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Sound Barrier (1952)

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  • Sound Barrier (1952)

    OK I will put this wonderful film up again as one of my favourites : ) (my original thread disappeared along with some others on the old forum).
    This film was perhaps David Leans 'Homage' to test flying and test pilots.Other than the obvious glaring aerodynamic error - it is a lovely film and snapshot in time.

    The strong relationship to aviation history in The Sound Barrier has sometimes led to its being viewed as a semi-documentary.

    David Lean had done some research based on media reports of jet aircraft approaching sonic speeds - by interviewing British aircraft designers and pilots. He even managed to fly with test pilots as he produced a 300-page notebook that he turned over to playwright Terence Rattigan.The screenplay is loosely based on the real-life story of aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland and the loss of his son G de Havilland Jr, the company test pilot who died attempting to fly faster than the speed of sound in the DH108 tailless aircraft.

    Contrary to what is depicted in the film, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the rocket powered Bell X1flown by Chuck Yeager of the USAF in 1947. Yeager was present at the U.S. premiere, described The Sound Barrier as entertaining, but not that realistic – and any pilot who attempted to break the sound barrier in the manner portrayed in the film (pushing the stick forward to pull out of a dive) would have been killed. Because the 1947 Bell X-1 flight had not been widely publicised, many who saw The Sound Barrier thought it was a true story, and that the first supersonic flight was made by a British pilot.

    The flying sequences were filmed at Chilbolton Airfield, Hampshire, under the direction of Anthony Squire, aircraft featured in The Sound Barrier were loaned by Vickers, De Havilland and other British Aircraft companies. In addition, footage of early 1950s British jet technology shown in action during the film include the D H Comet, the world's first production jet passenger airliner the Supermarine Attacker and the DH Vampire. A Supermarine Swift prototype (VV119) masquerades as the Prometheus jet fighter under development. Perhaps a little prescient as the Supermarine Swift was plagued by development problems and only entered limited service with the RAF,being overshadowed by the Hawker Hunter.

    For fellow saddos/anoraks the B1 type Hangar where Prometheus is towed out of and Taxys back into after flight is still standing on what remains of the airfield and just inside the Hangar Door - the very rare sight of a RR Griffon powered VS.381 Seagull Air Sea Rescue Amphib prototype can be seen lurking : ) (in screen grab below)










    Last edited by BVS; 21st February 2017, 03:36 PM.

  • #2
    Fairly inane observations from The Daily Mail, July 25th, 1952

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    • #3
      Indeed but at least they mentioned the fact that John Justin was an RAF Pilot during WW2 : )
      His Commission date - From the Gazette

      Pilot Officer - 3rd Apr. 1941.
      905032 John Justinian de LEDESMA
      (63442).
      Post War JJ did a Flight Safety film for the RAF

      Here are 2 screen grabs from the DVD 'RAF The unseen films 1945 - 1947'
      Video number 2 is entitled 'No Alibi' with JJ being given a hard time by his screen 'wife' about his aircraft accidents whilst in the RAF,JJ was blaming the groundcrew in a jocular fashion ,but some nice high quality footage inc Airspeed Oxford,Spitfire,Mosquito and Proctor...
      He is portrayed as a Flying Officer which afaik was his highest rank whilst serving,so he may or may not be in one of his own uniforms....

      Both scenes involve him remonstrating with Flying Control after different spitfire incidents







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      • #4
        Another one of those 50s classics. A great movie..... and i could never tire of seeing anything the wonderful Ann Todd is in!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by BritMovieHoncho View Post
          Fairly inane observations from The Daily Mail, July 25th, 1952

          Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

          Comment


          • #6
            Very much a favourite film of mine, but I am always amused by the fact that the Nigel Patrick character takes his pregnant wife on a jaunt to Cairo without having given any thought to how they were going to get back! No wonder Joseph Tomelty's designer tells Ridgefield that Tony "hasn't got it up here" (tapping his head).

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            • #7
              Interesting to see this film under discussion. This would not be the first of DL's films I would necessarily go to if I wanted to renew my acquaintance with his earlier work but it is a film I enjoy. However like most of the earlier films they repay your attention and remind you that much of his genius resides outside of the later epics. The only film I do find somewhat less appealing is Madeleine.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Odeonman View Post
                Very much a favourite film of mine, but I am always amused by the fact that the Nigel Patrick character takes his pregnant wife on a jaunt to Cairo without having given any thought to how they were going to get back! No wonder Joseph Tomelty's designer tells Ridgefield that Tony "hasn't got it up here" (tapping his head).
                Absolutely - but it is a nice little piece of film work : )
                It might also just be a bit of RAF type humour - possibly the Nigel Patrick character would have known about the Comet being available for the return flight but was just joking to his wife - that is the way (rightly or wrongly) I have always thought about the scene.
                Last edited by BVS; 17th March 2017, 07:47 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BVS View Post
                  Contrary to what is depicted in the film, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the rocket powered Bell X1flown by Chuck Yeager of the USAF in 1947. Yeager was present at the U.S. premiere, described The Sound Barrier as entertaining, but not that realistic – and any pilot who attempted to break the sound barrier in the manner portrayed in the film (pushing the stick forward to pull out of a dive) would have been killed. Because the 1947 Bell X-1 flight had not been widely publicised, many who saw The Sound Barrier thought it was a true story, and that the first supersonic flight was made by a British pilot.
                  I knew that Chuck Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier but I didn't know that the counter-intuitive pushing the stick forward to come out of a dive was the wrong thing to do. I thought the reversal of the control surfaces above supersonic speed was one of the most important lessons that test pilots (such as Chuck Yeager) learned. Maybe that detail from the film has become lodged in my mind as "fact" when it wasn't true. It was my dad who told me about it once, so maybe he had seen the film some time before and was passing on what he thought was the truth!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by martinu View Post

                    I knew that Chuck Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier but I didn't know that the counter-intuitive pushing the stick forward to come out of a dive was the wrong thing to do. I thought the reversal of the control surfaces above supersonic speed was one of the most important lessons that test pilots (such as Chuck Yeager) learned. Maybe that detail from the film has become lodged in my mind as "fact" when it wasn't true. It was my dad who told me about it once, so maybe he had seen the film some time before and was passing on what he thought was the truth!
                    That's what films are for - to teach us things.
                    of course it's true - it said so in a movie

                    So the next time you're flying a supersonic plane in a steep dive you'll know that you should push the stick forwards

                    Steve

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                    • Rick C
                      Rick C commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Alain Delon tries this trick out in "Airport 80-The Concorde" but a fat lot of good it did him.

                  • #11
                    Originally posted by martinu View Post

                    I knew that Chuck Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier but I didn't know that the counter-intuitive pushing the stick forward to come out of a dive was the wrong thing to do. I thought the reversal of the control surfaces above supersonic speed was one of the most important lessons that test pilots (such as Chuck Yeager) learned. Maybe that detail from the film has become lodged in my mind as "fact" when it wasn't true. It was my dad who told me about it once, so maybe he had seen the film some time before and was passing on what he thought was the truth!
                    High speed control reversal was usually caused by structural twisting of the Wing when the ailerons were deflected to 'Roll' the aircraft - so you would (say) move the control column to the right to roll the aircraft to the right but the forces on the wing structure would then cause the Wing Structure to 'twist' the opposite way and therefore the aircraft would then roll the opposite way.This would not normally happen with the tailplane (elevator) controls but D Lean had obviously heard about aileron reversal and decided to use some 'poetic licence'.
                    At transonic speeds - many control surface problems were caused by shock waves moving around the wing and thus moving the control surface without any pilot input,swept back wings could keep the control surfaces inside the 'Shock Cone' but the problem was ultimately solved by using irreversable fully powered controls (ie the control surface could not be moved by external forces).
                    Slow speed aileron reversal is totally different and is caused by the downgoing aileron aggravating an already almost stalled wing by increasing the angle of attack past the stalling angle so if one tries to 'pick up' a dropping wing by applying aileron then the aircraft will roll the wrong way (sometimes called Autorotate) and possibly enter a spin.

