first flight, the warp 2 X-plane

the last of the NF-104's

the last of the NF-104's

Yeager and Jeannie!!!!

Yeager and Jeannie!!!!

Oh my Jeannie!!

Oh my Jeannie!!

concept one

concept one

the blended body

the blended body

concept one piggyback launch

concept one piggyback launch

Mike Okuda's beautiful logo

Mike Okuda's beautiful logo

concept two

concept two

the lake bed sled track

the lake bed sled track

a couple of chrome domes

a couple of chrome domes

a plug for one of my favorite books by Steve Cox

a plug for one of my favorite books by Steve Cox

Episode 50, “First Flight”, This was probably my most favorite episode of Star trek Enterprise. The episode encompassed what was once the guiding force of the original Star trek and that was to explore, with a high mark of mans quest for going where no man has gone before.. I so wanted to be a pilot and astronaut as a kid and when I was old enough to actually pursue the dream I found out I was 4F due to color blindness. Not to many hard feelings though because I wanted to work in the movies as a VFX artist/model-maker just as much. working in the movies has let me fulfill those early dreams just in a fantasy kind of way. For First flight the script called for the First Warp 2 x-plane  to be tested and I immediately had thoughts of the test planes from Edwards AFB and especially the Nf-104A. This was a modified F-104 equipped with an eternal rocket booster attached at the base of the Tail stabilizer. The wing-tips were also extended to add more of a surface to help maneuver at it’s extremely high altitudes. Chuck Yeager  was one of the test pilots assigned to this highly experimental project, and if you remember the Movie “The Right Stuff” this flight is depicted towards the end of the film. Be sure to check out Chuck’s cameo’s in the bar scenes at Panchos. OK back to the flight, Yeager took this beautiful bare metaled baby up to 108,700 feet, thats about 21 miles. The aircraft went into a flat spin, and despite Chuck’s efforts the plane could not be pulled out of the spin. Yeager ejected at just over 8000 feet. He was badly burned but walked away to fly again. pictured here is the last of the NF-104s mounted at Edwards AFB next to the test pilots school. also is a picture of chuck and the ever lovely barbara {Jeannie) Eden, Next to the sunbeam bread girl and Little Debbie,  Jeannie was my biggest and longest crush!!! so with that there are two pictures of her and also a great book if your a jeannie fan.  Following is the first sketch of the Warp 3 ship hugely inspired by the previous story. I took a catamaran point of design wit a little bit of asymmetrical details. The first pass made it thru the early approval stages and a few variations of tis design were asked for,, non were as complete as this one so the go ahead to the next step was to figure out how it was to be launched. I didn’t think a space shuttle style launch would be appropriate. So i called my Friend Tony Moore out at Edwards to help with this launch sequence. Tony stated that a possible piggyback idea might be a good alternative to a rocket launch. Tony said that one of the future projects going on at the base was the blended wing aircraft.   I looked it up when I got home and this aircraft was Ideal for this idea. pictured next is the X-48B that was modified to be the mother-ship the following illustration shows the trek version of the blended body and the launch of concept one. The art department was all ablaze with this one Doug Drexler was designing the hanger and would eventually work out the specifics of the craft, Mike and Denise Okuda were hard at work creating the signage and the interior of the 602 club ( a pilots Bar in the vane of Panchos happy bottom riding club) Jim Van Over and Anthony Fredrickson were creating the graphics and set extras.and everyone else was drafting and designing away!!!. The bomb fell one afternoon that the ship was not what they were envisioning and that a new idea was needed, My boss Herman Zimmerman and I got together and decided to create a vessel around the Phoenix capsule. That way we could carry on a style of architecture from Trek past and construction would have an existing piece to work from and cut off a fortune off their limited budget. the following sketch shows the new Warp ship based on this new direction. For the launch sequence we went with a magnetic sled system that got the ship up to an extremely high rate of speed across Rogers dry lake bed to achieve orbit from a standard plane type of flight system with rocket boosters to get er up there fast/  BOOM!!! another bomb dropped and the Edwards idea turned into a forest test sight. The sled launch stayed but on a much shorter runway with a huge ramp at the end. The Eden VFX folks took over from here and the rest is TV history!!! I snuck in for a picture of the modified PHX capsule HAAA!!! Wheres my hair!!!

38 Responses to “first flight, the warp 2 X-plane”

  1. 1 Lee
    April 7, 2009 at 1:34 am

    That’s interesting, I’ve read about the NF-104 many times (in the Wolfe book, in Yeager’s auto-biog) but I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen a photo of one! So that’s where the rocket engine was.

