The year is 1968. Gaumont has bought the overseas rights for Elleston Trevor's bestselling novel about an oil company aircraft crashing in the desert and being reconstructed to fly the desperate survivors back to civilisation. Director Robert Moreau assisted in adapting the script into French and changing the setting from the Libyan Sahara to Algeria during the war there (although production took place in Spain) and keeping the novel's original conceit of the English aero engineer being a modelmaker (from a thinly-veiled version of real-world model kit company Airfix named "Skybits"). An all-star cast was assembled:
Capitaine Francois Villes - Jacques Stuart
Lieutenant Louis Morant - Richard Fortabitant
Capitaine Herrice - Pierre Bouvreuil
Sergent Wautier - Renaud Freseau
Henry Stringer - Francis Gastwort
The fictional Skytruck twin-boom aircraft of Trevor's novel, represented by a Fairchild C-82 Packet in the American film version, was replaced by a Nord Noratlas of the Armée de l'Air. The Phenix itself was built from Noratlas parts supplied by the air force however, unlike the purpose-built (and ill-fated) Phoenix created and flown by Paul Mantz for the American production, it only taxied. The flying scenes were filmed using radio-controlled and scale studio models.
The film was a financial and critical success in France and remains a cult classic among aviation enthusiasts worldwide. The Phenix prop did not survive long after filming, being reclaimed by the French air force to provide spares for the Noratlas fleet. Some filming models did survive and one large-scale model is on display at the Musée de l'air et de l'espace at Le Bourget next to that collection's preserved Noratlas.
This is my second-ever Starfix kit and, to be honest, I'd quite like some more! This was a gift from a member of another site in answer to
my request for therapy kits
and had been on my wants list for some time, unless the Heller kit popped up first. The box is a little worse for wear but everything's there:
I don't have any in-progress shots because it went together very, very quickly and I was just having too much fun! For those who can't tell, the process was:
- cement both inner boom halves together so you can mount the horizontal stabilisers, which you cut in half from the single piece original
- saw the port wing off at the outer side of that side's boom/engine the the starboard wing at its inner, cement together
- cement wing to fuselage
- attach the rather nasty gear doors into closed position
- drill out a "cockpit" behind the engine
- attach the kit's main gear to the wing and the nosewheel to a cutout of the lower vertical stabiliser
- find a nice pole (oo-er) to attach aft of the cockpit and rig with elastic thread of your choice
C'est voila! Le Phenix! (As it happens I have a plan for the rest of the kit. I may even get started with it today....)
Amazingly the decals still work, but the roundels were too far out of register to use (so I cobbled together spares). I did use the kit's finflashes though. The FNX codes are from a Ventura 1/48 sheet of 8" RAF WW2 serials and the name was artfully handpainted.
I know the original movie used the clever conceit of oil rig supplies to make skids, and the 2004 film used the main gear in another way, but while I contemplated leaving the one main gear in place and having some kind of lopsided arrangement with the second leg I thought this approach worked best with the bits I had...even if it means the survivors would have to do a bit of work to get them both in place!