The Yoak Odyssey…

THE SPECIAL Belatedly welcomes all Thunderfans to 2014!!

The first post of this year may well be the most significant the blog will ever host.  It is the result of considerable research and collation of new information thanks to the ongoing legacy of the Yoak family, keen to clarify just who was responsible for the design and conversion of the original Gazelle helicopters while righting some of the misconceptions about the handling of the finished aircraft..

With that in mind, this post (and from now on, this site) is dedicated to the life and works of Bill Yoak, who sadly passed away last year.  The text and photographs below are the property of his son, Scott, present in the workshop at the the time of his father’s assignment to build Blue Thunder.

Credit for the creation of the chopper has traditionally been aimed somewhere between Mickey Michaels and Philip Harrison, (interviewed extensively in the Special Edition DVD extras) but here, without diminishing their contributions, the true story of the build will be told for the first time in recognition of Blue Thunder’s hitherto unsung hero.  Patched together from his facebook quotes and remarks on the Warbird Information Exchange, Scott takes up the story from the beginning…

“Dad did ALL the design and building for the helicopters of Rambo 3 and Blue Thunder.  it makes me laugh to hear where some of the myths of these few helicopters came from.  I hope I can clear most of them up…”


What we started with.


Another thing that I haven’t found anywhere but when they interviewed my dad about designing and building the Blue Thunder helicopter, they asked what was the main factor that inspired the design. He said the Apache was….it was about the time they lost one of the prototypes (I think it was the second prototype built but don’t quote me).

Note the #2 on the side, this was the second prototype Apache that taxied by dad’s hangar one day, days later the production company came to him and asked him to design Blue Thunder.  He used a lot of the Apache design.  Dad put the #2 on the side after the Apache prototype crashed off the coast of CABT_Camera_Ship1BT_Camera_Ship2


The finished product.  The main Gatling gun weighed 200 lbs making it very nose heavy, early flight reports were better than expected.

Contrary to what the idiots on Wikipedia say about Blue Thunder, Part of the aircraft certification was to get it up to Vne (max speed). It did and the pilot reported that he had a lot of collective left to go faster. It wasn’t a pig like everyone thinks…”

Finally, in response to the Helicopters eventually being stripped and sold on for scrap, Scott answers a query regarding how difficult it would be to build a Blue Thunder Helicopter today…

“I don’t think it would be too hard. The hardest thing would be to find a owner that’s cool with bastardizing his Gazelle lol. For static though, it wouldn’t be hard at all, we still have a lot of the tooling in our storage containers for both Rambo 3 and Blue Thunder…”