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This Is How You Film The Fastest P-51 On The Planet

Shotover F1 camera system controlled remotely from cockpit. Credit: Pursuit Aviation

As some of you AvGeeks may recall, air racing champion Steven Hinton recently set a new World Speed Record over Labor Day weekend of 531.272 MPH in his highly modified P-51 Mustang “Voodoo”, owned by Bob Button from Dixon, CA and sponsored by Joe Clark and Aviation Partners Inc of Seattle, WA.

The fastest lap actually reached a speed of 554.69 MPH, but Hinton’s average speed of 531.27 mph over four passes on the 3km course, located at Clark’s Ranch in a remote part of Central Idaho, officially made him and Voodoo the fastest piston engine propeller driven airplane in the world, ever.

Hinton and Voodoo take off for the record. Credit: Pursuit Aviation

According to The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI – The World Air Sports Federation, Hinton’s new World Speed Record falls into the category for piston-engine airplanes with a takeoff weight between 3,000 and 6,000kg.

Documenting the historic event was Pursuit Aviation, a Southern California-based aerial cinematography company founded by Dan Friedkin and partner John Tamburro. Dan, who is chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group, is founder and chairman of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and one of nine civilian Heritage Flight pilots qualified to fly in formation with U.S. Air Force single-ship demonstration teams. He also participates in air shows throughout North America and Europe, flying right wing for the Horsemen P-51 Flight Team, the world’s only P-51 formation aerobatic team.

John has been flying helicopters in Southern California for over 28 years which includes time covering major news events like the OJ Simpson chase, the LA Riots, and the Northridge earthquake as well as flying the top organ transplant teams in Los Angeles. He is qualified on various helicopter types and has specialized in the motion picture and television industry for the past 21 years. In that time, he has accumulated over 7500 hours flying in feature films, television and commercials with a range of experience including close air-to-air formation, low-level chases, and military operations.

Needless to say, they are not short on experience in either flying or aerial cinematography, and they put a new, highly customized aerial camera system and setup into action for Hinton’s big day.

The company recently released a high-impact video package of Hinton’s flight, which is worth taking a minute to watch above.

Partnering with SHOTOVER, Pursuit Aviation mounted their setup to a photo chase jet and put the groundbreaking 6-axis gyro stabilized F1 camera system to work, which is specifically customized for capturing fully-stabilized imagery at over 350 kts and under heavy G-loading.

We can maintain stabilization throughout the performance envelope and capture the aerial sequences that others can’t,” said a company spokesperson. “The aerial cinematographer sits in the rear seat of the tandem-seat jet aircraft, and operates the nose-mounted system via a gimbal controller with integrated monitor in real time.”

Shotover F1 camera system controlled remotely from cockpit. Credit: Pursuit Aviation

Pursuit Aviation spent much time and effort conducting R&D in collaboration with Shotover to properly mount and flight test the system, and the company has some big plans ahead with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support the agency’s ambitious Mars 2020 Rover mission, conducting flight testing in support of the Lander Vision System (LVS) which will be imperative to the successful landing of the Rover 100 million miles away.

But Hinton’s new record isn’t as straightforward as one would hope. The 3km Closed Course record was held by Lyle Shelton and “Rare Bear” at 528mph, and rules require Steve and Voodoo to beat their 4-pass average speed of 528 MPH by 1%, or roughly 533 MPH, to own the record.

They fell short of the FAI’s “1% rule” when Voodoo’s engine started showing signs of problems and a loss of oil pressure by Hinton’s third lap, forcing him to shorten his last turn around to complete the 4th run and recording the slowest speed of the 4 laps by 12mph.

Pursuit Aviation’s SHOTOVER F1 camera and rig on the chase jet for Hinton’s recent World Speed Record. Credit: Pursuit Aviation

They did indeed fly faster than Rare Bear, giving them the speed record, but Hinton and Co did not beat Rare Bear’s record holding average speed (now a retired record).

This was an awesome experience for everyone involved and we were thrilled to document Steven’s record-breaking flight using the SHOTOVER F1 camera system, which is truly groundbreaking technology in aerial cinematography,” said Friedkin (Founder, Pursuit Aviation). “It took a lot of test flights and extensive engineering to create a system that could withstand the extreme speed and force required for Steven to break this record and the setup performed great. The unique vantage points and quality of the video our team was able to capture of “Voodoo” is unlike anything that has been recorded at these speeds.”

Flying and filming in the camera jet is like being in a real dogfight as I’d imagine – high speeds, high adrenaline, and high stress,” said Andrea Bassani (Aerial Cinematographer, Pursuit Aviation). “Shooting during a live event like the World Speed Record attempt presented unique challenges unlike anything I’ve experienced on closed-set filming with a carefully coordinated ‘shot list.’ The intensity of the flight and the pressures to ‘get the shot’ weigh heavily on you as a camera operator in the backseat flying with such legends as Steve Hinton, and his son, Stevo.”

Hinton and his team after setting the record. Credit: Pursuit Aviation

This was a history making flight for both Steven and the aerial cinematography community as a whole, so I feel very privileged, humbled, and thankful to be a part of it,” added Bassani.

Recent Pursuit Aviation projects include the film “Dunkirk,” for which Dan served as an aerial unit coordinator, Spitfire pilot and helicopter camera pilot. Other major film and television projects include “Thor,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Ray Donovan,” “24,” “Lethal Weapon,” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Pursuit Aviation provided everything from helicopters as well as camera platforms or picture ships to gimbals, camera equipment, and personnel in various forms depending on the production requirements. Pursuit Aviation has also done aerial shoots for the Horsemen Flight Team, which performs in air shows and puts on aerobatic displays in P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F4U Corsair, F8F Bearcat, and F-86 Sabre aircraft.  The company also documented the historic transatlantic flight of the “Berlin Express” P-51B Mustang this past summer as pilot Lee Lauderback flew it from the U.S. to England to perform in the Flying Legends Airshow in Duxford.

As for more footage from Hilton’s record setting flight, Pursuit Aviation has no plans to produce another video or release further footage, at least not at this time.

If they do, rest assured it will show up on AvGeekery.

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Follow Mike Killian on Instagram and Facebook, @MikeKillianPhotography 

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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an aerospace photographer and writer, with a primary focus on spaceflight and military and civilian aviation. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.

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