Today in History – July 8, 1965 – Famous air racing pilot killed while filming “Flight of the Phoenix”.

8 July 1965 – Albert Paul Mantz, American noted air racing pilot and movie stunt pilot, is killed while flying the very unusual aircraft (Tallmantz Phoenix P-1) for the movie ‘The Flight of the Phoenix’.

Although Frank Tallman had flown the Phoenix P-1 for the first aerial shots on 7 July 1965, he injured his leg in a freak go-kart accident with his young son and was hospitalized. Second unit director Oscar Rudolph called for another takeoff shot to ensure he had “The Shot”, a common practice in the film industry. Paul Mantz, who had completed the majority of the trial flights in the P-1, volunteered to stand in for his partner.

During filming on 8 July 1965, Mantz tried to simulate a takeoff by making a “touch-and-go”. As Mantz came in for another low camera pass, his rate of descent at 90 mph exceeded the plane’s structural capacity. The modest impact of the touchdown, coupled with the sudden drag caused by the aircraft’s cobbled skid/wheel landing gear, caused the boom section behind the wings to fail, propelling the nose section forward, with the P-1 breaking up violently, killing Paul Mantz instantly. Stuntman Bobby Rose, also on board, was thrown clear and survived with a broken shoulder and pelvis. The tail boom cracked just aft of the wing as the right skid hit the ground while the left skid and tail wheel were still in the air. Note the rising dust only from the right skid and the boom was half way cracked through.

The Tallmantz Phoenix P-1 was an FAA-certified one-off aircraft built for the 1965 film production The Flight of the Phoenix and used in the picture’s initial aerial sequences. After the accident it was replaced by a crudely modified North American O-47A for the film.

Paul Mantz (the name he used throughout his life) was born in Alameda, California, the son of a school principal, and was raised in nearby Redwood City, California. He developed his interest in flying at an early age; as a young boy, his first flight on fabricated canvas wings was aborted when his mother stopped him as he tried to launch off the branch of a tree in his yard. In 1915, at age 12, he attended the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and witnessed the world-famous Lincoln Beachey make his first ever flight in his new monoplane, the Lincoln Beachey Special.[citation needed]

Mantz took his first flying lesson at age 16 using money that he made from driving a hearse during the influenza epidemic of 1919. Although he had accumulated hours towards his private pilot certificate, Mantz quit flying altogether when he witnessed the death of his instructor.[1]

On September 24, 1924, Mantz became a part of a famous aviation event when he lent his car battery to the Douglas World Cruiser that had “dead-sticked” into a field on its way to San Francisco for a celebration of the world flight. He was invited to join the festivities at Crissy Field where many noted military aviators tried to persuade him to pursue a career in military flying.

Source: Wikipedia (Mantz); Wikipedia (Phoenix)

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