Alongside our aerial filming work, we frequently provide our helicopters and pilots as picture ships for TV and film productions. But this new project would task us with something a little extra. As a result of being shot by a drone with a machine gun, we simulated a helicopter crash.
This would be for the second series of the Sky drama, Cobra. The six-part series titled, Cyberwar, stars Robert Carlyle and Victoria Hamilton. It sees them battle against a wave of cyber-attacks, as they try to find those responsible and restore order in the streets.
We were delighted to help bring to life this challenging scene. Ian Smith, our highly excellent pilot, was on hand to make this happen. The challenge was to produce the believable movements of a helicopter losing control, but do so in a completely controlled and safe way.
To achieve this effect, Ian took off as normal. He was then given the go-ahead to begin simulating a tail rotor failure. Ensuring he was well clear of the building, he applied full left pedal to initiate a yaw spin. After one rotation he added a little forward movement and then on the second rotation, he peeled away safely and circled back to the set, job done. In the final cut, we see Ian’s helicopter ‘lose control’. As he moves away, the aircraft is replaced by a CGI replica, crashing into a building.
Safety is always paramount when working with helicopters and this was no exception. This was all done with continuous communication between the pilot, the production crew on the ground and the drone team, to ensure everyone stayed clear of each other.
With Ian’s skilled flying, some CGI bullets and smoke, he helped create a very believable effect. Using a real helicopter to begin this sequence was more cost-effective than creating the whole scene using special effects.
This manoeuvre was only required for a few seconds to start the effect. The whole scene is a tense intro to the new series, setting the tone for what’s to come.
In episode two, we see our AW109SP, arriving at a makeshift command centre in response to the prior accident. This shot was a little more straightforward but still required a quick and controlled landing.
However, this wasn’t the end for Ian, as he would later take on another role. This time acting as coastguard helicopter winch operator, coming to the aid of some stranded survivors. Unfortunately, his speaking role as the AW109 pilot, didn’t make the cut.
You can see GB Helicopters and the multi-talented Ian Smith in action, on demand on Sky.