Jill Tallman

They don’t fly ’em like that anymore…

January 10, 2012 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

Channel surfing the other night, I knew I’d hit the jackpot when I saw the Twin Beech zoom through a hangar. Yup, it was “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” starring Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers, and two stunt pilots named Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman.

Tallman (are you wondering if we’re related? More on that in a minute*) flew the Beechcraft D-18 through a billboard as well as the hangar. The billboard was constructed of balsa wood so that it would fly apart easily when Tallman blew through it. As it turned out, the balsa wood had been allowed to dry too long and hardened up, and the airplane was damaged when it went through.

As for the hangar stunt, Tallman supposedly practiced three approaches just skimming the roof of the hangar. Trees just east of the hangar at the now-defunct Rancho Conejo Airport near Los Angeles required Tallman to pull up rather sharply after it cleared the opening.

If you’d rather not sit through the three-hour film, a kind soul on YouTube has compiled his favorite flying scenes in this clip. The hangar stunt can be seen at about 8:10.

*Whenever I’m at a show, members of a certain age will squint at my nametag and then ask, “Are you related to Frank Tallman?” I always tell them this: “My husband’s father took him to see Flight of the Phoenix in the theater when he was a youngster. Don pointed to the credits where Frank Tallman’s name appeared and said, ‘He’s our cousin.’ Maybe he believed it; maybe Don wanted it to be true because he was a pilot too. But his son became an amateur geneaologist several years later… and we’re not related.”

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3 Responses to “They don’t fly ’em like that anymore…”

  1. Don Chapton Says:

    One of my favorite movies. I have it on DVD and watch it every year or so. When my parents were learning to fly in the early 60s at Orange County airport they would drop me off at TallMantz and I would go in and find Tallman, Mantz or Frank Pine and get permission to go out and look through all the airplanes. They were always really nice and just told me have fun but don’t flip any switches. Later in 1976 The flight school I went to was connected to the Movieland of the Air building and I walked by Tallman’s office going out to the airplanes. His door was almost always open and I would always stop and say hi and talk a little when he was in. I had just gotten my PPL and when I went to the flight schoolthe manager asked if I wanted some free flight time. I said yes of course and he said “Tallman needs a ride to Agua Dulce take a 150, he’s ready to go now.” I offered to let him fly but he just said you’ll do fine and we had a great conversation the whole way.

  2. Rick Says:

    Small correction, but I believe the hanger that was used in the Beech 18 stunt is in Santa Rosa California (KSTS) and is still standing. I rent a hanger next to what we refer to as the “Butler Hanger” and it is located on the east ramp of the field adjacent to Dragonfly Aviation. The trees are long gone and there are a few more structures surrounding the hanger but it is still very much in use and it houses a couple of vintage warbirds from the Pacific Coast Air Museum. Here is a link that shows photos of the hanger from the movie and photos of the hanger in more recent times. http://gchudleigh.com/madworld.htm

  3. Mark Burnette Says:

    I thought the hanger he flew thru was at Charles Schultz (Sonoma County) airport in Santa Rosa Ca.

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