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Pilot's Notes
FAC Aircraft Pilot's Notes Fokker D.VII Stampe SV-4c WWI Images WWI Art

Original Pilot's Notes for WWI Replica Aircraft used in the movie The Blue Max

Edited by Randy Wilson
Copyright 1997 by Randy Wilson

I have not had time to reformat these notes for HTML, so please excuse the preformatted text, which was from an old word processor. I have added page numbers at the top of each original page, to make the table of contents a little more usable. My original editor's notes are in [square brackets], and references to the F.A.C. mean the Fighting Air Command, the organization which purchased the aircraft in the early 1980s and brought them to Hartlee Field, near Denton, Texas. I flew all of the aircraft that were eventually made "flyable".

Table of Contents

Introduction and History  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1

General Notes on Replica Aircraft . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2

Notes on Flying the Miles / SE5a Replicas . . . . . . . . . .   3
     Starting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     Taxying  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     Vital Actions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     Take off & Climb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     Handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     Endurance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     Approach and Landing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     Running down and stopping  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5

Notes on Flying the Bianchi Pfalz . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     Starting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     Taxying  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     Vital Actions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     Take off and climb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     Handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     Endurance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     Approach & Landing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     Stopping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6

Notes on Flying the Fokker Triplanes  . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     Starting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     Vital Actions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     Take off & Climb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     Handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     Endurance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     Approach and Landing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     Stopping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8

Page 1 ----------

Introduction and History

The following notes were obtained by the Fighting Air Command
museum with the purchase of a number of The Blue Max aircraft. 
They appear to be notes used to familiarize the pilots with the
general operation and characteristics of the WWI replica
aircraft.  No author's name is listed but they may have been
written by Derek Pigott.

Our photocopy of the original typewritten notes is not very clear
is some places and contains a number of typographical, syntax and
spelling errors, as though it were prepared in hast with little
chance for editing.  The copy of the notes which follows has been
retyped and significant errors corrected to make the notes more
readable.  My notes and comments are enclosed in brackets [].

As the filming of The Blue Max took place in Ireland and used
mainly British pilots and crews, the British spellings for some
words have not been changed.  Also, the gallons mentioned are
assumed to be Imperial gallons.

The Fokker D.VII replicas are not mentioned in these notes,
however, a complete set of Construction Notes and Instructions
For Use of the Fokker D.VII/65, written by the builders, is
reproduced and available separately from the F.A.C.

The Fighting Air Command currently owns ten of the aircraft used
in The Blue Max, three Fokker D.VIIs, two Pfalz D.IIIs, four
S.E.5a's (about 85% scale) and the Caudron 277 "Luciole" used as
both a British and German two-seater in the movie.  Two of the
D.VIIs and one of the D.IIIs is currently flying and we hope to
have the other two of these types airworthy soon.  The S.E.5a's
are in need of considerable work before they can fly, as only one
engine and no propellers were obtained.  The Caudron sustained
major damage while in storage in Ireland when a hangar collaped
on it, and it is in need of major rebuilding.  Anyone wishing to
contribute either money or experienced labor to these projects
may contact me or the F.A.C. at the address shown below.

                                        Randy Wilson
                                        Fighting Air Command
                                        P.O. Box 802402
                                        Dallas, Texas  75380

Page 2 ----------

                 General Notes on Replica Aircraft

Most of these aircraft are on a Permit to Fly and have not had
extensive test flying.  They should therefore be flown with a
certain amount of caution - particularly at high speeds and in
turbulent conditions and especially dog fights.

The forward position of the main wheels makes them particularly
prone to swinging and special care is needed to keep straight in
light winds and particularly on hard surfaces and runways.  The
tail skid loads are very high and rough ground and sharp edges of
concrete should be avoided while taxying.  Risk of damage
crossing rough ground can be reduced by keeping the stick hard
forward and using power to take the weight off the tail skid.

There will be occasions when help will be needed to swing the
aircraft while taxying.  When necessary, stop and wait for help,
or call for help on the radio.  Use caution when taxying as a
slight downhill or following wind may make it impossible to stop
without switching off the engine.

