Aviation Consultant Case study – Spectre (2015)

A lot of people are interested in the role of Aviation consultant and the process of aerial coordinating and aviation consulting for films so we have decided to write this blog about what we bring to productions and the process behind it.

To help show this we thought it would be best to write a case study on the most recent James Bond film ‘Spectre’, a project we were part of last year.

With ‘Spectre’ we were brought on in the early stages of the film. The script had a lot of aviation content and our expertise was draw upon to help advise and create the best solutions for production. Although there was a lot of aviation in the film, this post will just focus on the work we did as the aviation consultant for the spectacular Austrian plane chase scene.

Aviation Consultant Spectre

Stage 1 (The Script)

Initially we will read the script and take a look at the story boards. We will asses the needs and create a list of elements that will factor in to the planes we eventually short list for production. In this case the initial script called for a plane on skis that had to be able to chase the cars down the mountain.


Stage 2 (Research)

After a lot of phone calls and research it became apparent that there weren’t that many airplanes equipped with skis so a short list was compiled. After a discussion with Action Vehicles a second limiting factor was determined. This was the speed at which the cars could safely drive versus the stalling speed of the potential aircraft.

‘We needed a plane that could land on snow and could keep level with the cars speed limit’

After much more research and interdepartmental discussions it was decided that a plane with tundra tyres would be acceptable over skis. Our short list was now whittled down to two planes, the Twin Otter and the BN Islander.


Stage 3 (Deciding)

The final decision will usually be down to the director. As Aerial consultant / Aerial coordinator your job is to research and present the options and pricing to production, who will then work with the director on deciding what will be used. The main factor in this decision was that as well as flying aircraft we needed to source fuselages of the chosen plane for the SFX and Art departments to do their magic with. Because of this and the extremely high value of the Twin Otter it was decided that the BN Islander was the plane for the job.


Stage 4 (Sourcing)

After a few test flights in England for the various departments and second unit director. We were then set the task of finding two flying ones we could use for the principle photography. The reason we had two was because if one broke down we would have a back up and the filming wouldn’t stop. It also allowed us to have a quicker turn around in between takes. One could be refueled whilst the other was being filmed.


Stage 5 (Preparation)

As well as airplane wrangling we advise on all things that help production shoot aviation. On ‘Spectre’ we used our 35 years of experience and knowledge to advise on the airstrip production had built in the Austrian alps. This airstrip allowed the planes to be closer to the set and save vast amounts of wasted time that would have been used flying to the nearest airport for refueling etc.  A heated hanger was also built for the planes to live inside and keep them safe from the elements.

Next a crew was assembled and pilots were hired. One a veteran BN Islander pilot and the other a highly skilled and trusted aerobatic pilot.

The planes were flown to Austria and painted in the hanger. After a few test flights everyone returned for a Christmas break.


Stage 6 (Filming)

We were then flown back to Austria for the actually filming. Mike Woodley the aviation consultant, was stationed at the temporary airstrip. He has radio license and managed aircraft base.

The filming was intense but rewarding and after three weeks we were wrapped. The Islanders were flown back to the UK and the rest of our team returned to England on a charter flight.

Our work didn’t finish there. As a former BN test pilot Mike was present on set to advise Daniel Craig how the planes are flown for the studio shoot.

If this has been of interest to you and you would like to know more please contact Aces High or pop over to our film credits page to see our previous roles as aviation consultant.