Thunderbirds Are Go!

17 Jun

One of the favourite programs of a young Omnivore, was Thunderbirds, a puppet series about the adventures of “International Recue“. For the seven people in the Western world who haven’t heard of this 1960s icon of British childrens’ TV, there’s a good Wikipedia article here.

Thunderbird 2 (shown above), carried a variety of emergency vehicles, of which one of the most memorable were the ‘Elevator Cars’ which took over the function of landing gear for a stricken aircraft.

To quote the Thunderbird_2_pod_vehicles article:

The Elevator Cars are built for use at airports to enable stricken aircraft to land safely by way of being manouvred beneath a plane to act as replacement landing gear. The Elevator Cars are capable of matching the speed of most incoming aircraft, with each car having twelve wheels and heavy braking systems. Initially four were built; one master elevator car (with a number one label) and three remote controlled cars (numbered 2-4). However number 3 car was destroyed when it lost control and crashed during the rescue of Fireflash. The Elevator cars were seen in the first episode of Thunderbirds, Trapped in the Sky with their rescue of Fireflash becoming probably the most iconic in the show’s history.

I was immediately reminded of these wonderful gadgets when I came across the following item from a Jan 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics:

Instead of cutting a disabled plane into sections – and doing further expensive damage – the Air International Recovery system permits moving the craft in one piece. Four 35-ton cranes latch onto lifting beams placed under each wing. They lift the plane eight feet off the ground, highe enough for the 40 wheeled dolly to be rolled underneath. Then the plane can easily be towed to a repair facility.


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