The engine tick over speed is critical and if wrong must be
adjusted to reduce the risk of overshooting on landing or
alternatively stopping the propeller in flight.  Avoid
unnecessary slow running as it results in oiling up the plugs.

Engine starting accidents can be avoided by insisting that the
propeller is always treated as live.  Before turning any
propeller, check that the switches are off and that the throttle
is closed.  Use only qualified propeller swingers.  The
undercarriages are sprung by bungee (shockcord) and this should
be checked for damage before flight.  If the bungee fails, the
wire safety strop prevents the axle collapsing, but the aircraft
is left in a wing down attitude and is unserviceable for further

With the exception of the D7, the fuel gages are non existent or
unreliable and the limited fuel capacity makes it essential to
have full fuel tanks for every flight.

The Slingsby SE5 replicas will have flown a very minimum of hours
and any signs of damage or unusual handling must be reported to
Johnny Maher and Derek Pigott immediately.  [These are about 85%
scale replicas, not to be confused with the full scale Miles
replicas.  Four of the Slingsby SE5's are owned by the F.A.C.]

Most of the aircraft have rather unconventional sideslipping
characteristics which should be explored at height by each pilot.

Please note any snags on the Form 101 or equivalent so that they
can be put right as soon as possible.  Suggestions are welcome.

Page 3 ----------

             Notes on Flying the Miles / SE5a Replicas

[These aircraft were not acquired by the F.A.C. and are believed
to have been full scale replicas.  We were told that both crashed
during filming or shortly after.]

These SE5 replicas have simple handling characteristics and ample


Chocks in place and fire extinguishers at hand.  Fuel cock on
(Push on), throttle closed, switches off.  Pull ring at top,
right hand side of instrument panel until ground crew confirm
that fuel drips out of the carburetor overflow pipe below the
cowling.  Prime with one to two full strokes of the Kigas primer
while the propeller is turned over.  Do not over prime or you may
start an intake fire.

Throttle set at half an inch open, both switches on and press the
starter button.

After starting, check for normal oil pressure and warm up at 1000
- 1200 r.p.m. for 5 minutes when cold.  (Oil temperature may not
register in this time)

Stick hard back during run up.  Check for a dead cut, normal
static revs 2100.  Select hot air (Turn T handle and pull) and
check that the engine note changes or the r.p.m. drops indicating
that the control is serviceable.  Return the cold air.  The
acceptable magneto drop is 100 r.p.m.  Check the oil pressure is
normal and the slow running 6 - 700 r.p.m.


There are no wheel brakes but the steerable tail skid gives very
satisfactory steering in most conditions on grass.  Use extreme
caution on concrete as the tailskid gives no control and the
aircraft is heavy and cannot be stopped quickly.  Care is needed
to prevent a ground loop after landing on concrete.

     Vital Actions

Normal pre take off and landing drills should be used.  However,
there are no trimmers, pitch control, mixture or flap.  The fuel
gauge tap on the instrument panel should be kept in the off
position except then using the gauge as otherwise air could enter
the fuel lines and cause an air lock during steep attitudes.  The
gauge is of little value as slight changes in attitude upset the

Page 4 ----------

     Take off & Climb

There is no significant tendency to swing but the stick position
on take off and in flight is further forward than on other
aircraft.  The unstick speed is about 60 knots and the climbing
speed is 70 - 75 knots at about half an inch less than full
throttle.  The attitude and view ahead in the climb is similar to
that when taxying.  There is no tendency to overheat at anytime.


Apart from the heavy ailerons, the flying controls are very
satisfactory.  With no elevation trimmer, the aircraft will not
be in trim except at one power setting and speed and this will
vary with pilot weight and the fuel state.  The aircraft is
aerobatic with full fuel tanks.

The stall is docile and occurs at about 60 knots.  The spin
recovery is less than 1 turn provided that the stick is moved
steadily forward after full opposite rudder has been applied.

The never exceed speed (marked with a red line) is 120 knots.  A
satisfactory speed for a loop is 100 - 110 knots.  Rolls are not
recommended because of the poor rate of roll and high stick
forces required.


