Live and Let Fly
Real pilots rate the performance of the airplanes in James Bond flicks.
- By David Lande
- Air & Space magazine, September 2008
The Kobal Collection
(Page 3 of 8)
Bede BD-5J Acrostar Micro-jet
Ever wonder what it would be like to strap on a micro-jet and shriek across the sky? Ask the man who built and flew the one in Octopussy (1983). That pilot is J.W. “Corkey” Fornof, who, when flying past at more than 300 mph, also passes as a credible double for Roger Moore. Fornof has 1,000-plus hours in his TRS-18 microturbo-powered Bede jet. And he figures he and his friends spent 3,300 hours building it.
The memorable opening of Octopussy shows his Acrostar evading a ground-to-air missile by flying through a hangar, but it soon runs out of fuel, so Bond nonchalantly lands on a road and coasts to a stop at the pumps of a service station. Except for the ground-to-air missile, the scene’s action came directly from Fornof’s personal experience.
While he was flying near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, his BD-5J lost oil pressure and he was forced to land on a highway. “Once on the ground, I went down the exit ramp and coasted into a gas station, just like in the movie, and ran over the little hose that went ding ding,” he recalls. He has a clipping from the local newspaper documenting the event.
Prior to the movie, Fornof had flown the Acrostar through an open hangar for a Toshiba commercial in Japan. After Bond producers Michael Wilson and Cubby Broccoli saw it, they wanted similar action in their upcoming film.
About his “kids, don’t try this at home” stunt, Fornof explains that he opened all the hangar’s doors and windows to reduce the sudden pressure increase caused by an aircraft trying to push a lot of air through an enclosed space. He calculated that, given the frontal area of the BD-5 and the size of the hangar, airspeed couldn’t exceed 180 mph. If he went too fast, “the pressure feedback would probably have caused me to bounce off the floor and into the rafters,” he says. “As I approached the hangar, the opening looked very small. I had exactly six feet below me and six feet above me. My heart was in my throat. I don’t think I took a breath for a minute and a half.” The stunt came off perfectly.
“The Acrostar is in my top five favorite airplanes of all time,” he says. “It’s like driving a Formula One racecar compared to a regular sedan.”
Verdict: The Acrostar used in Octopussy is still Fornof’s airplane, now on loan to the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California. It is the quintessential Bond airplane and a scene-stealer in the coolest 007 opening sequence ever.