  2. 2 ST-One
    April 7, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Your original idea would have been visually much more interesting.
    Even your version with the Phoenix-head looks much better than the final design which showed up on the TV-screen.

  3. April 7, 2009 at 1:59 am

    That’s a great backstory for this cool design and I agree that “First Flight” really encompasses Star Trek, I can imagine that all departments went wild for this episode, look at all the cool injokes and nods in the 602 Club. Creating this episode must have been a blast!

    Here’s a shot of the actual launch sequence:

    I guess the reason why the nacelles struts fold is because the actual set wasn’t big enough for a ship that size? It would have been impractical to shoot as well, I guess, as that would have meant the cockpit and front part of the ship, the only physical part of the ship built, would have been right in the center of the room, far away from the walls.

  4. April 7, 2009 at 2:04 am

    I guess the fact that the ship had to be redesigned to encompass the Phoenix compass really must have been quite a bomb, but as you said, it made sense from a design lineage kind of perspective and also freed monetary resources for all the other cool things in “First Flight” and for that matter “Regeneration” too.
    Your original design kind of reminds me of the Vaadwaur assault fighters seen in VOYs “Dragon’s teeth”:

    I really like the few Star Trek ships with assymetrical aspects, like the Tandaran ships in “Detained”. Did you design them as well?

  5. April 7, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Finally, a good shot of the NX-Beta in space:

    The sequence were the NX-Alpha makes it to Jupiter is really great as well. Seeing that ship around the iconic image of the planet we know so well really adds to the feeling of “One day, we will get there, too! Again, great episode all in all!

  6. April 7, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Wow. What a great post!

    The first NX prototype would have been an incredibly sexy ship. But the decision to go for something less complex and re-use the existing cockpit made sense. I would have loved to see the original launching procedure though. It would have been more spectacular (and I think also more realistic) than the ramp launch.

    And I remember “The Right Stuff” very well. I must have seen it a dozen times.

  7. 7 BorgMan
    April 7, 2009 at 3:37 am

    ZOMG! That concept is one sexy ship indeed! I think that the carrrier concept would work better if the launcher was a warp 2 capable craft. Hmm, ideas ^_^

  8. 8 Freak
    April 7, 2009 at 3:51 am

    That a great stroy John.
    I have to admit that I love your first idea, it is really great.
    It would have been fun to see that on screen.

    I also agree that Barbara {Jeannie) Eden, was a hottie.
    Unfortunaly I was not arround when it was first shown but I did get to see reruns on Channel 4 (UK) in the mornings before having to heading of to collegue in the late 90’s.

  9. 9 Paul
    April 7, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Awe-some-ness. I love that first concept picture and it reminds me of an earlier design I saw for the proposed NX without the saucer. Simply wonderful.

  10. April 7, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Cool, I love the NX Project ships. 😀 Thanks for the photos!

  11. April 7, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Looks like Yeagher’s thinking about pushing the outside of a different envelope… lol Who was the best pilot I ever saw? Major Anthony Nelson.


    • 12 johneaves
      April 7, 2009 at 9:29 am

      I think Yeager looks a little dreamy,,,how could you not!!! HAAA! I bet when he retired he kept that desk,, if it was mine I would have had her autograph it and then put in a big glass case!!!

  12. April 7, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Too cool dude! You know I gots a soft-spot for the 104, and I never saw that NF version! DL’ed that pic and added it to my ref library straight away, thanks!

    And way-cool account of the process man. Gettin’ to be long enough now I can go back and watch ENT reruns and have them be kinda “fresh” to me, as I only saw them first original airings. Will be even better to watch with yours and Doug’s production back-stories, eh.

    And bombs? Jeannie was DA bomb! I STILL dream of her. She used to live here in Chicago, in Water Tower Place on Michigan Ave (maybe still does). Whenever I was down at the WT movie theater I always secretly hoped I would bump into her. No luck.

    Thanks dude, great stuff and nice pic of you there, eh!


  13. April 7, 2009 at 6:52 am

    The blended wing concept looks very cool, but I do prefer the way the NX-Alpha and Beta themselves turned out. It was great to see the visual link to the Phoenix and helped to remind us again where we were along the Trek timeline.

    Btw, were there any differences between the Alpha and Beta craft, or were they exactly the same?

  14. 17 DeanneM
    April 7, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I’m trying to stay focused on work, but there’s just too much here of interest that I must comment. I can appreciate the first concept a lot and like the blended wing craft, but the lineage of the Phoenix, come on! I really appreciated that when I saw it the first time…great way to meld fact and future Trek fiction.

