Originally known for his successful motorcycle racing career, Guy Martin has also become a talented television presenter. Before he retired from professional racing, he was already involved in several documentaries revolving around the world of engineering, racing and aviation.
The 39-year-old from Grimsby was named after Guy Gibson, a distinguished RAF bomber pilot who became the first Commanding Officer of No. 617 Squadron. This squadron led the famous “Dam Busters” raid during WWII, so it is no surprise that he already has a couple of documentaries involving military aircraft. Those being Guy Martin’s Spitfire and Guy Martin: Last Flight of the Vulcan Bomber.
Despite the chaos going on in the world last year, he managed to put together a new ambitious project: Guy Martin’s Battle of Britain. The programme was to see Guy learn to fly a WWII Hurricane against a pursuing enemy aircraft.
Documentaries like this simply cannot be made without aerial filming. Over the years we have become renowned for capturing military aircraft in flight. Our first project filming historical warbirds was the Hollywood blockbuster Dunkirk. Since then, we have worked on some other huge projects such as Spitfire: The Feature Documentary and its upcoming sequel, Lancaster. We have also filmed several episodes of Warbird Workshop and the departure of the Silver Spitfire out of Goodwood, as it started its flight around the world.
Working with warbirds is something we absolutely love doing. So, when we were approached to provide the aerial filming for this project, we jumped at the chance. Capable of a higher top speed, our H125 helicopter would provide the platform for our GSS C516 gyro-stabilised system and Sony P1 camera with a Fujinon 42x lens. This full HD and lightweight setup would be controlled by our expert camera operator Mike Parker.
Flying out of the very familiar Biggin Hill, we would be following and filming two aircraft. The role of the enemy aircraft would be filled by a Buchon ME109 that is carefully and diligently maintained by The Aircraft Restoration Company. It would be flown by its owner, John Romain. Guy Martin would have the chance to fly in the only two-seat Hurricane in the world. The 1942 Hawker Hurricane IIB would be flown by the hugely experienced and talented pilot, Anna Walker. The aircraft is owned and operated by The Heritage Flight at Biggin Hill.
With perfect weather over the former RAF WWII airbase, we took to the air and started filming the Hurricane as it started its engine and taxied to the runway. Once in position and ready to go, Anna throttled-up and the Hurricane tore off down the tarmac. Alongside in the H125, pilot Will Banks put the nose down and accelerated to keep up with the classic warbird. Running perfectly next to the Hurricane, its wheels gently lifted off the ground before it accelerated beyond our top speed.
Once all the aircraft systems checked out, Will rendezvoused with the Hurricane and we began filming the close ups. Flying in close formation at 2,000 ft over Sevenoaks, Kent, we filmed shots of the Hurricane performing various manoeuvres and captured Guy Martin trying his hands at the controls.
As we entered the evening golden hour, Anna and Guy were joined by John in the “enemy” Buchon ME109. Trailing behind the Hurricane, John would now ‘engage’, and Guy would try to lose the Buchon from his tail. The two warbirds accelerated off into the distance as Guy tried to evade and escape the pursuing enemy. They began a dance in the sky, gaining altitude before diving below us, all while Will and Mike filmed from a distance, keeping them both in frame.
When the chase was over and we had completed the shot list, Will followed Guy back to Biggin Hill. With the sun going down, we took advantage of the brilliant light to capture the Hurricane in the warm evening glow. Will then be positioned low at the far end of the runway to capture the Hurricane gracefully touching down to finish off a successful shoot.