Naturally I had to see the latest James Bond movie, despite the poor reviews it has had, and so naturally I have to blog about it, or at least about the parts with airplanes in them. This entry doesn't contain plot spoilers, mainly because the movie doesn't have much of a plot. It was mainly a series of locations and stunts. I do reveal how one of the action sequences ends, and you might be able to infer from the post whether or not the bad guy gets his come-uppance in the end.
James Bond continues to live the high life, and the producers continue their association with Virgin Atlantic, leaving Bond to enjoy a cocktail in the fancy upper deck bar of a VA B747, en route to Bolivia. According to VA, you can actually get the Vesper cocktail on board, or if your first class travel plans don't involve VA, the link includes the recipe so you can mix your own. The scene is shot in a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew trainer near Gatwick. VA doesn't fly to Bolivia, but they did fly a charter to Panama for the film.
Every pilot who has ever flown outside the United States will cringe as Bond butchers the callsign of a British registered Challenger jet, reading off the registration as "Golf Zero Charlie Sierra Delta" when it's clearly a British registered jet, and contains only letters. It has to be "Golf Oscar." It's a mistake that American air traffic controllers make, but Bond is supposed to be a British secret agent, and qualified pilot. There's a slight possibility that the gaffe is an intentional shoutout to sponsor Coke Zero, but I doubt it because the Challenger in question is a real airplane, really operated by Ocean Sky, as it as in the movie, so the callsign is genuine, not scripted. The properties list must have simply called for "a business jet" however, because while Bond departs Haiti in a Challenger, he taxies to the ramp in Austria in a Lear. I guess he did one of his mid-flight air-to-air transfer stunts but it was left on the cutting room floor.
I can't complain about airplanes in this movie though, as the best scene in the movie was a good long segment of aerial combat with Bond in a DC-3 versus the bad guy in a Marchetti. The DC-3 mainly gets shot up, trying to evade its pursuer with some low canyon flying, which was real. Here's a clip showing the DC-3 owner and pilot, Skip Evans, including some shots of them filming the stunt. Yikes. I wouldn't fly like that in any airplane I know, and there he is doing it in a DC-3. That's why the chief pilot reams you out for 'pulling a stunt' when you do something stupid. I'm not criticizing: stunt flying is a whole different standard.
During the chase, smoke starts pouring out of one of the engines and then Bond moves a cockpit lever forward. The smoke increases, blinding the pursuer, and our heroes gain some headway. There's a momentary shot of an aircraft placard reading "feathering pump not fused." Bear in mind that I only saw the movie once, and that there's a known deficiency of the human memory to sequence events that happened in quick succession. At the time I was watching I either didn't notice the smoke before the lever movement, or didn't mark it as unusual --it's a DC-3 after all: I was in the yard of a large DC-3 operator watching flames coming out of an engine during start up, and no one who worked there thought it a noteworthy event. It initially looked like Bond moved a lever forward and smoke poured out of the engine. It had looked like a propeller lever, but I speculated that it was a mixture lever and he was enriching the mixture so much the engine smoked. It wasn't a mixture lever though, so then I'm wondering maybe it was both props, just before increasing throttle, but they cut away before they showed that part?
The "feathering pump" placard had me wondering what that had to do with anything. I found an online DC-3 manual and the Propeller section confirms that the electrical feathering pump indeed has no circuit protection. It is an electric oil pump that uses high oil pressure against a piston in the propeller hub to drive the propeller blades to the feathered position. When the piston reaches the stop, oil pressure continues to increase. At 600 psi the pump trips offline.
More details than most people want on such things, from a Dutch accident report:
The system is powered by an electrically driven gear type oil pump controlled from the cockpit by momentarily pressing the feathering button in the overhead panel. An electrical solenoid will keep the feathering button in the depressed position. This action will activate the feathering pump, which is mounted on the front side of the fire wall. The pump takes oil from a separate part of the engine oil tank and feeds it under high pressure, while hydraulically disconnecting the governor by shifting its high pressure transfer valve, to the propeller blade angle changing mechanism in the propeller dome. This high pressure oil acts on the aft side of the propeller piston forcing the piston to its maximum stop. This movement of the piston turns the blades, via a bevel geared cam and bevel gear segments on the blades, from the actual blade angle through the coarse blade angle range to a blade angle of 88°, which is the feathered position in which the blades are streamlined in the flight direction. When the piston is at this maximum forward position the feathering oil pressure will rise. At about 600 psi a pressure cut-out switch in the feathering oil line, mounted on the governor will automatically switch off the electric power to the solenoid of the feathering button, releasing this button and interrupting electrical power to the feathering pump. Feathering takes approximately four seconds.
In all likelihood, any cockpit lever movements were just an actor moving things to be dramatic, and the placard was just in the shot because it was in the cockpit and required for FAA certification and I wasn't supposed to take anything from any of it. Here's a clip from the scene, but it doesn't show the levers being moved. [The movie was embedded in this blog, but it was redirecting people who didn't have the right plug-ins, so I took it out.]Here is a clip showing the
At the end of the sequence, Bond pulls the DC-3 up into a vertical climb and then he and the female lead escape out the back using a single parachute, which opens less than ten metres from the ground, but they are both okay. Mercifully the now-unmanned airplane crashes off camera. I didn't want to watch a DC-3 airframe destroyed for the purpose of a movie, even if it was just a junkyard hulk.
From a James Bond movie I don't expect any more than I got in the way of plot. It had a twist, but it didn't make any difference. For me the movie suffered from too much punching and smashing and not enough smarts and witty banter. An added DVD feature for movies could be the optional display of countdown timers during action sequences: Plot Resumes in 3:38, so that those of us who are only interested in who wins the punching know we have time to go to the refrigerator. To be fair, there could be a similar countdown on talky exposition scenes: Action Resumes in 2:59, so the guys would know when it was safe to go for a beer without missing anything they like.
My favourite line came from M, right after what I'll call the unexpected end to their torture session. I won't spoil it, because it may have been the most unexpected moment in the film. I thought the make-up job for one character's supposed burn scar was poor. Until the character history was revealed, I thought it was a coverup for a tattoo on the actress. There was a nice visual and thematic Goldfinger reference, and they did a good job of following that theme through the movie, right to the final revenge.