And the Oscar Goes to... the Airplane!
Some of the airplanes that loom largest in our collective memory have flown only in the movies.
- By Preston Lerner
- Air & Space magazine, November 2012
To fashion several futuristic airplanes for Raiders, set in the 1930s, director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas tapped Ron Cobb, an artist familiar with aviation technology. Cobb was responsible for the Flying Wing that served as the centerpiece for one of Harrison Ford’s most memorable fight scenes. The aircraft appeared to have been derived from the jet-powered Horten Ho 229, tested by the Luftwaffe near the end of World War II, and Northrop’s post-war XB-35 and YB-49 flying wings. In fact, Cobb says he was inspired by experimental pre-war gliders built by Gotha—hence the turned-down wingtips. “Steven wanted it to fly in a steep bank and look like a shark fin while the ‘Jaws’ theme played,” Cobb recalls. “But George, being very practical, said it didn’t need to fly, and he thought four engines was too many, so they cut the ones I wanted on the wingtips.” On the full-size mockup, electric motors turned the propellers. One wheel was bolted to the ground and another was operated by a chain drive that pivoted the airplane in a circle while Karen Allen wreaked havoc with a turret-mounted machine gun. “I don’t think the bubble turret had been invented yet,” Cobb says. “But other than that, I tried to be faithful to the period.”