UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Movie Aircraft

We would like to build a collection of fake airplanes that have appeared in movies or on TV. If you can help us build this collection, please contact us with the information.


One of the first postwar epics to be filmed at Edwards Air Force Base was the Warner Brothers' "Toward the Unknown." The plot of this 1956 adventure drama was centered here as well. William Holden starred as an ill-starred ex-combat pilot who had dishonored himself by yielding to brutal Communist brainwashing techniques. No longer allowed to fly, he burned for a chance to return to the cockpit and redeem his reputation.

A highly experimental new jet plane finally gave him an opportunity to clear his name and once more serve his country. Faith, courage, and romance triumphed over a general's skepticism. James Garner made his film debut as Major Joe Craven. "Toward the Unknown" was released in Great Britain that same year, under the title "Brink of Hell." n a film of this nature, the aircraft which appear are usually at least as interesting as the human actors. Several interesting ones starred in this thriller.

The rare Martin XB-51 three-engined bomber made an appearance as the "Gilbert XF-120," and airplane buffs still seek out footage of the rocket-powered Bell X-2 and the Douglas X-3 "Stiletto" research planes. Interestingly, the real-life fame of one of the anonymous F-94C "Starfire" pilots in the action scenes far outlasted the movie itself. Lt. Col. "Pete" Everest, an experimental test pilot who flew most of the X-planes before retiring as a brigadier general, was chief of the Flight Test Operations division.

Numerous other planes from the Flight Test Center also appeared in this film: the XF-92A (masquerading in the movie as a F-102A), F-100 and F-101, the Douglas B-66 and a mighty Convair B-36. Whatever the movie's qualities might have been as judged by later standards, its lineup of airborne talent was impressive.


Howard Hughes filmed his "Jet Pilot" in 1950, but then tinkered with it for seven years. Eventually it was released in 1957, after many of its scenes were re-filmed with newer aircraft. Modern viewers are uncertain whether Hughes intended the movie to be a tense Cold War drama or a tongue-in-cheek satire of the action genre.

At any rate, the public was treated to a fast-paced production starring John Wayne as a doughty Air Force colonel stationed at a remote base in the Alaska wilderness - scant minutes away from the Soviet border. The story revolved around an improbably attractive blond Russian jet pilot, Janet Leigh, pretending to defect to the side of Democracy in order to snare Wayne for interrogation. Plot and counterplot alternated with thrilling flying scenes until love eventually foiled the Communist schemes, and decency and honor prevailed.

Whatever depth the plot might have lacked, the film made up for in technical expertise. Moviegoers were treated to a Technicolor showcase of 1950s. jets, with Chuck Yeager flying anonymously in some of the scenes. If the film's Soviet "Yak-12" turned out to be a USAF T-33 decked out with red stars, no great harm was done. The cinematography was elegant and the Alaska scenes are beautiful. One unforgettable sequence had Wayne and Leigh winging their F-86s through moonlight skies on a poetic honeymoon flight.

Two real-world aircraft bore the "Yak-12" designator. The first, a low-wing 3-4 seat liaison monoplane with enclosed cockpit, built in November 1944. The designation Yak-12 was replaced by Yak-13 after design stage was completed. The Yakovlev 'Creek' Yak-12, which first flew in 1946, was a small high-wing liaison aircraft. Large numbers were built, including production in Poland and China.


At the beginning of the movie "Top Gun", during the first encounter with the Migs, and throughout the movie -- the MiG 28 was continually refered to.

Maverick: WE happened to see a MiG 28 do a 4g negative dive.
Charlie: Where did you see this?
Maverick: Uh, that's classified.
Charlie: It's what?
Maverick: It's classified. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

The MiGs in the movie are actually all F-5 Tiger, an American plane that it uses as a trainer & sells to other countries. In reality there is no such thing as a MiG-28, and Russian (or Soviet) MiGs use odd numbers.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 07-09-2018 07:20:44 ZULU