The Pilatus P-2 was a Swiss military training airplane used for fighter pilot training in the Nazi Luftwaffe. While capable of being flown by a single pilot, it could accommodate a second crewman as a tail-gunner.
Adventures with the Pilatus P-2
In 1938, two P-2 fighters were sent to investigate the zeppelin D-138, which had two wanted fugitives, Indiana Jones and Henry Jones, Sr. aboard, after it left from Berlin. As the two Americans escaped from the zeppelin in a German biplane, the two fighters opened fire on the slower craft. Though the elder Jones fired the guns from the rear-facing biplane turret, the fighters avoided damage and continued to strafe the biplane.
When the biplane crash landed, the fighters circled to finish off their targets. As the two stole a Citroën automobile from an elderly man, one of the fighters strafed the fleeing car. As the car drove around a hillside and into a tunnel, the fighter followed, not expecting a solid hillside. The wings of the plane snapped off on the entrance of the tunnel, and the fighter pilot was amazed as his flaming fuselage sped up to the Jones' car, which allowed him to pass by. Before reaching the end of the tunnel, the wingless plane exploded, killing the pilot, but the Jones' managed to drive through the flaming wreckage unharmed.
The second plane spied the car exiting the tunnel and dropped a bomb on the road, which exploded directly in front of the Joneses. The car fell into the large crater and stopped hard. Indiana Jones helped his father climb out of the car, and they headed down a slope to the seashore. As the second plane circled around to shoot at the two men on the shore, the elder Jones, inspired by a verse from Charlemagne, used his umbrella to frighten the shorebirds into the air. With flocks of seabirds filling the sky, the fighter plane collided with several birds, jamming its engine, and smashing the cockpit glass. With a stopped engine, and unable to see, the pilot crashed the plane into a nearby hillside.
With their airborne pursuers finished off, the father and son continued on their journey toward Iskenderun.
Behind the scenes
The plane in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is frequently referred to as the Nazi fighter.
The Swiss-made Pilatus P-2 aircraft was designed as a training aircraft, and include an armed version. The P-2 was first designed in 1942, and first flew in 1945, used primarily by the Swiss air force. Because of its similarity to the single-seat German Messerschmitt Bf 109 (the plane even re-uses the Bf 109's landing gear parts), the plane has often been used in filming as a "Nazi fighter plane" including in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The P-2 also bears a strong resemblance to the Arado Ar-96 training plane used by Nazi Germany, which was capable of carrying a machine gun and light bombs and so could conceivably have done everything done by the P-2 in the film.
In the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, a total of 18 Nazi fighters appear in an arcade sequence, attacking the player on their way out of Germany. Destroying each three of them, brings the player farther out of Germany and bypasses one ground checkpoint. In the Hint Book, Indy identifies them as "Messerschmitt".
From Star Wars To Indiana Jones - The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives identifies the models used by the ILM team as "Pilatus Nazi fighter plane models", and built them in at least two scales. It may have been intended that the planes were to be single-seat Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, and only P-2 planes were available for filming, and then the ILM crew designed models based on the P-2s for continuity.
Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide refers to the German planes as "fighter-bombers" and labels them as Messerschmitt Stuka aircraft. In real life, the Junkers Ju 87 (nicknamed Stuka) was a two-seat ground attack aircraft used as a dive bomber, though it was manufactured by Junkers, and not Messerschmitt. Despite having a two-person cockpit, the planes in the film do not remotely resemble the Junkers Ju 87, and there's no fixed landing gear or gull wings, both well-known design features of the Junkers 87.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (novel)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (comic)
- From Star Wars To Indiana Jones - The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives
- Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide