A Legendary Film Pilot Shares a Lifetime of Nice Tales


Film pilot J.W. “Corkey” Fornof has flown hundreds of hours performing aerial movie stunts that most likely seemed loopy to the untrained eye. Nevertheless, his impeccable report exhibits a career-long dedication to security always. In films comparable to Mission: Unimaginable II, Six Days Seven Nights, The Phantom, Face/Off, and James Bond thrillers Licence to Kill and Octopussy—plus many others—Fornof was concerned within the on-screen aerial stunt flying, not solely because the pilot, but in addition on the groups that coordinated each mission.

Fornof’s physique of labor might fill a e book, and in reality, it can quickly, as he’s at the moment engaged on his biography, My Life Is a Film, to be launched at a later date. It is going to be a wild journey by a profession that options nearly each outrageous factor you possibly can do with an airplane whereas the cameras have been rolling…besides fly proper by a billboard. That stunt was deliberate, however minimize for one of many Bond movies, and—like all the things Fornof has executed—had it occurred, it will have been spectacular. Right here’s a take a look at the backstory of how Fornof has executed a lot and lived to inform the story.

FLYING Journal (FM): Your 17,000-plus hours not solely embrace film stunt work, but in addition a protracted profession as an airshow pilot and check pilot. What number of performances and totally different plane fill your logbooks?

Corkey Fornof (CF): I’ve flown greater than 3,000 low-level aerial performances and apply classes as a formation group or solo within the T-6 Texan, P-51 Mustang, F8F Bearcat, Pitts Particular, Bellanca Tremendous Viking, Christen Eagle, and the world’s smallest jet, the BD-5J. Thus far, I’ve flown 311 totally different plane.

A shot from the filming of Licence to Kill [Photo courtesy: Corkey Fornof]

FM: When your film stunt flying entails harmful maneuvers, who’s in cost when planning the stunt, and who has the ultimate say on the subject of security?

CF: I work as an aerial coordinator/stunt pilot, which is a Display Actors Guild (SAG) place to write down, design, and fly the ‘cash shot’ sequences. On set, I’ve whole management over security. If I, the director, or first assistant director (1st AD) sees an uncomfortable scenario and makes a security radio name of “CUT CUT CUT,” that stops all the things and will get everybody’s consideration.

FM: With so many transferring elements to a stunt flying sequence, what measures are put in place to guarantee security from begin to end?

CF: Posted on the decision sheet is a discover that plane shall be used on set, and everybody should attend a security brief-ing earlier than filming. The first AD will make it clear that earlier than something is completed round or to plane, it will need to have my approval. For air-to-air filming, I all the time have a full security briefing earlier than filming sequences, and everybody on set is aware of I’m the director throughout air-to-air shoots.

FM: What is likely one of the closest “shut calls” you may have had whereas filming a stunt sequence?

CF: We have been utilizing Kauai’s Nā Pali coast flying a Cessna 402 to shoot sequences by flying down the dramatic canyons in direction of the ocean. Coming over one saddle, I noticed three swinging wires all about 2 inches in diameter. With the nostril 45 levels down, there was no method to go over them, and if I went underneath them, I’d influence the bottom, so I simply tried to fly between the wires.

The plane that Fornof has flown might fill a museum—comparable to this F9F Panther his father flew in preparation to deploy to Korea. “It was a thrill to sit down in a jet he flew,” Fornof mentioned. “Holding the stick and throttle he really used was a magic second.” [Photo courtesy: Corkey Fornof]

FM: How does somebody survive flying a Cessna 402 by three giant energy wires?

CF: The highest wire got here throughout the nostril and windscreen and clipped off a part of the vertical rudder. I felt ache in my left foot and looking out down, I noticed a protracted gash about 3 toes by 5 toes on the rudder pedals, the place a part of the wire was hooked up. On the time, I had no concept we have been dragging a few 150-foot-long piece of the wire, which acted like a tailhook as we took out the principle powerlines into Princeville. The airplane was nonetheless flying, so no emergency was declared. We landed safely at Lihue [PHLI]. I credit score the coaching I had with saving all of our lives.

FM: What’s the very best piece of coaching recommendation you ever obtained?

CF: The coaching from my father, Invoice Fornof, and Bob Hoover was unbeatable. They have been kings of the air-show enterprise within the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies. They informed me to go watch a ballet as a result of if you watch a ballerina on stage, you see they’ve whole management over their fingers and toes, and so they reveal whole management in power administration. In addition they have nice situational consciousness on stage. I discovered to fly as they dance, in whole management.

FM: So what’s the story about you and Bob Hoover’s sig-nature Panama hat?

CF: After I was 13 years outdated, I began flying behind Hoover’s Mustang to airshows, to wash his air-plane and my father’s Bearcat. I used to be getting sunburned cleansing the airplanes, and finally began sporting a Panama hat. Hoover noticed me sporting it at one of many Wright-Patterson Air Drive Base exhibits and favored it, so he began sporting one too. So I used to be the one who launched Hoover to that model of hat, which kind of turned his trademark. He signed that authentic hat, and I nonetheless have it in my workplace.

FM: What was the most important stunt you ever filmed?

CF: Flying a Jetstar II by a big hangar door in Face/Off. The shot had 26 cameras, greater than another shoot in movie historical past. We had one take, so I watched my GPS for 60 knots, after which simply turned 90 levels and drove the Jetstar by the hangar doorways whereas explosives have been going within the hangar.

The hangar crash from Face/Off [Courtesy: Corkey Fornof]

FM: Is flying these unbelievable stunts ever enjoyable?

CF: It’s all very arduous work, however we do have our enjoyable. Through the filming of Phantom, I used to be Catherine Zeta-Jones’ stunt double for the biplane scenes. It was not a straightforward process—she’s lovely. I wore a protracted wig and a leather-based helmet. That evening at a forged social gathering by the resort’s pool, because the crew was having some good-natured enjoyable ribbing me, Catherine grabbed an open mike and mentioned throughout the whole resort PA system that if she and I have been in the identical costume, wig, and make-up, you couldn’t inform us aside from a half-mile away! The pool space got here aside with laughter.

Fornof along with his father, Invoice Fornof. [Photo courtesy: Corkey Fornof]

FM: Who’s the one particular person residing or useless you’ll most prefer to fly with?
CF: Gen. Jimmy Doolittle
FM: If you happen to might fly any airplane or helicopter you haven’t but flown, what would that be?
CF: Curtiss P-6E Hawk or Boeing P-26 Peashooter
FM: Describe probably the most distant airport you’ve ever used.
CF: Too many to call. If I wanted a strip at a distant location, the movie’s transportation division would minimize and degree one for me.
FM: What do you imagine has been aviation’s largest breakthrough occasion or innovation?
CF: Powerplants (jets, now electrical) and a large leap in avionics.
FM: What’s one vital lesson you discovered in your coaching?
CF: That the airplane can fly higher than I might.
FM: When not flying, I’d somewhat be…
CF: With my household or constructing scale-model airplanes.


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