Nov 29, 2015

How the test launch of the TIE Fighter prototype for filming of A New Hope went terribly, terribly wrong.

It’s not a very well known fact but in the pre-production for the very first Star Wars movie Lucasfilm actually made a working Tie Fighter prototype which they thought they would use to film the dog fights with X-Wing’s that were intended to take place in the Battle of Yavin, the climax of the movie. 

 The idea was that TIE would be filmed by way of it chasing a small light aircraft which was rigged with cameras. The light aircraft would make steep banking maneuvers with sharp twists and turns so as to mimic what film director George Lucas thought the X-Wings would fly like when being chased in a dog fight.

tie fight test pilot ejection
Eject! Eject!
This was a great idea until the very first test flight of the TIE fighter which was undertaken over the Bonneville Salt Flats in February 1975 some two years before the film's release. The TIE’s launch was an epic fail. Obviously the TIE doesn't have wheels for a standard take off so a vertical take off was required. This entailed the ship being launched by way of two small rockets that would fall off when the TIE was 50 feet in the air at which point, the single main thruster rocket would engage for flight.

The first part was successful, the TIE made it into the air however the main thruster failed to ignite properly. With no propulsion available, the TIE pilot (Ex US Army Test Pilot, Gilbert Taylor) had no choice to immediately eject.

The TIE disintegrated on impact with the Earth and George Lucas was forced to use models to create the famous end battle of Star Wars. 

And if you've read this far without getting the joke, I've got a Star Destroyer that's parked on Jakku to sell you! 

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