And the Oscar Goes to... the Airplane!- page 6 | History | Air & Space Magazine
(Courtesy Warner Communications / Your Trailers)

And the Oscar Goes to... the Airplane!

Some of the airplanes that loom largest in our collective memory have flown only in the movies

Drake Bullet in Test Pilot (1938)

Test Pilot
(Cal Pierce)

When the Twin Wasp engine of his so-called Drake Bullet develops an oil leak while chasing a cross-country speed record, Clark Gable lands on a Kansas farm and falls in love with the farmer’s daughter, played by Myrna Loy. Aviation buffs would have recognized the Drake Bullet as a dead ringer for the Seversky SEV-S2, which is exactly what it was. The streamlined S2 was a race version of the Seversky P-35 fighter, with the canopy cut down for greater speed. In 1937, shortly before filming began, Frank Fuller had flown the S2 to victory at the Bendix Air Races at a record 258.2 mph. The airplane (shown here in a Burbank, California hangar) was rented by MGM and flown in the movie by Ray Moore, who finished sixth in the Thompson Trophy Air Races, at which plenty of footage was shot; the race footage was later inserted in the film. (Fuller finished second in the Bendix Air Races the next year and won again in 1939.) In addition, a full-size wooden mockup was built to use on a sound stage. Later, the mockup appeared in the movies Too Hot to Handle, Flight Command, and Pilot #5. And 21 years after Test Pilot was in the can, the mockup was emblazoned with a rising sun and cast as a Japanese fighter in Never So Few.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus