Friday Flashback - Airwolf

Friday Flashback is where I look back at the books, films, TV shows, and million and one other things that have inspired me over the years in my art, story telling and well... life! This week I'm have a look at the uber cool TV series: Airwolf!

Airwolf was a television series that ran from 1984 until 1987, and much to my childhood delight followed the exploits of a stolen high-tech military helicopter code named Airwolf and its crew as they undertake various missions – mostly with a Cold War theme.

The show was created by Donald Bellisario and ran for four sessions. However, I only ever watched the first three as I live in the UK. Besides, the forth season I have discovered since was with a new cast and small budget, which doesn't sound like the recipe for success the first three seasons represent. Nope, the Airwolf I loved as a child stared Jan-Michael Vincent as Stringfellow Hawke, Ernest Borgnine as Dominic Santini, Jean Bruce Scott as Caitlin O'Shannessy, and Alex Cord as Archangel.

Besides the awesome helicopter and the porn actor sounding names for the cast there was one thing that Airwolf was and still to this day popular for and that is the shows distinctive musical score. A score that I have recently discovered was originally meant to be an orchestral-based one and became the more known synthesizer-oriented arrangements we all love and have as mobile phone ringers today.  The infamous theme tune along with the score was composed and conducted  by Sylvester Levay.

Here is the opening credits with that iconic theme tune:

The TV series of Airwolf follows the adventures of  Stringfellow Hawke who was a test pilot for Airwolf, an advanced supersonic helicopter with stealth capabilities and a formidable arsenal, and the missions he undertakes with Airwolf and her crew under the guidance of Archangel an agent from the FIRM, a division of the CIA and the builders of the hi-tec helicopter. Hawke stole Airwolf from the FIRM and refuses to return her until the FIRM can recover his brother, St. John (Sin-Jinn), who has been missing in action since Vietnam. To get access to Airwolf, Archangel offers Hawke protection from other government agencies who will try to recover Airwolf in exchange for flying missions of national importance for the FIRM. The adventure of helicopter carnage begins!

We all really know that it wasn't Hawke or Dom or even Cat that we're the stars of the show. Even the epic theme tune takes a second seat to the shows star: Airwolf!

That helicopter!


As a kid I wanted one. As an adult I still want one!

The Airwolf helicopter in the real world was a 'fancyed-up' Bell 222A and was owned by Jetcopters Inc. of Van Nuys, California. When the show ended with season four the helicopter was sold and became an ambulance helicopter in Germany, where sadly it crashed in a thunderstorm and was destroyed on June 6, 1992, killing all three crew members.

The concept behind Airwolf was a supersonic and armed helicopter that could blend in by appearing to be civilian and non-military in origin — "a wolf in sheep's clothing." The Airwolf's insignia patch, as designed by artist Andrew Probert and, as worn by the flight crew members, was a snarling wolf's head with bat wings that appeared to be wearing a sheepskin, complete with the head of the lamb over the wolf's forehead; a direct play on the saying.

I think as far as TV shows go I will always have a soft spot for Airwolf more over any other that came along in that 'super hi-tec thingy-me-bob'  period of television show production such as Knight Rider, Street Hawk, etc... One thing that stood out to me on recent re-viewing of the shows first season was how surprised I was at how adult the story themes actually were. I believe I was assuming, and wrongly, that it was going to be a bit like the A-Team, lots of big bangs and show violence where no one dies and the good guys always win. I was wrong - very, and I guess it is that old chestnut of when you're a kid you are 'wowed' by the cool helicopter and the action and adventure. Watch it again as an adult and you pick up on the more subtle themes, and sometimes not so subtle themes. One episode for example follows Hawke as he chases down a gang of guys who were intent on raping a woman and how, after a very tense and violent episode, he manages to escape, get Airwolf, and return to the town and blows it to hell!    

you have nostalgic feelings for any of the 80's TV shows, like the A Team, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, MacGyver, etc... My advice is go for Airwolf, you will not be disappointed. 


  1. RIP Ernest Borgnine

  2. I just found a fantastic RC helicopter of this..

  3. Fourth season was repeated a couple of times in the early 2000's on ITV and really you were not missing anything! Jan-Michael Vincent appeared in the first episode before being killed off (all you say of Dom Santini was his back as he ambled off to a helicopter that blew up.)
    The action was moved to Canada but they still used some flight footage of the earlier seasons. Which looked a bit absurd one second going over forest (cut to a quick face scene in the helicopter) then its going over desert!
    The whole thing was done on an appallingly cheap budget. They mangled the theme tune. The graphics used in the opening credits were outdated for the late 80's - belonging in the beginning of the decade at best. The stories suffered from that cheapness as they couldn't really actually 'do' anything as it would cost money.
    And worst of all, the most heinous crime of the new makers? That beautiful howl it used to make and the smooth, almost purring sound it used to make while in transit (suggesting power under the hood)? They ditched that for a regular helicopter 'WHUP-WHUP-WHUP-WHUP'!!

    Believe me Simon, you missed NOTHING.

    Airwolf fans don't talk about season four. It never existed...


Post a Comment

Popular Posts