The Aeronauts was a French children’s TV series about two fighter jet pilots in French Air Force, Michel Tanguy (Jacques Santi) and Ernest Laverdure (Christian Marin) and their adventures.
It was based on a comic book series by Jean-Michel Charlier and Albert Uderzo titled Tanguy et Laverdure.
In the 1960s, two fighter pilots are assigned to Dijon air base, France.
- Jacques Santi as Michel Tanguy.
- Christian Marin as Ernest Laverdure.
- Michèle Girardon as Nicole.
- Valéry Inkijinoff as Mr X.
- Ian Ireland as Stève Lester.
- Gabriel Gascon as Louis Gagnon.
The fighter aircraft featured were the Dassault Mystère IV and Dassault Mirage III.
Made by French production company Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF) between 1967 and 1970, its original French title was Les chevaliers du ciel (“The Knights of the Sky”).
The three seasons were originally filmed in colour but the first season was broadcast on French TV from September 1967 in black and white, as French television was only in black and white at the time. All three seasons were later released in colour when the series appeared in a 6-DVD box in the early 2000s. This 6-DVD set is now sold out and used copies fetch high prices.
It was dubbed into English, retitled The Aeronauts and shown by the BBC on UK children’s TV, and in Canada on the CBC, in the early 1970s. In 1972 Rick Jones released a single of the anglicised theme tune. In 1976 a version dubbed into Afrikaans and titled Mirage, was shown by the SABC in South Africa.
- Against the director’s expectations, authorization was received to film a sequence where an unmarked all-black T-33 was fleeing at low-altitude over Paris to avoid radar.
- The production crew were limited to three passes by the unidentified aircraft over the Seine; in case of mishap, the plane would crash in the water, rather than on the city.
- The scene caused panic as people on the ground feared a genuine attack was taking place.
- The Voltaire (supersonic VTOL prototype) seen in the show did really exist under the name of Balzac (both names are famous French authors’ names).
- Therefore, special effects were not required when it is shown hovering.
- The French Air Force provided extensive access to its facilities and equipment.
- Most ground action was shot at Dijon fighter base, using military personnel as extras.
- Among the young actors who played the second roles, at least three names became famous (in France): Marlène Jobert, Edith Garnier and Victor Lanoux.
- In 1971 the BBC optioned 19 episodes (mainly the ‘adventures’) of the 36 available, they redubbed and re-soundtracked them for the British palate, the remaining 17 episodes were considered to adult for the BBC’s purposes.
- The BBC renamed series (The Aeronauts) and originally aired the series from 17:20 Monday 06 March 1972 to 29 November 1972, albeit the series by then had moved to Wednesday at the slightly earlier time of 16:55.
- The series proved popular enough to spawn a 1972 annual, that lifted English translations of the original comic strip that the TV series was based on.
- The second run started on Saturday 07 July 1973 and ran intermittently in the Saturday mornings (changing times) until November 1973.
- After which it became staple of Saturday and weekday holiday periods until 1978, whence it disappeared. The BBC English dubbed and re-soundtracked version have been lost to the sands of time and all that exists is TFI’s 6 DVD in French with its original soundtrack.
The Aeronauts Series
- Series 01 (1967).
- Series 02 (1968).
- Series 03 (1969-1970).
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Francois Villiers.
- Writer(s): Jean-Michel Charlier.
- Music: Rick Jones.
- Production: Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF).
- Release Date:
- Series 01: 16 September 1967 to 09 December 1967.
- Series 02: 06 April 1968 to 27 July 1968.
- Series 03: 07 December 1969 to 03 March 1970.
- Running Time: 25 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: France.
- Language: French and English (Dubbed).