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Blue Thunder

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Template:Infobox Film

Blue Thunder is a 1983 feature film that features a high-tech helicopter of the same name. The movie was directed by John Badham and stars Roy Scheider. A spinoff television series also entitled Blue Thunder lasted eleven episodes in 1984 .

Plot synopsis

The film revolves around Frank Murphy, a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) helicopter pilot and troubled Vietnam War veteran. Amid a family crisis, he is selected to pilot the world's most advanced helicopter, nicknamed "Blue Thunder", which is essentially a military style combat helicopter supposedly intended for police use as a surveillance platform and for large crowd control missions. With powerful armament, stealth technology that allows it to fly virtually undetected, and other accoutrements (such as infrared scanners, powerful microphones and cameras, and a U-Matic VCR), Blue Thunder appears to be a formidable tool in the war on crime that the LAPD readily accepts.

When the death of Councilwoman Diane McNeely turns out to be more than just a random killing, Murphy begins his own investigation. He discovers that a subversive action group, using the acronym THOR (Tactical Helicopter Offensive Response—the "proposed use of military helicopters to quell disorder"), is intending to use Blue Thunder to secretly eliminate political undesirables. Murphy immediately suspects that his old nemesis from the war, Lt. Colonel F.E. Cochrane, who is actually the primary test pilot for Blue Thunder, is hiding something. After following Cochrane and using the technology on board Blue Thunder to record a meeting Cochrane has with others planning to use Blue Thunder for nefarious purposes, Murphy must try to get the video tape to a television station before he gets killed. The final showdown between him and Cochrane, who pilots a dual 30mm cannon-equipped MD 500 against Blue Thunder, takes place over Los Angeles and includes a battle with two F-16 fighters. After pulling off a spectacular loop, Murphy shoots down Cochrane, and then destroys Blue Thunder by parking it in front of an approaching freight train.

Main cast of characters



  • The type of helicopter used for Blue Thunder was a French-made Aérospatiale SA-341G Gazelle modified with bolt-on parts and an Apache-style canopy. Two helicopters were used in the filming of the movie in case one was grounded for maintenance issues. The helicopters were purchased by Columbia Pictures and flown to Cinema Air in Carlsbad, California, where they were heavily modified for the film. These alterations made the helicopters so heavy various tricks had to be employed to make it look fast and agile in the film. For instance, the 360° loop maneuver at the end of the film was carried out by a radio controlled model.
  • The LAPD Bell 206B JetRangers were painted to the same style of the LAPD JetRangers for that era. Two JetRangers were used for the film and both were owned by Cinema Air.
  • Both Blue Thunder helicopters started out as Aerospatiale SA-341G Gazelles. The first one was S/N 1066; Production Year 1973; temporary registered. F-WKQD to SNIAS; registered. 31/7/74 N57936 to Vought Helicopter Co.; registered. 2/10/74 N37LR to L.T. Ruth Coal Co.; sold to Kentucky Gem Coal Co. Inc. 10/10/74; purchased to Continental Flying Service, Inc. 19/11/76; regd. 17/12/76 same reg. to Continental Flying Service Inc.; 20/12/76 purchased to L.T. Ruth Coal Co.; reg. N37LR reserved 10/76; regd. 11/1/77 N37LR to L.T. Ruth Coal Co.; purchased 19/8/81 to Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; allocated experimental reg. 28/11/83 N51BT to Columbia Pictures; purchased 25/10/84 to Mr. Michael E. Grube; w/o 23/6/94; dismantled for parts; NOTES: a) during 1981 modified for movie requirements on 1704.7 total hours done by R.W. Martin, Inc. (Cinema Air); b) used as model for film "Blue Thunder" and "Amerika" TV miniserial (pilot: Jim Gavin).
  • The second SA-341G Gazelle was S/N 1075; Production Year 1973; registered. 7/8/73 N94494 to G. D. Turner (Vought Helicopters Co.); re-registered. 25/9/73 N94494 to N777GH Holley & Beck; registered 2/3/77 to F.R.B.C. Leasing Co.; leased 14/3/77 to Mocomb Contracting Corp.; leased 29/9/80 to P. Bosco & Sons, Inc. (fmr. Mocomb Contr.); 17/8/81 purchased by F.R.B.C. Leasing Co. to Moceri Management Co.; purchased 19/8/81 to Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; allocated experimental reg. 16/11/81 N52BT to Columbia Pictures Inc.; registered 21/3/86 same reg. to Mr. Michael E. Grube; Cof Reg. cancelled 16/8/88; dismantled (scrapped) for parts, w/o; NOTE: a) during 1981 modified as movie requirements by R.W. Martin, Inc. (Cinema Air).
  • After the film was made, the helicopter was sold to Mike Groovy, an aviation salvage collector in Clovis, New Mexico. Groovy then leased it out to a film company that was filming the made for TV movie AMERIKA [an ABC mini-series about Soviet occupation of the USA; the helicopters were painted black, and the surveillance microphones were missing.] After he got it back it was dismantled and sold for parts.


