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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
A mannequin in the back seat of the cockpit made
for an eerie sight after the plane crashed
yesterday at Ford Island.

‘Pearl Harbor’
filming resumes

Federal officials will investigate
the plane crash that hospitalized
a stunt pilot during the shooting

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Filming of the $130 million movie "Pearl Harbor" was to resume today even as a National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrives to look into yesterday's crash at Ford Island of a Convair single-engine BT13 plane mocked up to look like a Japanese Val dive bomber.

The pilot was identified as Gene Armstrong. He is under contract to Big Ship Productions, a subsidiary of Disney, from the Confederate Air Force, which owns the four World War II replica warplanes being used in the movie.

Armstrong was listed in stable condition today at Tripler Army Hospital with a broken finger and minor cuts. A Tripler spokeswoman said the Army will decide today whether to discharge Armstrong or transfer him to a local hospital because he is a civilian. video tonight
on 'Entertainment Tonight'

Catch Star-Bulletin videographer Dean Sensui's dramatic footage of the four ship special-effects explosion from the movie "Pearl Harbor" on the nationally syndicated television show "Entertainment Tonight."

The clip is to be shown on "Entertainment Tonight," this evening, Tues., April 18, at 6:30 p.m. and repeating at 1:30 a.m. on KHNL Hawaii News 8 in Honolulu. Check your local listings.

The video was shot last Thursday at West Loch, Pearl Harbor at the Navy's mothball fleet, just outside Ted Makalena golf course.

The video footage was featured on last Friday and can be previewed here along with still photos from Star-Bulletin photographer Dennis Oda.

Bob Rice, executive director of the Confederate Air Force, said Armstrong's plane was one of two BT13 Convairs remodified to look like Japanese Aichi D3AI dive bombers. Two other Confederate Air Force planes being used by Disney are T-6 trainers converted to look like Japanese Kate torpedo bombers.

Rice said Armstrong's plane -- one of 142 vintage World War II planes maintained by the Midland, Texas, organization -- is a total loss and estimated its value at more than $225,000. Armstong, who has been with the Confederate Air Force for nearly 18 years, was one of five pilots contracted by Disney.

"He's a very experienced pilot," Rice said. "Mr. Armstong is a kind of person you always have a great deal of confidence in ..."

Rice said people who have talked with Armstong, who has two children, say he is "in great spirit...It's a wonderful miracle that he did not receive any more injuries than he did."

Rice said the Confederate Air Force acquired the Vale dive bomber in 1971. He said that he believed it was used in the 1969 film "Tora, Tora, Tora." It belonged to the Gulf Coast wing of the Confederate Air Force and the FAA said the aircraft -- originally a U.S. trainer -- was built in 1943.

Witnesses said Armstrong's plane was one of three recreating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, yesterday when its left wing apparently clipped a coconut tree before crashing on Ford Island's landing strip. Debris from the plane was strewn along the Ford Island runway with the largest piece, the engine, closest to the Pearl City shoreline.

The FAA, Navy officials and Disney would not comment on the cause of the incident.

The NTSB also has been called into the investigation, and an investigator was expected to arrive from California today.

The accident occurred about 11:05 a.m.

Officials were tight-lipped, and Gibbon referred nearly all questions to Disney.

The entire island has been shut down and turned into a closed set since filming earlier this month. Producers have stressed an effort to shoot the battle scenes as authentically as possible. Shooting was to be completed May 3.

Daniel Martinez, a National Park Service ranger at the Arizona Memorial, said the plane action being shot for the movie over the last several weeks has been low-flying and acrobatic -- and very much like the maneuvering that took place on the fateful 1941 day.

Martinez said that what he saw was "very skillful" flying on the part of stunt pilots.

This is the second incident involving the Disney production. A stunt man injured his collar bone when jumping off one of the vessels involved in the filming.

Reporter Gordon Pang contributed to this report.

Online Video Pearl Harbor Movie:
The Big Boom

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