THE SPECIAL is honoured to present this unique account shared by the son of one of the unsung heroes of Blue Thunder and a significant contributor to its nail-biting aerial authenticity.
Veteran Helicopter pilot Karl Wickman (above) performed a number of stunts on the show, flying everything from the camera ship to the Police Jetrangers to doubling Malcolm McDowell for the climactic dogfight between Murphy and Colonel Cochrane.
Karl’s son Kurt contacted THE SPECIAL with his incredible recollections having spent time on the set with his father. With photographs culled from the Gary Mason archive and screencaps from the Special Edition re-release of the film on DVD, this courageous and gifted pilot can finally be given the recognition and credit he deserves for making the stunt flying in this 1983 film the standard by which all others are judged over thirty years later. Kurt takes the story from here –
“Blue Thunder was a joy to watch being shot, my dad had multiple flight duties on this picture, he flew the police helicopter (tail no. N250CA) this was one of the two Bell jet rangers that Jim had I his company Cinema Air, the other was a maroon Long Ranger, (N230CA) which usually was used as the camera ship. He also flew the Hughes 500C with Malcolm McDowell, whom, by the way, was terrified of flying –
During the rehearsal of one of the chase scenes, through and around LA, the turbine wheel separated in the 500. Its very surreal seeing puffs of smoke coming from the exhaust and it (the 500) immediately pitch forward and straight down. It looked like it had the glide slope angle of a set of keys! The camera followed him down as far as he could articulate because it was shooting from the top of a building with 2 – 3 foot high false wall so it didn’t catch the landing, and even if it had, the camera man put his hand over the lens as if he didn’t want to see the end results. This is captured on tape and was later given to my dad.
He also flew the police helicopter that chased Blue Thunder. During the sequence that has the story ship evading the police and trying to (and succeeding) lead the police into a bridge spot, just prior to the collision, there are two quick shots of the front of the helicopter and it’s occupants, the gentleman with the cyclic occupying the left side is my pop (below)
He worked closely with Ross, Jim, and Frank (Holgate), when he flew for Cinema Air Corp. back in the 80’s. My dad was later asked to fly the story ship in the up and coming series, and did so until it was cancelled…”
Karl under the direction of John Badham and on the far right as second unit director Jim Gavin discuss the battle above the streets of LA with John Badham and (second pic) far right again joined by Ross Reynolds (left) doubling Roy Scheider (note the olive jacket with bloodstained sleeve)
karl, (left) in Astro Division flightsuit, relaxing between takes at Parker Center with colleagues Ross Reynolds and Frank Holgate…