This dramatic sequence involved extensive preparation and the coordination with virtually every department on the set. The extent of our work entailed 3 weeks with 40 technicians to perform this exciting and dangerous sequence. The physical elements involved the following:
- Construction of a full size XF-11 with a 101 ft. wingspan that was cut in sections for this portion of the film.
- Construction of the interior set sub-structure out of steel to prevent collapse of the room.
- Installation of shaker motors to the backside of the interior set walls, under tables and furniture to simulate the violent shaking caused by the landing gear cutting through the roof.
- Pre-scoring the ceiling with breakaway materials and rigging a 75 ft. track and cable system to pull the full size landing gear through the ceiling with falling debris without injury to performers.
- Supervising the construction of an exterior house set also with steel reinforcement for the controlled fire explosions activated by propane mortars, installation of a liquid propane gas fire system involving over 3,000 feet of piping and multi-position controls.
- Construction of foreground fire rigs and two large 3-tiered, 15 ft. high x 16ft. x 20ft. fire troughs, through which thousands of gallons of gasoline were pumped to create the huge background fires.
- Rigging and executing the interior cockpit fires for the intense hatch escape sequence as well as creation of a benzyl peroxide blast of flames into Hughes's face, producing a flame under 170 degrees to avoid injury to the stunt performer.
- Cable rigging and deceleration system for the hurling of the aircraft toward camera as it crashes to the ground.
- Creating the backlit swirling smoke as the rescuer runs through to assist Hughes and the crash aftermath smoldering effects.
In closing I wish to thank Rob Legato and my colleagues in the Visual Effects Department who worked so well with us. I would also like to thank our director Martin Scorsese, and our producers Graham King and Michael Mann. I especially appreciate the Academy Visual Effects Committee members who have honored us with a position in the VFX Bakeoff.