  • The helicopter and Los Angeles television station use a 3/4" Sony U-Matic VCR.
  • This was one of Warren Oates' last films before his death. He died of a heart attack after making this film. This film is dedicated to him. He made one movie and one TV episode that were released after Blue Thunder.
  • The two F-16 Fighting Falcons were actually scale models.
  • The F-16 pilots are supposedly operational air defense alert pilots from March Air Force Base, in Riverside, California. However, they are wearing Air Force Systems Command patches on their chests, and shoulder patches from the 445th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, which was a flight test unit, manned solely by test pilots. The 445th did not participate in combat operations.
  • A caption at the beginning of the Blue Thunder movie states that all the high-tech-equipment features of the helicopter are real and were actually used by the military at the time. The exception was "Whisper Mode" which does not exist on any flying helicopter.
  • The helmet-controlled gun turret and Target Acquisition and Designation System (TADS) was inspired by the AH-64 Apache, which uses an "Integrated Helmet And Display Sight System" (IHADSS), wherein the nose-mounted sensors and the 30 mm chain gun are linked to the gunner's helmet.
  • The bolt-on cockpit of the original helicopter used to be visible on the backlot tour of MGM Studios in Florida. It has not been present in the 'bone yard' since at least 2005. Previous images can be found here.
  • The first draft of the screenplay for Blue Thunder featured Frank Murphy as more of a crazy main character with deeper psychological issues, who went on a rampage and destroyed a lot more of the city.[2]
  • The 1983 film had originally been up for sequalization by Columbia Pictures. When Columbia opted to do the television series, Roy Scheider had been approached to star in it. He refused the offer.[citation needed]
  • A total of four types of helicopters appear in the film.
    • Bell 206B JetRanger (Los Angeles Police Helicopters)
    • SA-341G Gazelle (Blue Thunder)
    • AS-350D AStar (Seen at the news helicopter covering the unfolding events between Blue Thunder and the LAPD)
    • Hughes 500D (Piloted by F.E. Cochran against Blue Thunder)

Other appearances

  • The Blue Thunder mockup was also used in the movie "Firefox" (1982) for interior cockpit shots of the Mil Mi-24 helicopters in the movie.
  • The Blue Thunder helicopter was used in the premiere episode of MacGyver (1985)
  • Matchbox released a die-cast toy model in 1985 named "Mission Helicopter". It is directly based on Blue Thunder.
  • Blue Thunder, a game for the Action Max, using footage from the movie.
  • In a television commercial for Wang Laboratories, a modified Blue Thunder with wing mounted missiles was featured, sneaking up and hovering outside of a skyscraper's windows, to intimidate a competitor.
  • The ABC TV miniseries Amerika from the late 80s, about the invasion of the U.S. by the U.S.S.R., featured two Blue Thunder helicopters, painted black and wearing Red Star insignias, posing as Russian helicopters on patrol.
  • A French reprint of a Tom Clancy's Op-Center novel entitled Chaostage features a photo of Blue Thunder on the cover. [3]
  • Blue Thunder also appears in the Sega video games Thunder Blade and Super Thunder Blade as the helicopter you control in the game and the title screen itself is a still from the movie.
  • In the 2005 Doctor Who episode "Dalek", Blue Thunder appears in stock footage as "Bad Wolf 1", the villain's helicopter.

See also


External links


de:Das fliegende Auge fr:Tonnerre de feu it:Tuono blu ja:ブルーサンダー (映画) pl:Błękitny grom ru:Голубой гром (фильм) he:רעם כחול

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Blue Thunder".