The limited endurance and poor fuel gauge advisable for the pilot
is to satisfy himself that the tank is full before flight.  The
tank holds 20 gallons.  In cruising flight, the endurance is
about 1 hour 40 minutes but flights involving formation or dog
fights should be limited to 1 hour as the fuel consumption is
much greater for this type of flying.

     Approach and Landing

Hot air should be selected in moist conditions or while gliding
or while descending at low power settings.  Minimum glide
approach speed 75 knots.  Powered approach speed 65 - 70 knots. 
Note:  Below 75 knots, quite large amounts of power are required
to correct for undershooting.

The gliding attitude is deceptively steep and care must be taken
to avoid getting too slow during the final stages of the
approach.  A curved approach or side slip improves the pilots
view.  Normal 3 point and wheel landings are easily carried out. 
Side slipping is effective but should be practiced with ample
height until the pilot is familiar with the unusual control loads
during the recovery.

Page 5 ----------

     Running down and stopping

The slow running cut out is the red toggle on the right hand side
of the instrument panel.  Between flight the fuel cock can be
left on and this prevents vapour locks in the system.


                 Notes on Flying the Bianchi Pfalz

[This aircraft is currently owned by the F.A.C. and is painted
silver with the markings of Werner Voss.  I do not know why it is
refered to as the "Bianchi" Pfalz, unless that was the man's name
at Personal Plane Services who built it.]

This replica is of rugged construction and docile handling. 
Special care should be taken to avoid high speed in steep dives
as the stick forces are rather high for recovery.  The present
permit does not allow aerobatics.


Fuel cock on (Pushed forward with the red clip engaged).  The
carburetor is flooded by the ground crew pulling the ring and
working the fuel pump lever by hand until fuel drips from the
overflow pipe below the cowling.  Switch both switches on for
starting.  A normal run up procedure should be used.  At full
throttle the static revs. should be 1950 r.p.m. and the
permissible mag. drop is 75 r.p.m.  Slow running should be 600 -
650 r.p.m.


The steerable tail skid gives excellent steering on grass.  Avoid
landing on runways as the forward position of the undercarriage
makes it liable to ground loop unless the tail skid can grip the

     Vital Actions

There is no fuel gauge or carburetor heat control.  The elevator
trim is best moved right forward to help reduce the high stick
forces needed to get the tail up on take off.

     Take off and climb

The take off is short and simple, but the stick force required to
lift the tail is very high.  The unstick speed is about 40 knots
and the normal climb at full throttle is 50-55 knots.  The engine
cooling is satisfactory.

Page 6 ----------


All the controls are rather heavy.  The stall is docile and
occurs at about 32 knots.  The spin recovery is good, but the
rudder forces required to apply full opposite rudder are very
high.  The never exceed speed is 104 knots.  Steep dives should
be avoided as the recovery height and stick forces involved are
rather large.  Loops, chandelles and stall turns are satisfactory
but the low rate of roll prevent any rolling manoeuver.  The
present permit does not permit aerobatics.


The upright Gipsy Major engine uses about 7 - 8 gallons per hour
cruising and the fuel capacity is 18 gallons giving an endurance
of about 2 hours cruising and 1 1/4 hours safe for formation or
dog fights.

     Approach & Landing

Glide approaches 50 - 55 knots.  Powered approaches 40 - 45 knots
in smooth conditions.  Note:  as speed is reduced a nose up trim
change occurs and care is needed to avoid ending up too slow.  3
point landings are simple.  Use caution until familiar with the
side slipping characteristics as the rudder loads change
considerably with varying angles of slip.


Allow the engine to cool down at about 800 r.p.m. before
switching off and opening the throttle wide.  If the engine
continues to fire, close the throttle, switch on and allow it to
run again for a short time to cool down.  Leave the fuel cock on
unless the aircraft is being returned to the hangar.


               Notes on Flying the Fokker Triplanes

[Neither of the Triplanes used in the movie was purchased by the 
F.A.C.  Another Triplane, however, is currently on loan to the

These replicas are soundly designed and built, but have a poor
rate of climb.  The visibility during taxying, take off and
landing is very poor.  The control response and handling is
interesting and unique.


