Airwolf is an American television series that ran from 1984 through 1987. The program concerned a high-tech military helicopter, code named Airwolf, and her crew as they undertook various missions, many involving espionage, with a Cold War theme.
The first three seasons starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord, and Jean Bruce Scott. The series' protagonist is Stringfellow Hawke (played by Jan-Michael Vincent), a loner who lives in a cabin in the mountains, only accompanied by his Bluetick Coonhound, "Tet", and the surrounding wildlife. Hawke is a recluse, spending most of his time alone with his priceless collection of paintings, and serenading eagles withhis equally priceless Stradivarius cello. His only real friend and mentor is the older, eternally cheerful Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine).
Earlier, Hawke was a test pilot for Airwolf, an advanced supersonic helicopter with stealth capabilities and a formidable arsenal. Airwolf was built by the FIRM, a division of the CIA.
The series ran for 55 episodes on CBS in the United States in 1984 through 1986, and an additional 24 episodes (series 4) with a new cast and production company. Due to budget cuts, the helicopter was never used in the final series. All Airwolf exterior shots are culled from previous episodes with the cockpit interiors filmed in a studio mockup.
The flying Airwolf helicopter was actually a Bell 222, sometimes unofficially called a Bell 222A, whose serial number was 47085. During filming of the series, the helicopter was owned by Peter J. McKernan Sr.'s JetCopters Inc. of Van Nuys, CA. The helicopter was eventually sold after the show ended and became an ambulance helicopter in Germany, where it crashed and was destroyed in a thunderstorm on June 6, 1992.
Airwolf, the show, was created by Donald Bellisario who was also responsible for several other memorable TV series including "Quantum Leap", "Magnum PI", "JAG" and "NCIS". A trademark motif can be found throughout most of Bellisario's work: the tendency for the protagonist to be a current or former member of the United States Armed Forces. This seemingly stems from Bellisario's own service in the United States Marine Corps.
Ah ‘Airwolf’, that was the show that I was asked most about in the US, by the people in the street as it were. I had the cache of being in a show, with a very cool helicopter in ‘Airwolf’. We knew it was a French Gazelle, but it had been to wardrobe and makeup and looked rather different. Sadly I did not get to fly in it, but I got in it and met the pilot. There were a few select stunt pilots working in the business in LA and he was one of them. My son is still impressed. It was fun working with the other actors, especially Ernest Borgnine, a lovely actor who had been in everything and worked with everyone, since he came to note in the wonderful film: ‘Marty’. He was a consummate pro and popular with everyone, especially the crew. Jan Michael Vincent was a slightly different story. He was very pleasant to me, but clearly had ‘issues’ and was not so popular, he was one of those who is known as ‘difficult’, shame, but there are a few around the business. My theory is that the ‘easy’ actors are basically people who have got it all together, enjoy their work, don’t take it toooo seriously, always deliver as required and NEVER believe their own publicity! Those are good to work with. Then there are the others – the ho hum people, who may have got too swept up in the ‘big’ time with all its attendant dangers- the money, the publicity, the substances, the hangers on, the sycophants etc and you just keep your mouth shut and get on with them.
Of course if you guest star in a TV show, as I was in ‘Airwolf’, it’s maybe easier to make the effort to get on with everyone. When you’re a regular, the patience runs thin a bit and good will seems to evaporate with the long, long hours.