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                    • #12
                      I must admit that I am not amazed by this particular film, it is probably the only Lean's film I found boring with In Which We Serve. It has some powerful moments: the flying sequences, some stunning ellipsis, the troubling astronomical shots. But otherwise I found it very verbose and predictable...

                      Originally posted by bertie View Post
                      However like most of the earlier films they repay your attention and remind you that much of his genius resides outside of the later epics.
                      I strongly disagree, that such a cliche...
                      I personally give the three Ann Todd's films (and I like The Passionate Friend and Madeleine very much) for only one shot of Lawrence of Arabia or Ryan's Daughter! The cut between the matches and the sun (in both Lawrence, and Ryan), the emptiness of the desert in Lawrence, the way the editing interlace the tsarist repression and Lara's rape in Doctor Jivago, the love scene in the wood and the tempest in Ryan's Daughter , the mystery of Marabar's cave in Passage to India, the psychology of his heroes and heroines traped between desire and reality. There is as much genious in that than in Brief Encounter or the Dickens's films.

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                      • #13
                        I still have not seen this. This thread is a reminder. I will look for it this weekend

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                        • #14
                          Funnily enough
                          We have just been on holiday,I took my old kindle with us and was catching up on some Pilot/Aircrew biographies,apparently one Jet Airliner crew did indeed have to push 'forward' on the control column to pull out of (an uncontrolled) dive.Most aircraft have a 'Trim' system which takes the 'load' off the pilots controls and allows the aircraft to fly straight and level 'Hands Off' at differing speeds.The Tailplane/Elevator trim can be very powerful and it is the trim system most used by pilots as the aircraft airspeed directly affects the 'fore and aft' trim,on most aircraft as the airspeed increases then the aircraft nose will want to rise (climb) and one must therefore keep trimming 'forward' to take the load off the control column.
                          The particular airliner type in the incident had a moving tailplane for fore and aft (pitch) trim ie the complete tailplane angle of incidence would be adjusted over a limited range to trim the aircraft for a specific speed,this is a very powerful control of course and with this particular incident the tailplane trim system 'ran away' to full nose down trim which the pilots could not overcome,however the Captain had the idea of pushing the controls forward to unload the tailplane screw jack which then allowed the system electrics to run the screwjack back the other way (when the pilots were pulling back on the controls,the aerodynamic load of the screwjack drive motor was very high and the electric motor was not powerful enough to overcome the load).
                          A brave decision by the captain (and totally alien to previous training and experience) which saved all on board.
                          Although of course a very different scenario to the 'Sound Barrier' scene,it reminded me of this thread
                          Last edited by Nick Dando; 5th June 2017, 10:54 AM.

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                          • #15
                            The particular airliner type in the incident had a moving tailplane for fore and aft (pitch) trim ie the complete tailplane angle of incidence would be adjusted over a limited range to trim the aircraft for a specific speed,this is a very powerful control of course and with this particular incident the tailplane trim system 'ran away' to full nose down trim which the pilots could not overcome,however the Captain had the idea of pushing the controls forward to unload the tailplane screw jack which then allowed the system electrics to run the screwjack back the other way (when the pilots were pulling back on the controls,the aerodynamic load of the screwjack drive motor was very high and the electric motor was not powerful enough to overcome the load).
                            A brave decision by the captain (and totally alien to previous training and experience) which saved all on board.
                            Although of course a very different scenario to the 'Sound Barrier' scene,it reminded me of this thread
                            Was that the BAC 111 or Trident? I understand those T-fin aircraft had problems early on with deep stall, and so they had to put shakers into the controls as a warning, so I was wondering if other (at the time) slightly strange characteristics manifested themselves.

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