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 7 of 8)
Of course, Boykin is a diehard proponent of the model and a card-carrying member of the Cherokee Pilots’ Association. “The airplane is built like a tank, with a carry-through spar that goes under the rear seat,” he says. “The structure is very survivable in an accident”—good news whether you’re flying with Bond or against him. “The constant-chord wing, also known as the ‘Hershey Bar,’ is one of the most forgiving airfoils ever produced. It’s nearly impossible to get the Cherokee to produce a classic stall—mostly it just ‘mushes.’ ”
When asked if anything memorable has ever happened while flying his Cherokee, Boykin offers an immediate Bond-like response: “Yes, but one of them isn’t for publication in a family magazine.”
Verdict: That answer alone averts a thumbs-down.
Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros
In the first 10 minutes of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Bond nimbly maneuvers an L-39 out of the way of a cruise missile at a terrorist arms bazaar in the Khyber Pass. The Czech military trainer has become popular with civilians for its agile handling, and has become a standard attraction at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, where it debuted in 2002 in the new Jet Class races. L-39 pilot Glenn Goldman, an airline pilot for 20 years, has flown about 70 airplane types, from 767s to piston-driven warbirds. He’s also a licensed mechanic.
“It’s an incredibly reliable airplane,” says Goldman, who has tinkered with the L-39 as well as flown it. “The engineering is top-notch, the construction is top-notch. Very simple and easy to maintain.”
As for flying, “the airplane has very few vices,” he says. “It’s got well-harmonized controls. You really don’t have to think when you want to turn. It’s almost intuitive how much aileron to put in, how much rudder, and how much back pressure to maintain altitude. It uses push rods, and since push rods run on bearings, it’s very smooth on the controls.”
On the other hand, Goldman feels there’s no challenge, no satisfaction of the kind found in mastering the older warbirds. “It’s a boring airplane to fly,” he says. “I could teach my grandmother to fly an L-39.”