The Eagle from the TV series “Space: 1999” has to be one of the biggest draws here at the Sci-Fi Air Show. Designed by British engineer Brian Johnson, its design reflects the earlier McDonnell-Douglas “Moonbus” (also used in “2001: A Space Odyssey"), and many of the earlier Gerry Anderson vehicles that preceded it. Although built in England in 1974-75 by British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce, many of its internal parts came from Italy (including Marconi Electronic Systems and the Associazione Italiana di Aeronautica e Astronautica), which helped co-produce the TV series. Three fully flyable models were constructed, with many modular replacement parts available when required for filming. (Viewers of the show understood why, as the vehicles were often called to perform dangerous “crash” stunts.)
Sturdy, reliable and beautifully designed, the Eagles have been flying for over 30 years. Stunt Pilot Tom Hudson came to be known as an extreme risk taker and was responsible for the many spectacular Eagle crashes seen on the show. (For one infamous crash seen in the episode “The Immunity Syndrome,” Hudson overshot the target crash site in Buckinghamshire and destroyed a nearby barn.) The resulting backlash from the community forced producers to relocate further north to film the remaining Eagle crashes for the series.
At the completion of the series, one of the Eagles went to Mr. Johnson, and the other two were sold to private collectors. One of those collectors, Jonathan Simpson, allows his Eagle to be displayed at the Sci-Fi Air Show in order to help pay for the expensive upkeep and maintenance. Because of the large number of replacement Eagle parts built for the run of the series, the Eagle displayed here is almost completely original.
Still, with a ship the size of the Eagle, it’s a full- time job maintaining it -- from finding replacement light bulbs to getting the foam in the seats just right. Simpson says, “It’s called Eagle 4 because it’s such a collection of spare parts! It’s original, but it would be wrong to call it one of the original three. Its tubular supporting framework is, but that’s about it.”
In a yearly (albeit expensive) ritual, Simpson flies Eagle 4 to the Moon every year on September 13th with a group of close friends and fans of the series. Pilot Kyle Wolter says about the Eagle, “It’s by far the easiest ship I’ve ever flown. There are two joysticks and it’s just like a working a video game. Because of the cost of the upkeep they won’t let me crash her, but I’d love to mow down some trees someday!”