With the progression of the series and as the characters move away from the quiet Isle of Hue and into the real world, their journeys take them onward to new and exciting locations, usually by plane. In the case of Ebony, who has trained to be a pilot, aircraft and flying are very much an everyday thing for her.
Therefore, I have created this page to list all the weird and wonderful planes that are encounted throughout the series I’ve created for all you aviation enthusiasts out there, like me. 🙂
The Maddie Series
1. Aérospatiale/BAe Concorde
The first aircraft our characters ride on in the series, the beautiful pinnacle of human innovation and aviation luxury, it could only be Concorde. This aircraft is used by Maddie and her friends on their flight from London Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport in Maddie in America – Volume 1, but old Conky wasn’t my first choice when it came to flying their epic voyage.
Interestingly, my first choice when it came to carrying out this flight across the Atlantic was in fact a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, though I struggle to explain why exactly. I guess I’ve always had an adoration for the Tristar, by far the best of those wide-body tri-jets from the 1970’s and 80’s, even though in terms of performance and general flying experience it didn’t really differ from its contemporaries such as the 747 or the DC-10. I think it was more because the L-1011 was something of an obscure but much loved aircraft, but, when I really thought about it, flying aboard it would’ve been, well, a touch mundane.
I eventually landed on Concorde about halfway through the writing process when I suddenly fell back in love with this magnificent airplane. I’ve always adored Concorde, its style, its grace, its power, its precision engineering and the fact that it really did bring out the best in human design and technology, but prior to the writing of Maddie in America I hadn’t really thought about it for years. It was only after watching a documentary on it that I reminded myself of how brilliant this plane is, and thus I had to get it into my story no matter what. The L-1011 was quickly pushed aside and the whole section aboard the plane was rewritten to included this beauty.
The livery that I chose for Concorde was originally going to be British Airways Landor, in keeping with the colourscheme these aircraft wore at the time. However, I was made aware of the many copyright and trademark issues that have dogged me and my work from the start, so I decided to create my own variation. Originally I wanted to put an entirely new livery on the aircraft, but nothing I considered seemed to fit the bill. I eventually settled on combining the two British Airways liveries, the original dark blue cheatline down the windows, and the Landor half-Union Flag tail, which I think resulted in a somewhat striking look.
2. Boeing 767-200
The second aircraft Maddie and her friends use, this time a Boeing 767-200 in a fictitious livery, which flies them from New York JFK across the continental USA to San Francisco International Airport.
From the very start I’d considered the Boeing 767-200, not only because it’s one of my favourite aircraft, but because at the time such planes were nearly new, having been unveiled only a couple of years earlier. The original plan was for this to be an American Airlines 767, again in keeping with the realism of the time, but copyrights once again forbade my use of the classic livery and logo. Instead I chose to base the livery of this aircraft somewhat on the final livery worn by Trans World Airlines (TWA), which consisted of a similar colourscheme but not in the same style.
The 767’s role in the story is indeed short, but there wasn’t really much point lingering on the flight across the USA, especially seeing how half of Volume 1 had been devoted to the flight on Concorde. Indeed once you’ve flown aboard Concorde, every other aircraft pales in comparison.
1. Cessna 208 Grand Caravan
The first aircraft Ebony flies, both in the Outsiders series and in her life, this Cessna 208 Grand Caravan owned by Harold Wisley and used for flying tours around the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
Why the humble Caravan?
I’ve always had an admiration for the technology behind the Caravan. Previously, Cessna had been known for making either bare basic prop planes such as the Skylane and Skyhawk, as well as private jets such as the Citation, but the 208 was their first real venture into what was essentially commercial aviation, and it immediately became a byword for a strong and reliable little aircraft that could fly into some of the toughest terrains imaginable. For someone like Harry, especially seeing as the Caravan was pretty much brand new in 1986, the Caravan would be the perfect choice. For airtours it would certainly have good credit, seeing as the wings are above and therefore the views to the magnificent scenery below are unobstructed for all those American and Japanese tourists.
Indeed I’ve taken a bit of an artistic license in that usually those who take flying lessons won’t be allowed to fly an aircraft with more than 150hp. Usually, trainee pilots or people taking lessons will fly in the 110hp Cessna 152, whereas the 675hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A that powers this puppy would be a little too much for a newbie!
It’s a great plane and one that deserved a place in my story, even if its presence was somewhat brief.
2. Beechcraft Baron 58
In the process of Ebony learning how to fly, and in order to attain her Private Pilot’s License, she is put to work using this Beechcraft Baron 58 owned by Harold Wisley, his primary training aircraft for aspiring commercial pilots.
Again, a bit of artistic license in that a trainee pilot, regardless of their course, would not train in a twin-prop aircraft, especially one with two Continental IO-470-L air-cooled six-cylinder horizontally opposed piston engines producing 260hp each. Either way, though I attempt to replicate real-life as much as possible in this series, I do like to insert a few anachronisms and take a few liberties here and there to satisfy my own enthusiasms. 🙂
As for the Baron itself, I absolutely adore it. It really is a classic design at its finest, a smooth, sheek body, some precise and wonderful flight performance, and it also possessing some reasonable amounts of power. The thing I adore most about the plucky Baron however is the noise from those fantastic engines. When those things rev up on take-off and that resonating sound reverberates through the cockpit, I really do get goosebumps, it’s just the best sound for a plane I’ve ever heard!
