2 BLACK DARTS
Every cameraman has had a close-call. One of mine was during the filming of “The Men Who Brought The Dawn”, the story of the Enola Gay crew and the dropping of the first Atomic Bombs on Japan.
I was shooting aerials outside of Wendover Utah in a Bell Long Ranger helicopter with pilot Ken Rudert and camera assistant Steven White. Producer-Director Jonathan Felt wanted a point of view shot of a test bomb falling towards a target marked on the desert floor. The technique we used was called “Vertical Plummets”. It involved starting at about 1,500 feet with the chopper tilted sharply on its side. The pilot would then cut power and we would literally plummet towards the ground, applying full power at the last moment.
The idea was working and after our second take we started back up for another try. I was sitting in the Tyler Camera Mount with nothing to do but look at my legs dangling out over the ground below, while Steve White checked the camera. Suddenly, when we were passing through 300 feet, two black darts raced by my feet. Pilot, Ken Rudert called over the loop, audibly upset “Those were F-14’s”.
They had passed underneath us wing tip to wing tip at great speed. If this had happened about eight seconds earlier, they would have been in our exact air space.
After we got our shot, we hurried to Clover Control, (the military air traffic control center for the Wendover area). Our Pilot was worried that if he had done something wrong, he would be in big trouble. It turned out that the two Tomcat Pilots were flying out to the Utah Test & Training Range for some low-level flying practice and they had taken a shortcut to the range by flying directly through our approved air space because, “nobody was ever out there”.
It was the Air Force pilots who were now in deep trouble because they had not checked our flight plan and we came close to a mid-air collision. Anyway, we got our shots and a good war story too.