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The B.R.A. Goes to the Movies:

Autogiros/Gyroplanes In Film Imagery - part II

by Dr. Bruce H. Charnov

Following his famous performance in You Only Live Twice, Wallis autogyros were also featured in two separate episodes of The Martian Chronicles,27 filmed in

1978 and 1979 on Malta and Island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Wallis' autogyro, his first two-seater, a WA-116 T/ Mc (G-AXAS) with "Zeus III" on its tail, also served as a camera platform to film the volcanic landscape that served as Mars for the production. And if the exploits of "Little Nellie" gained world-wide attention, the cinematic feats of Finland's Jukka Tervamäki and Aulis Eerola the following year remain largely and undeservedly obscure.

story has been recounted several times31, this film has only been shown in theaters a few times since its initial television presentation. In the UK, the 1974 Planet of the Spiders episode of the long-running English Dr. WHO science fiction television series is not my favourite (I prefer the Tom Baker years to Jon Pertwee), but does feature some superb footage of a Campbell Super Cricket autogyro, which had originally been flown by John Kitchen. The Campbell is flown by one of the heroes in the course of thwarting an invasion of Earth by, nasty, sentient spiders and the flying scenes are quite good. But the story of the cinematic career of this marvellous machine didn't end in 1974. Falling into a state of disrepair, it was restored as part of the contemporary English television series Salvage Squad, a story that its creator Peter Lovegrove has lovingly chronicled. 32 In the 1981 a two-place custom gyroplane appeared in the Australian sequel to the 1980 Australian international hit movie that introduced Mel Gibson as the post-apocalyptic hero "Mad Max". In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in which the "Gyro Captain" emerged as the hero by the end of the movie, some of the most exciting action scenes are filmed of and from a two-seat gyrocopter powered by a Subaru engine and manufactured in Sydney.33 The movie was filmed in Broken Hill, a famous mining town in Central Australia utilizing the gyroplane manufactured by Tim McClure, the "local speedway champion ... [who] recognized the

Our hero, the "Gyro Captain" played by Bruce Spence []

While Ken Wallis was saving the world in "Little Nellie" in 1967, the single-seat ATE-3 (OH-XYV)28 designed and constructed by Tervamäki, Finland's innovative ultimately influential autogyro designer 29 and skilled helicopter mechanic Eerola and had a flying role in the 1969 Finnish film Leikkikalugansteri (Toy Gangster) with Spede Pasanen and Ere Kokkonen, a local `screw-ball comedy' that is, at best, an acquired taste not unlike raw herring. Although both inventors flew for the movie, Eerola did most of the flying which shows off the autogyro's abilities but clearly lacks the production values, stunning photography, scenery, thrill and world-saving rush of James Bond! This film is occasionally available in video stores in Finland. In the 1972 New Television Workshop movie production of "Between Time and Timbuktu", loosely based on a collection of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. short stories,30 there are two gyroplanes ­ one, a B-8M (N3891) Gyrocopter is flown by Ron Menzie and the other was an Air&Space 18A flown by John Potter. Menzie's Bensen B-8M was called the "Road Runner" but by August 1978 had been renamed the "Arkansas Traveler". Long thought to have vanished, this made-for-film is only available in the NTW-WGBH archives in Boston, MA and there is a copy that can be viewed in the Museum of Television and Broadcasting in New York City. And while Hitchcock had previously in the 1935 film The 39 Steps had the police employing the rotarywing aircraft, here it must have seemed ironic that the 18-A was supposedly flown by the police officials of an authoritarian state, given that the federal authorities of the SEC had previously put Air & Space out of business for allegedly improper financial practices. And while that

(Continued on page 17)

In case you are interested, the tail decal is from `Playboy', Miss January 1981: Karen Price - Ed.


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potential if these machines."34 The open cockpit sideby-side gyroplane was appropriately rugged to represent the kind of aircraft that would survive the collapse of civilization that characterized the world of Max Max and it performed with a gritty realism. The film is occasionally shown, has attracted a devoted following and is well worth seeking out for its production values and the integral role played by the gyroplane. In the following year, however, Marion Springer, the first female gyro CFI, flew her white "Born Free" (N2066) while her husband Alden "Docko" Springer flew his Bensen/Brock model (N2293) in The Great Skycopter Rescue. While this 1981 movie has the most flying scenes (and great formation flying by the Springers) of any on the list, the close-up shots and dialogue were certainly done when Marion was absent ­ the pilot/designer advises his friend that you can fly while drinking and without a seatbelt! Marion, also various called "The Queen of the Gyros" and "The Gyro-Flying Grandmother," recently published her biography Born Free: My Life in Gyrocopters, in which she describes this eminently forgettable,35 rarely-shown movie: Docko and I did some side-by-side gyro flying, but in our separate gyros, in a low budget movie called The Great Skycopter Rescue. The movie was about the good guys saving the town from the bad guys. Gyro pilots and ultralight pilots were the good guys. A game of rough looking motorcycle riders was the bad guys... I think my worst moment was when, during the filming, the actor pilot, Will, was showing his buddy the gyro he was building. My gyro was the one being used in the scene. My blades were lying on the ground of the movie `workshop.' I watched in horror as Will accidentally stepped on a rotor blade! It was all I could do to keep from jumping up and yelling, "CUT!" 36

