Beginning this weekend, New Yorkers might start noticing an unusual helicopter flying near the city - the actual bright red Batcopter that few over the ocean in the famous scene from the 1966 film Batman.
In what's billed as New Jersey's largest fair, the State Fair Meadowlands takes place at MetLife Stadium from June 20 to July 7, and for that entire 18-day span, the original Batcopter will be offering rides to fair-goers. And according to Captain Eugene Nock, the airline transport pilot who owns the helicopter, the experience is pretty unique.
“We do commercial tours, absolutely all day, observing the skyline of one of the nicest cities of the world, which is New York City,” Nock said.
Nock has been giving scenic tours in other helicopters since 1985. But when a mid-1990’s expansion of his business required him to buy a new helicopter, he stumbled upon the original Batcopter with the FAA registration number N3079G.
“My son Charles happened to be watching on a VHS in the room next to us the Batman movie,” Nock said, describing the scene when he first realized his new helicopter was actually the Batcopter. “As he’s watching it, I’m reading all these log books, spread all over the table, and I see in there, it says right away in the ‘60s, ABC Batman. This is a technical book, but it said Batman in there.”
Nock realized he was purchasing the helicopter that had been used in the 1966 film Batman.
“They used the word long line [in the log books], and long line is code for anything external load — cables,” he said. “Well, it turns out that’s how they were able to do the scene in the movie with the long ladder, and Adam West is hanging on it on the set, but there was a stunt man, Hubie Kerns, dressed as Batman who was actually doing it.”
After purchasing the helicopter, which was also used for other TV shows like FBI and Green Acres, Nock had the helicopter painted the same bright red-orange and recreated the Batcopter logo and other features.
“The Batman show was not only one of the first shows that was ever created with color, but they took full advantage of it, and they used many, many sherbet-style colors and crazy colors,” Nock said. “They all agreed [at the time the Batcopter was painted] to make it orange, loud against the blue sky. And they certainly got what they were looking for.”
The one exception in Nock’s restoration of the Batcopter is the wings that were mounted on the sides of the helicopter for the film.
According to Nock, the wings wouldn’t work for a helicopter that is used for tours. Besides updating the look of the helicopter, Nock also upgraded the equipment and made sure the Batcopter is air-worthy.
“That is a big deal, because an inspector has to inspect it and insure that it is air-worthy, and the FAA insures it in a big way,” Nock pointed out. “We get what we call ramp-checked almost at every location.
“The maintenance is every day, all day long. And it’s all recorded.”
At the Meadowlands event, Nock works with the State Fair Meadowlands and the airport to offer the flights legally and safely. For the length of the fair, it establishes an area that in effect becomes a legal heliport.
Nock said the Batcopter is “probably the most famous helicopter on the planet.” It’s also one of the only helicopters that ever had a name, like “Batcopter,” and it’s the only one ever used.
“They’ve never used other machines in front of the camera,” Nock said. “And there were no sets where they used anything other than that machine. So this is one-of-a-kind.”
Nock goes to comic book conventions - or rather, flies the Batcopter there, pushing it into the main hall of each show.
“It usually is next to its best friends, which is the 1966 Batmobile and the Batcycle,” he said, and it often was utilized as a backdrop for fan photos with stars from the Batman TV show, like Adam West and Burt Ward.
Before Nock was the proud owner of the Batcopter, he used to work in various show business capacities as a performer and producer, so he’d interacted with Adam West before. But once he became part of the Batman convention family, he got to know West and other stars of the Batman show even better.
“I had dinner with them at the hotel,” Nock said. “We would reminisce about the old days. Adam has a very good memory. He was a very friendly guy and enjoyed talking about the old gigs. He enjoyed his live appearances. He’s met millions of fans, when you think about all the comic cons and special events and hot-rod shows and car shows - you should have seen the lines. There were, literally, two-hour waits for people to get their picture taken with him. But he was good and remembered his fans.”