Why The James Bond Helicopter Fight In Spectre is Impossible (It’s Not The Reason You Think)

Helicopters and airplanes have been central to countless James Bond movies. Since Sean Connery’s From Russia With Love, through Daniel Craig’s No Time To Die, it seems bad guys aboard a helicopter are always chasing Agent 007. However, the opening of 2015’s Spectre flipped the script. James Bond is pursuing an assassin named Sciarra through Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade until Sciarra leaps aboard a waiting helicopter. When 007 climbs aboard, the two fight in mid-air. A US Marine Corps combat pilot pointed out that this Spectre scene is nearly impossible–but the reason why may surprise you.

Spectre’s Helicopter Scene

This is a picture of stuntmen as they perform a battle hanging from a helicopter during the filming of the James Bond movie 'Spectre' at Zocalo Main Square in Mexico City, Mexico. The Spectre fight is one of many memorable James Bond helicopter scenes. | Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images
Stuntmen filming the Spectre helicopter scene | Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images

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Daniel Craig’s fourth film as James Bond was 2015’s SpectreThe movie begins with a long tracking shot through Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade. By the end of this scene, Agent 007 has located Sciarra, and the bad guy is on the run. Sciarra loses James Bond for a moment and climbs aboard his waiting helicopter. But the MI6 agent is not about to let him get away.

Bond grabs a bystander’s cane and knocks out Sciarra’s security guard. Then, the double-0 leaps aboard the rising helicopter and tackles Sciarra. But the aircraft is already taking off, and soon Bond and Sciarra are rising above Mexico City’s Zócalo Square.

The secret agent wants to capture Sciarra and get back to the ground. So, he knocks Sciarra aside and slams the pilot’s head against the instrument panel. Then, the helicopter spins out of control above the crowded square.

Sciarra grabs 007 and tries to wrestle him out of the aircraft’s open door. The two grapple back and forth, finally they both fall out of the helicopter.

James Bond and Sciarra catch grab handles high in the cabin and land on the aircraft’s skids. The men hang onto the side of the vehicle. Then, as the helicopter continues to spin out of control, they strike at one another.

The James Bond helicopter scene in Spectre includes a barrel roll

When Bond and Sciarra tumble back into the cabin, the pilot tries to shoot 007 with an emergency flare pistol. Bond strikes the pilot again, and the helicopter completes several barrel rolls. Bond kicks Sciarra in the chest as the aircraft levels out, launching him out of the open door.

With Sciarra dead, Bond turns his attention to the pilot. He grabs the man from behind and begins to choke him out. As he does so, the helicopter plummets towards the crowd below, then climbs skyward at a dangerous angle.

With the helicopter climbing, Bond eventually falls to the back of the cabin. When the helicopter engine fails, it completes a backflip and dives again. Bond returns to the front of the cabin, unbuckles the pilot, and kicks the man out of the helicopter. Bond wrestles with the controls of the plummeting aircraft. Finally, he pulls out of the dive, feet away from crashing into the crowd below, and flies off across Mexico city.

Marine Corps combat pilot calls the James Bond helicopter scene in Spectre impossible

This is a picture of stuntmen as they perform a battle hanging from a helicopter during the filming of the James Bond movie 'Spectre' at Zocalo Main Square in Mexico City, Mexico. The Spectre fight is one of many memorable James Bond helicopter scenes. | Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images
Stuntmen filming the Spectre helicopter scene | Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images

Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour is a Marine corps combat pilot who served two tours in Iraq. She has some expert objections to the Spectre helicopter scene.

Some fans called it unrealistic that Bond and Sciarra grappled in the cabin of a moving helicopter. Armour disagrees. She said, “It wouldn’t be hard to fight and move around in the back of an aircraft. It would almost be like an elevator without walls.”

Armour did take issue with the James Bond helicopter completing extended aerobatic stunts. Armour explained, “A helicopter is pulling on this small, little pole; there always needs to be weight on the rotor system.” This may be one of the reasons airplanes are safer than helicopters. Armour concluded, “The barrel roll he did at the end, and the inversion flight, that’s just completely unrealistic for a helicopter.” 

The Marine pilot conceded that though, “there is the Red Bull helicopter that is capable of doing things like that….99% of helicopters out there can’t do things like this.”

The James Bond helicopter in Spectre is the Red Bull helicopter

The 007 franchise is famous for incorporating some of the most extreme stunts in cinema history. For this reason, Spectre’s filmmakers sought out Red Bull stunt pilot Chuck Aaron and his highly modified Messerschmitt-Bölkow Blohm BO-105. This pilot and aircraft can complete barrel rolls and backflips and do so regularly during air shows. The team wrote the James Bond helicopter fight in Specter based around Aarons’s routine. While 99% of helicopters can’t complete such aerodynamics–and Sciarra’s escape helicopter would likely be unable to–the helicopter stunts in Spectre are all real.

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