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Recreating the Flying Machines of the Lafayette Escadrille

As filmmakers and storytellers, we have the challenging privilege of working with some very compelling non-human characters—the airplanes of the Escadrille. As novice pilots in training, they trained in worn-out Bleriots and Caudrons. But at the front as elite fighter pilots, they flew the best, most advanced fighters of the day. Each aircraft is itself a character—and became extensions of the men who flew them.

We have to make the flights of the Escadrille everything they actually were—moments of both transformative beauty and sheer terror. These guys did not fly sedately around in gentle patterns. They were hell-for-leather warriors, and each was a dance of life and death in the sky. The airplanes were small, fast, and nimble, but also frail, prone to failure, and extremely flammable.

So our approach is multifaceted, using a variety of resources to bring the flights to life. We’ll see the Escadrille pilots in flight themselves using archival images. We are partnering with pilots and owners of full-scale replica aircraft for ground-to-air and air-to-air filming to place the viewer up in the sky, in the machine.

Click the video to play

Full-size aircraft are great because there’s a real live human being being inside. But most historic and replica aircraft are not allowed to do aerobatic maneuvers—the risks are just too great.And the airplanes in our film need to go into screaming dives, perform combat aerobatics, and even crash. We’re not opposed to CGI, but we’d rather use real airplanes.

So we are commissioning large scale radio controlled models—perfect in detail, flown by expert pilots. With the advent of GoPro cameras, drones, and FPV camera platforms, our models will become actors on the stage of the sky. A similar appoach was taken with great effect in the outstanding film Dunkirk. Below you can see our 1/3 scale Nieuport 11 under construction. It will have a spinning radial engine, exact replica instruments, and control linkages. The camera will go right in the cockpit.

all control surfaces working–Aileron linkages completed!

Posted by Dawn Patrol RC on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Master model builder Mark Wilkins with the 100-inch upper wing of the Nieuport 11.
































Sponsors for the Nieuport 11