James Bond Goldfinger and GoldenEye, Air America, and Vitus – they are all movies in which Pilatus has appeared. Few know, however, that Pilatus also starred in what is arguably the best film of the Indiana Jones series. Pilatus Flugzeugwerke AG
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the third installment of director Steven Spielberg’s popular film series in which Sean Connery plays Indiana Jones’s father as they set off on an adventure together. This is the film that gave us some memorable quotes such as when Professor Henry Jones says to Indiana Jones: “I didn’t know you could fly a plane.” To which the answer is: “Fly, yes. Land, no!”
Pilatus attracted a lot of attention through this Hollywood classic. More precisely, it was the Pilatus P-2 which starred in a fun and exhilarating chase set in Germany in 1938. We tracked down the owner of that very P-2 to find out some fascinating background information about the filming and the famous scene in which the P-2 makes its appearance.
Mr. Bourret, you’re the proud owner of a Pilatus P-2. What is it you like about this aircraft?
The Pilatus P-2 is a wonderful, very well-built Swiss training aircraft. I particularly like the twelve-cylinder V-engine and the speed it delivers. It’s also a very elegant aircraft.
When did you buy the Pilatus P-2 and what was the story behind that?
Back then, the Swiss Army was offering the aircraft (serial number 37) for sale. There was an auction in Dübendorf near Zurich. I can’t remember exactly when that was – around 40 years ago, I suppose. The aircraft itself must date from 1947. Nor can I remember how much I paid for the P-2, unfortunately, but it wasn’t overly expensive, and it was in very good condition.
However, it is not just any P-2 that Bourret bought back then. His aircraft has a very special pedigree. The Indiana Jones film production company contacted Bourret in the late 80s. Given certain similarities between the P-2 and the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the film production crew was interested in this Pilatus product. Long story short, they wanted an aircraft that looked like the Messerschmitt, and the P-2 more than fulfilled that brief. Plus, a genuine Messerschmitt would have been too fast to film from a specially converted biplane. For all those reasons, the production team finally opted for Bourret’s P-2.
21 hours for three minutes
The aerial scenes were filmed in southern Spain in 1988, partly at a large site near the city of Almería and partly at a smaller private site. Filming took place over five weeks, for a total of 21 hours of film material. In the end, however, the film included only three minutes of those many hours, says Bourret. During those three minutes, the enemy German Messerschmitt – actually a P-2 – pursues Indiana Jones and his father, who has stolen a car to escape. A narrow tunnel presents them with an opportunity to throw off the Messerschmitt! But to everyone’s surprise, the P-2 follows them into the tunnel, ripping off its two wings in the process. Now in flames, the P-2 hurtles past them, out of control. Dazed, the pilot can only look on as the two fugitives make their escape. Laughs are guaranteed in this scene!
Bourret himself piloted the P-2 during filming, although that was not the original plan. “At that time, I had logged between 500 and 600 hours in the air, and Spielberg was looking for more experienced pilots.” But Tony Bianchi, the film set chief pilot, and Bourret already knew each other from air shows at which they had flown together, and Bianchi told Spielberg he wanted to fly with Bourret during filming. All the more so since Bourret’s P-2 is relatively fragile, and he, Bourret, was thoroughly familiar with the aircraft. Spielberg was ok with that and so Bourret ended up flying in the film too. Even though he didn’t have all the desired qualifications.
Did you meet Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and Steven Spielberg during filming?
Yes, we all stayed at the same hotel, ate together, and generally spent a lot of time together. It was a great experience! Harrison Ford was very nice and wanted to fly in the P-2. Spielberg had to cancel, however, due to insurance considerations. I no longer have any photos from that time, unfortunately.
Are you often asked about how your aircraft starred in the film?
Surprisingly, a lot of people still know I flew the Indiana Jones P-2! I always enjoy chatting about that memorable time and telling stories about it. Source: ‚Pilatus‚.