Neha Patil (Editor)

Blue Thunder (helicopter)

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First flight  1983
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Blue Thunder is the helicopter in the 1980s American titular film and television series. The aircraft itself was a modified Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter.


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To film Blue Thunder, the producers employed two examples of the French-made Aérospatiale SA-341G Gazelle light utility helicopter, serial numbers 1066 and 1075, both built in 1973. After the film was made, both helicopters were sold to Michael E. Grube, an aviation salvage collector in Clovis, New Mexico. Grube then leased s/n 1066 (ex-N51BT) to a film company that was shooting Amerika, an ABC television mini-series about Soviet occupation of the USA; the helicopters were painted black, and the surveillance microphones were removed. After Grube got it back, it was dismantled and sold for parts.

Blue Thunder (helicopter) Blue Thunder the helicopter movie information

The second, s/n 1075 (ex-N52BT), was scrapped during 1988. There was a third static display model built for close-up shots with the actors; it was stored outside and after deterioration was scrapped by 2009.

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Blue Thunder helicopter

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For the movie SA-341G Gazelles were modified with bolt-on parts and a canopy patterned after the AH-64 Apache. Two helicopters were used in the filming of the movie, one for the actual stunts (a "stunt mule"), one as a backup in case the other was grounded for maintenance. Stunts were flown by Jim Gavin.

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The helicopters were purchased by Columbia Pictures and flown to Cinema Air in Carlsbad, California, where they were heavily modified for the film. These alterations made the helicopters so heavy that various tricks had to be employed to make it look fast and agile in the film. For instance, the 360° loop maneuver at the end of the film was carried out by a 1/6-scale radio controlled model. (This aircraft was built and flown by modeller and RC helicopter manufacturer John Simone Jr.)

Fictional characteristics

Blue Thunder (helicopter) Blue Thunder the helicopter movie information

Described in the film as having 1 in (25 mm) "NORDOC-NATO armor." Blue Thunder had a chin turret with an electric 20 mm (0.79 in) six-barrel Gatling gun able to deliver 4,000 rounds per minute. Surveillance used twin cheek-mounted Nitesun spotlights, infrared thermograph, and airborne TV camera with 100:1 zoom and night-vision capability. The cameras fed 34 in (19 mm) videotape, with a locker in the belly of the aircraft. External audio pickups were capable of hearing "a mouse fart at two thousand feet". A "whisper mode" granted her the ability to operate in silence.

Blue Thunder's cannon was controlled by a Harrison helmet in conjunction with a "Harrison Fire Control System" (which is named after one of the special effects prop designers and not an existing fire control system). The project cost was described as US$5 million.

Miscellaneous equipment

  • The helmet-controlled gun turret and Target Acquisition and Designation System (TADS) was inspired by the AH-64 Apache, which uses an "Integrated Helmet And Display Sight System" (IHADSS), wherein the nose-mounted sensors and the 30 mm chain gun are linked to the gunner's helmet.
  • The bolt-on cockpit of the original helicopter used to be visible on the backlot tour of MGM Studios in Florida. It has not been present in the 'bone yard' since at least 2005.
  • References

    Blue Thunder (helicopter) Wikipedia

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