tunnel. That was filmed on the Bedford-Hitchin railway which passes Cardington to the tunnel known either as Southill or Old Warden Tunnel.
There was a problem with matching the (pre-crash) speeds, as I recall.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 10:47
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Joan Hughes told us that Gert Frobe strutting around doing that marching band impersonation wasn't in the original script. He did it to amuse people between takes, and the producers were so impressed that they wrote it in.

I started flying at Booker in 1967 and I think caution was advised in the north west corner of the airfield, due to a certain residual sogginess from the 'sewage farm.'
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 12:52
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
The Boxkite was another which was underpowered using I think a VW engine which was 'cowelled in' to disguise it and hence causing overheating problems.
Again, from memory of reading the loaned book (which I must try and get a copy of, but the current prices are excessive) - IIRC the replica aircraft were powered with 100bhp Continental 0-200 engines, and they initially had major concerns about over-powering and so made provision for throttle restrictors.

But when they got to flight testing they found they needed all the available power - the modern engines developed their power at much higher rpm than the edwardian-era ones, and so they turned muuch smaller props. These props just didn't develop the thrust at low airspeeds needed to overcome the very high drag of these airframes.

The very low airspeeds also provided much lower airflow over the cylinders, and that led to overheating. Various tricks were used to reduce the overheating, but the final cure was to simply drill out the jets in the carbs and run the engines very rich to fuel-cool them (a much-used technique in motorbike, kart and smaller single-seat car racing). This must have made them prone to intake icing, but I don't know what they did to address that.

My apologies to Joan - once said the memory clicked into place!

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Old 20th Mar 2018, 13:59
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Dug out my copy:

Demoiselle: 30hp VW Ardam, changed to 50hp Ardam and longer wings (and lighter pilot!)

Avro Triplane: 90hp Cirrus II

Antoinette: Gipsy I.

Eardley-Billing and Bristol Boxkite: both had a 65hp RR Continental A.65, later changed to 90hp C.90.

Vickers 22: 30hp JAP, later changed to a 75hp Continental A.75
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 15:46
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Doug Bianci told me that the wings on the Demoiselle were from a Tiger Moth, and that the aircraft was fine when flown at White Waltham (Bert Goodchild perhaps?) but at the elevation of Booker it was a problem. That is when petite Joan Hughes was called upon. I believe that Harald Best Devereux was also involved in one of the replicas.
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 16:09
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Don't think it's a Tiger Moth wing section

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