An Independent big budget US production. Despite working with a great bunch of pilots this was, by far, the toughest film assignment. With access to only a few excellent machines (like John Day’s beautiful Nieuport) there was a desire to reduce the CGI and have more real flying machines. Before the heirarchy ordered two US built aluminium ultralight replicas (with lots of power but very little control authority) we warned them that they would be severely limiting (cross wind and turbulence) and that we might refuse to fly them. In the end they were ordered and subsequently we were lumbered with some pretty inadequate equipment. For my first (and hopefully last) time, this resulted in a most unfortunate relationship with the US producers. The actors and the UK production team were great to work with; real professionals. But job satisfaction was killed by those responsible for providing the tools .. perhaps having bought them, they were always bound to see the pilots as the limitation rather than the barely flyable machines!
Not surprisingly, the aluminium Nieuports were eventually grounded and CGI became the king. A huge amount of real flying ended up on the cutting room floor. Those who have seen this film will probably have winced at the amount of CGI and the performance bestowed upon the Nieuports and Fokkers. Oh how the pilots of 1917 would have loved the roll rate of a modern carbon aerobatic machine and the power to draw a vertical line thousands of feet long!
Anyway, whatever you do, don’t blame the Old Flying Machine Company! We did the best we could and in my personal view, one of the greatest achievements of the aerial unit was that none of the ultralight replicas were written off!
I have met lots of people who enjoyed this film so don’t let my grumpy opinion deter you!