eccentric inventor (the Autogiro has a sign on its side proclaiming "Jake's Flying Service" although the astute viewer will also see "Miss Champion" written on the fuselage). The PCA-2 also furnished the model in The Rocketeer, which based on the 1982 comic book created by Dave Stevens. A tale of "daredevil pilots in the Los Angeles of 1938", it was partially filmed37 at the Ken Brock hanger at El Mirage, CA. In the action-packed finale, the hero and his girlfriend are rescued from a burning Nazi blimp by an Autogiro flown by the legendary aviator/ industrialist/film maker Howard Hughes. In the 1991 which presents original "story boards", it is clear that the Autogiro was modelled on "Miss Champion." However, in the 1989 Rocketeer Adventure Magazine the Autogiro is clearly labelled "Missing Link", the PCA-2 (NC10781) flown by Johnny Miller in the first transcontinental flight in May of 1931. This movie is readily available as it evidenced Disney production values, credible dialogue delivered by convincing actors, and an art-deco look that was at once stylish and effective.38 Originally intending to film "Miss Champion" in flight, safety concerns (and presumably insurance costs) forced the movie makers to accomplish the aerial daring-do by means of an optical composite that was a combination of special effects "blue screen" photography and use of a eighth-scale Autogiro. 39 The Mängoos "Stealth Gyro" appeared in the 1992 Andy Sidaris soft core movie Hard Hunted. 40 It featured a unique black militarylooking creation of Richard Bentley, the Mängoos, which was a twopassenger cabin gyroplane with a dark black fabriccovered body attached to a chromium-molybdenum alloy steel frame. Begun in January of 1990, it was a unique design and the tooling for producing kits had been constructed at the same time as the prototype, which was completed on July 12th of that year. The fullyenclosed cockpit, a tandem arrangement that allowed for both two passengers and an extremely narrow, aerodynamic compound fuselage, featured opaque tinted plexiglass windshields and side windows that helped the all black aircraft achieve "the sophisticated looks of a high tech military gunship."41 The aircraft featured a pair of short rear wings sweeping back from the fuselage in back of the landing gear, one on top of

(Continued on page 18)

Rocketeer Official Souvenir Magazine,


perhaps less-deserved obscurity. There, Steve Pitcairn, son of American Autogiro innovator/ inventor Harold F. Pitcairn, flies the 1932 PCA-2 "Miss Champion" (NC11609) in this otherwise eminently forgettable story of a `decent cast is trapped in another musical rehashing' of this childrens' tale of the adventures of Astrid Lindgren's precocious redheaded heroine. While the photography of "Miss Champion" is impressive, with crisp close-ups, the aircraft is shown hovering during an improbable rescue of Pippi and her friends by the Autogiro pilot, a local

The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking has also achieved a

In a similar manner, the 1988 film

see also: current news of "Miss Champion" on page 12 - Ed


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(Continued from page 17)

the other but attached to common vertical fins on either side, allowing the claim that the model had "the most horizontal surface of any gyroplane." Bentley claimed a top speed in excess of 100 mph, cruising at 80 mph and outstanding performance, and the model had received a favourable reception at the 28th International PRA FlyIn/Convention held at Hearne, TX July 20 ­ 23, 1990 where Bentley had won the award for Outstanding New Design.

There is also an animated autogyro of futuristic design in the 2002 Japanese anime feature The Castle of Cagliostro. It is available at video stores that sell anime and the model of the Cagliostro Autogyro plastic model kit should also currently be available at science fiction model stores (such as NYC's Forbidden Planet). In the non-commercial market A u t o g ir o / a u to g y r o f il m s continue to surface. Recently a 12-minute professionally-done film from 1966 of the flight of the Skyway Engineering AC-35 Autogiro came to light, and the History Channel specials often contain significant and rare film footage. For example, for historic Autogiros see Modern Marvels ­ Helicopters and Weapons At War ­ Helicopters, and for extremely rare footage of the Haftner "Rotabuggy" (also known as Malcolm `Rotaplane') being towed in flight, see The Big Rigs of Combat ­ Jeeps, all of which are readily available. The EAA Aviation Center ( sells Legacy of Wings: Pitcairn Story, which is probably the single most significant video resource for historic footage of Pitcairn Autogiros, while Traditions Military Videos (www. sells as part of its WWII "Hard to Find Military Video" collection Army-Air Force Newsreels 1941 which includes two one-minute segments showing the Pitcairn PA-36 direct control Autogiro making jump takeoffs. Additionally, some commercially done collections dealing with general aviation often contain valuable and informative autogyro footage. See, for example, Secrets of Speed - Super Planes and HighTech Flying Machines, a 1990 Discovery Collector's Edition VHS video that has superb film of Jerry Eastman's Wind Ryder42 and the EAA Aviation Foundation Fascination With Flight... Flying For the Sheer Joy of It that has a segment with famed autogyro pilot Ken Brock. Virtually every manufacturer has a demo video available for those considering purchasing an aircraft, and often visits to company websites yields video clips that can be downloaded ­ see, e.g., www. (Carter Aviation Technologies) and (Groen Brothers Aviation) for film