The cockpit layouts in the two aircraft have important
differences.  Both have fuel and oil cocks.  The fuel and oil
cocks should be switched off between flights to prevent flooding
of the lower cylinders.  Both switches can be used for starting. 

Page 7 ----------

Hand swinging of these engines can be tricky and the ground over
will probably call for the switches off between each movement of
the propeller.

The engine should be thoroughly warmed up before run up or it may
run rough at full throttle.  The carburetor heat is permanently
but relies on the engine being well warmed.  The correct static
r.p.m. for each machine is noted on the instrument panel.  If
this is not obtained the cause is usually both plugs in one
cylinder are not firing.  The engine will then appear to run
normally with little or no mag. drop but the faulty cylinder will
be cold to the touch.

The take off and climb can be extremely marginal unless normal
power is available.  The maximum mag. drop allowable is 50 - 75
r.p.m.  Note that the throttle is spring loaded to open itself
and special care must be taken to tighten the friction nut if
pilots are changed with the engine running.  The steerable tail
skid is not very effective.

     Vital Actions

No trimmer, mixture control or fuel gauge is fitted.

     Take off & Climb

The rudder is powerful and without feel.  Care is required not to
over control at first.  Raise the tail as soon as possible to see
over the nose.  This also increases the load on the wheels and
reduces the risk of tipping a wing tip.  The unstick speed is
about 80 km/hr and when possible it is best to fly level to gain
the normal climbing speed 110 km/hr.  The visibility ahead is
very poor at this stage and pilots are advised to have a plan of
action in event of engine failure.  A very quick transition into
a steep glide would be required to avoid stalling.  Use full
throttle for all climbing but do not make prolonged climbs at
less than 110 km/hr.


Then handling is unique and resembles a Link Trainer.  There is
very little feel in the aileron or rudder and a high degree of
skill is needed to turn and manoeuver accurately.  Keep both feet
firmly on the rudder to prevent the aircraft yawing at speed.

The stall is very gentle with little or no tendency to drop a
wing.  The indicated stalling speed is less than 60 km/hr because
of the large position error at low speeds.  The spin is hard to
induce but is rapid with a good recovery.  A state of semi-
stalled, low speed spiral occurs if the aircraft does not enter a
full spin.  The high drag restricts the speed making this a safer
alternative to spinning for film purposes.

Page 8 ----------

The aircraft has been looped and rolled but the present permit to
fly does not allow these maneuvers.  The never exceed speed is
210 km/hr.  The engine does not exceed its limitations at full
throttle at this speed.


The two tanks hold 21 gallons and the normal fuel consumption is
about 6 - 8 gals. per hour, giving about 2 1/2 hrs. at cruising
speed or about 1 1/2 hrs. for formation or dog fighting.  The
reserve supply is the lower position of the fuel tank and should
be used for the circuit etc., at the end of a flight.

A hand fuel pump is fitted on one machine and should be used to
re-establish flow from the reserve supply, if the engine has
already quit in flight in event of a fuel pump failure.  If
necessary the engine can be kept running on the primer until the
main fuel pump is working.

     Approach and Landing

Do not make prolonged glides as the engine cools rapidly and is
very susceptible to [quitting?].  A high approach speed gives
better control and a view ahead.  The aircraft can be wheeled or
3 pointed but should not be landed tail low or it may bounce

A wheel landing is safer and recommended unless the ground is
very smooth.  Keep the tail high for as long as possible as this
prevents tipping into a wing skid if one wheel runs over a lump. 
The rudder is blanketed with the tail down and if a swing occurs
it may be uncontrollable.  Do not land on concrete as this
aircraft will ground loop.  Normal powered approach speed 120
km/hr (This is only 65 knots).


The engine is stopped by switching off and opening the throttle. 
Both fuel and oil cocks should be turned off.

End of Document ----------

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All material not specifically credited is Copyright by Randy Wilson. All rights reserved.
E-mail to Randy Wilson: avhistory@rwebs.net