Small wonder that, when I was a child, I would always fly the Baron when it came to playing Flight Unlimited II, also partly because it was the closest aircraft to a small turboprop I could get, more so than the P-51 Mustang or the Piper Arrow!
3. Hawker Siddeley Trident 2E
With the rise to commercial aviation comes the perks of learning aboard one of the most advanced and sophisticated airliners of that early age of jets; the mighty Trident. An ex-British Atlantic Airways aircraft, this Trident 2E plies its post-retirement trade as part of Harold Wisley’s flight school, training students on how to handle and operate a modern jet airliner.
The Trident is among my favourite aircraft of all time, a fantastic design with technical innovations coming out of its ears and reliability that put many of its contemporaries, as well as modern equivalents, to shame. The aircraft, though a sales bomb, was a favourite among crews and passengers, and its slender lines are more than enough to justify its placement in the series as a focal point of Ebony’s training for her CPL.
Now, here come the artistic licenses.
The idea of using a jet in a CPL flight school is not uncommon. Many flight schools will have an ex-airline Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 to help pilots learn how to handle aircraft of such size and power, as well as for use in ground training. However, the use of a Trident would be very unlikely considering their complex nature as well as their outdated design. By 1986 the Trident was 24 years old and aviation technology had come a long way, thus the aircraft was very much a dinosaur.
Furthermore, it’s not possible for two people to fly a Trident as it was fitted with a rear panel for the Flight Engineer. Due to the analogue systems layout of the aircraft’s instrument panel, it wasn’t possible on early aircraft to have all the fuel and hydraulic pressure gauges on the panel in front of the pilots, therefore a Flight Engineer was needed to monitor these from an engineer’s panel situated behind the pilots. With the advent of CRT monitors which could switch through all the aircraft’s functions with ease, the Flight Engineer’s position, much to the chagrin of the unions, was dispelled with. However, the ageing Trident wasn’t able to be served with such a luxury, thus the idea of only a two-man crew flying is a bit of a stretch (though not completely impossible).
The truth is I couldn’t really think of a third person to fill the role of a Flight Engineer in the story, so I decided to do without. I feel that it’s best not to clutter a story with too many characters as it will otherwise become too busy for the ready (a common complaint I and many people I know have with stories which have far too many characters to keep track of).
Regardless, the Trident is a welcome addition to the comic, and although it took me upward of two months to draw this volume due to the many complicated angles and perspectives of this airliner, as well as putting as much effort as I could into the details, it’s been totally worth it. It was while I was visiting the Imperial War Museum at Duxford near Cambridge, where one of the few remaining Tridents is fantastically preserved, that I took as many pictures as I possibly could of this magnificent plane so as to get every detail down to a tee during the production of this work.
The Trident, to my mind, is a truly underappreciated pioneer of commercial aviation and it was a pleasure to integrate one into my story. 🙂
4. British Aerospace 146-200A
After Ebony’s arrival in the United States, she takes up work as a Second Officer with the carrier America National Airlines; flying out of Newark Airport in New Jersey using a fleet of the small but highly successful British Aerospace (BAe) 146-200A jet airliners.
The BAe 146, in spite of Britain’s story of highly advanced but poor selling aircraft models, was an unexpected success, especially in the USA. The basic formula behind the aircraft came down to a mixture of short-field performance, low noise levels, high efficiency, and a universal design that largely appealed to the needs of all carriers. It was a plane well suited for operations in and out of small, inner-city airports; making it the weapon of choice for airlines across the world in the lucrative business traveller market.
The reason why I chose the BAe 146, aside from the fact that it was a common aircraft of the time, was largely down to my everlasting love for these plucky little planes. Growing up in the southwest of England, our local airline, Jersey European (now Flybe), operated an extensive fleet of 146’s on services into and out of Exeter airport. While we often flew on these planes when travelling across the UK, my most memorable experience with the 146 was on a flight from Bristol Airport to Brussels aboard an example used by the then Belgian national carrier Sabena in December 1999.
On our way to see the Millennium in Florida, we got a great deal with Sabena and Delta Air Lines to fly to Tampa; although it required us to fly from Bristol to Brussels (with an overnight halt), Brussels to Cincinnati (aboard a Sabena Airbus A330), and finally Cincinnati to Tampa (on a Delta CRJ-200). The return journey was entirely Delta, flying from Tampa to New York JFK (on a Boeing 727), then JFK to Brussels (on a Boeing 767), then finally back to Bristol on a BAe 146.
A bit convoluted, but I digress.
Anyway, perhaps my most endearing memory of the trip was an absolutely delicious ham and cheese baguette served to me by the lovely flight crew on the outbound flight to Brussels; I can still remember the taste 18 years later. 🙂
Regardless, putting the 146 in my story I feel was a nice little send up to these magnificent airliners. While most have disappeared from the skies as newer models replace them, the fact of the matter is that the BAe 146 was truly perfected the STOL-jet formula, and went on to become Britain’s most successful passenger aircraft.