Bentley Mangoos N7143K

Bentley subsequently perished when the Mängoos came apart in the air in late 1991 after the film had been completed. Gary Goldsberry, witness to the crash in Las Vegas, NV, related that the engine mounts in the Mängoos had failed and the engine swung forward, and that Bentley and his passenger were each struck fatally by the prop. Thus the Mängoos passed from view ­ no one ever picked up on its development, although a second model, as confirmed in a letter to this author from Groen Brothers Aviation chief test pilot Jim Mayfield, was constructed and placed into storage after the accident. In the movie the Mängoos is flown by one of the villains and it mimics the Wallis footage from the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice with machine guns and rockets. And while, as any Andy Sidaris movie, the screen is filled with it his signature "babes, bombs and bullets" as the "bikini-clad babes toting massive firepower" confront the scheming of the evil "Kane", a performance credit to actor R. J. Moore. This must count as one of the most ironic casting decisions as this villain is actually played by Geoffrey Moore, son of actor Roger Moore who had previously (1975 ­1985) been James Bond! The Mängoos flying scenes are quite well done and, had this movie received wider distribution, might have inspired as the earlier Wallis footage, but the movie, starring Playboy playmates, was never widely seen and a legal dispute apparently kept it from all but the video rental market. The film is dedicated to the memory of Richard Bentley, and the stunning flying scenes are all that remains of the Mängoos and can be obtained directly from the Andy Sidaris website (

[ Hmm... not often we get "bikini-clad babes with guns" in GyroFlight - Ed. ]

Herrick HV-2A Vertaplane


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clips and animations of their gyroplanes. And on a more scholarly note, Roger Connor, Superintendent, Vertical Flight Collection of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution reports that the NASM film archivist has found an interesting selection of old reels buried in the museum's vault. This find consists of eight reels that came from the American gyroplane inventor of the Herrick Vertaplane [HV] whose models flown by Autogiro pioneer George Townson. These films include sequences of: HV-1 testing and first flight (but not the crash); HV-2 including multiple conversions between fixed wing and gyroplane, air-to-air shots, etc; the Cierva C.6D? in flight; the exceptionally rare Rieseler Autogyro (walk around only); the E. Burke Wilford WRK first flights; and film of the Wilford XOZ-1 being tested by the military, including extensive water ops and air-to-air shots. Bruce Charnov

in Lovegrove, Peter Gyroplane Misellavia Volume 5 England: The British Rotorcraft Association 2004 pp. 188 ­ 193 (with an additional comment by Lovegrove on the 18A imported to England by Monny Curzon-Herrick); Darr, David "All of North Carolina Available for $750,000: Imagine How Many Umbaughs We Could Have Sold " Air Progress. Vol. 39 No. 12 December 1977 pp. 16 ­ 19, 66 ­ 69; Charnov, Bruce H. "Umbaugh, Farrington and the 18A Story" published in Rotorcraft. Vol. 42 No. 4 June-July 2004 pp. 15 ­ 18, 23 32 See Lovegrove, Peter "VK Goes Home" AUTOGYRO 1/4ly. Issue 18 August 2003 pp. 22 ­ 23; "I Should Have Left It To `Rust in Peace'" AUTOGYRO 1/4ly. Issue 12+1 July 2002 pp. 18 ­ 23 33 Tom Milton maintains it was a "two-seat Volkswagen gyro that flew with one person and a dummy (for weight reasons) but that is undoubtedly not correct given the account by Australian James Brown. See Milton, Tom "A Gyroplane Movie Trivia Quiz" Rotorcraft. Vol. 34 No. 3 May 1996 p. 39 34 Brown, James "Gyrocopters - The Australian Story" Rotorcraft. Vol. 28 No. 5 August 1990 pp. 20 ­24 35 See the description in Craddock, Jim (ed) VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press 2001 p. 410 36 Springer, Marion Born Free ­ My Life In Gyrocopters. Adelanto, CA: Springer Enterprises 2004 pp. 101 ­ 104 37 Ken Brock states that some of the Rocketeer was filmed at El Mirage in Dan Leslie's video on the El Mirage Fly-In. That video, and Dan's other outstanding efforts for the PRA, collectively the BEST gyro films and have made a uniquely valuable contribution to gyroplanes in film. 38 See an extensive discussion in Vaz, Mark Cotta "Rocket Blast" Cinefex. No. 48 November 1991 pp. 20 ­ 45 including the Autogiro sequences. 39 Vaz, Mark Cotta "Rocket Blast" Cinefex. p. 45 40 See the description in Craddock, Jim (ed) VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press 2001 p. 452 41 For background information and photographs of the Mängoos Gyroplane, see Bentley, Richard "Mängoos `Stealth' Gyroplane" Vol. 29 No. 2 April 1991 cover and pp. 42 ­ 43; for technical details, see "Flow State Design Mangoos (Stealth Gyro)" International AUTOGYRO 1/4ly . Issue 12 April 2002 p. 24 42 For information and photographs of the Wind Ryder, see Rotorcraft. Vol. 27 No. 1 February-March 1989 p. 30; Rotorcraft. Vol. 27 No. 8 December 1989 ­ January 1990 cover and pp. 17 ­ 18; Rotorcraft. Vol. 28 No. 1 February ­ March 1990 p. 34; Rotorcraft. Vol. 31 No. 6 September 1993 pp. 21, 25 (stunning photograph of Jerry Eastman flying over a rural landscape); Popular Mechanics Vol. 165 No. 11 November 1988 cover.

You might like to see this website: this site also has some interesting documents for downloading - Ed.

Bruce with his wife, Sophia, and Ken Wallis at Shipdham this year

Bibliography: 27 For a discussion of "The Martian Chronicles", see "Martian Chronicles." Cinefantastique. Vol. 10 No. 1 Summer 1980 pp. 19 ­ 23; "Ken Wallis Keeps Busy." Rotorcraft. Vol. 27 No. 4 June-July 1989 p. 4 28 The ATE-3 would eventually have three distinct tail configurations in 1968, 1969 and 1970. The movie role featured the first of these. After flying the ATE3 for three years (1968 ­ 1970) it was sold to a flying club in Kokkola. See also Shelbourne, Walter "The Jukka Tervamaki JT-5" Homebuilt Aircraft. Vol. 5 No. 8 October 1979 pp. 28 ­ 29; Tervamäki, Jukka "Gyrokpterit uhä ajankahtaisia" ILMAILU. Tammikuu 2004 pp. 4 ­ 8; Jones, Mel Morris "Talkshop: A Conversation With Jukka Tervamäki." Fly Gyro! No. 1 September ­ October 2000 pp. 4 ­ 10, 18; Tervamäki, Jukka and A[ulis] Eerola "The ATE-3 Project." Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol . 7 No. 4 July ­ August 1969 pp. 20 ­ 24; "A Sleek Autogyro From Finland" Sport Aviation. February 1969 pp. 51 - 54 29 See e.g.,Tervamaki, "Some Thoughts of Autogyro Design: Part Three" Sport Aviation. April 1966 pp. 36 ­ 37; "Some Thoughts of Autogyro Design: Part Two" Sport Aviation. February 1966 pp. 11 ­ 13; "Some Thoughts of Autogyro Design: Part One" Sport Aviation. November 1965 pp. 6 ­ 8; "Losing Faith in Autogyros and Gaining It Back Again" Sport Aviation. May 1971 pp. 40 ­ 41 (reprinted in Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol. 11 No. 5 December 1973 pp. 13 ­ 15); (reprinted in Rotorcraft Vol. 41 No. 6 September 2003 pp. 14 ­ 16); Tervamäki, Jukka "Tevarmaki JT-5." Sport Aviation. Vol. 23 No. 2 February 1974 pp. 22 ­ 23; "The Sleek New JT-5 From Finland." Sport Aviation. Vol. 23 No. 2 February 1974 pp. 39 ­ 41, 61; "New Super Sleek Autogyro From Finland" Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol. 11 No. 3 August 1973 p. 24; "New Super Sleek Autogyro From Finland" Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol. 11 No. 3 August 1973 p. 24. For information on Tervamäki, see his informative website at [email protected] 30 See Bartholomew, David "Between Time and Timbuktu" Cinefantastique. Vol. 2 No. 3 Winter 1973 pp. 32 ­ 33 31 Thomas, Kas "Like a Theodore Bear" Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol. 9 No. 3 May-June 1972 pp. 11 ­ 16; "The Umbaugh Story: Rags to Riches (and back?)." Popular Rotorcraft Flying Vol. 10 No. 2 March-April 1972 pp. 10, 23; reprinted


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