    I like the NF 104 because those early craft just look like the pilot is sitting on the nose of a rocket – so much power hurtling you through the air, awesome feeling just looking at it!!

    I’ve just gotta say, I figured you’d find a way to get Jeannie on here but I wasn’t sure how! There are a lot of Jeannie fans here that might even appreciate those theme song lyrics – well, maybe not. 🙂

    deg, did you see my correction yesterday. Yes, it’s been 4 years, not 5, my bad.

  15. 18 Jonathan Burke (TrekBBS' Praetor)
    April 7, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Wow, it’s a shame they couldn’t rework your first design to include the Phoenix cockpit in the center section, without such a complete redesign. I also really prefer the plane takeoff. Much more visually interesting than what they went with. 😉

    And I love Jeanne.

  16. 19 the bluesman
    April 7, 2009 at 8:24 am

    What a great post, John! F-104’s, Barbara Eden and cool concept art.

    Great stuff.

  17. 20 evil_genius_180
    April 7, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Man, that first concept is a sweet ride. I love that episode, and your Phoenix-inspired ship was awesome and fit nicely in with your work on First Contact, but I’d love to have seen that other concept on screen. Though, I’m sure the cost of building a full sized mock up of that would have been enormous. Still, it would make a sweet CGI model. 🙂

  18. April 7, 2009 at 10:02 am

    “Hey Archer, you got any Beaman’s”?

    “I might have me a stick”.

    Your final solution is well done, as usual. For a number of reasons, I think your early idea of using the dry lake bed as the setting was a far better choice than what they ended up with.

  19. April 7, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I love that plane too! I actually have been to Yeager’s crash site and it is amazing how much is still there!!!

    Oh wow cool dude. Really? What’s still there, just debris and twisted metal? That is amazing that anything is still there…


  20. April 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Much like Kara Thrace in the new Galactica, Yeagher’s crash also has A DEAD PILOT in the cockpit!!! Who is Yeagher??? where did he come from???

  21. April 7, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I have always loved the NF-104. Great story of the evolution of the NX prototypes: thanks! I have a great picture someplace of the NF-104 in flight. I’ll try to did it up.


  22. 25 Starship freak
    April 7, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    So, concept two did make it onscreen, albeit in a different way. Because surely that scene is the painting in the 602-club?

  23. April 8, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Good catch! Never thought of that. Here’s concept 2 as it appeared in the episode:

    • 27 DeanneM
      April 8, 2009 at 5:58 am

      Nice shot, again! After reading the great blogs, there’s nothing better than seeing the actual shot.

      How long did it take you to find that one? Did ya have to do a lot of looking at wall art in pic after pic? I admire your dedication! 🙂

      • April 8, 2009 at 6:15 am

        I don’t know, I’ve spend so much time fast forwarding and looking for stuff in the background when doing research for various articles that it’s normal for me to notice small things like that. In the case of “First flight” however, I did some more extensive work to identify all the NASA mission patches seen in the episode, that’s why this episode has been scrutinized to death 😉


      • 29 DeanneM
        April 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

        I had to reply to my own, since your reply to my reply didn’t have the option….

        Thanks for the link! I love all of these details and will definitely take a closer look.

    • 30 johneaves
      April 8, 2009 at 6:03 am

      good eye mister!!!! that bar had a lot of great stuff in it!!! I’ll dedicate tomorrows to the 602

  24. 32 Starship freak
    April 8, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Thanks Jörg!

  25. 33 ST-One
    April 8, 2009 at 3:47 am

    *Jonathan Burke (TrekBBS’ Praetor)

    Wow, it’s a shame they couldn’t rework your first design to include the Phoenix cockpit in the center section, without such a complete redesign.*

    I had the same thought… but it would probably have involved to much CG-work (green/blue-screen elements, set-extensions…) to have been practical for a TV-episode.

  26. April 8, 2009 at 5:15 am

    John, is it possible that the various bluescreens and diagrams of the NX-Alpha seen in the episode are based on your concept 2 rather than on the final CG model? If you compare the concept painting with the final CG model, you can see some differences, especially concerning the nose section (much more rounded in the painting) and the nacelle struts (rounded at the front and aft part of the final model, rather straight at the aft part of the concept painting). Now, the ship on the diagrams and blueprints matches you concept in those aspects much better than the final CG model.

    I guess the final CG model was created in post production after the episode had been filmed. When the show was filmed, your concept No 2 was used as a reference for the diagrams which had to be created before or during shooting and also explains why it appeared in the 602-Club scenes.

    • 35 johneaves
      April 8, 2009 at 6:14 am

      On the episodic time table many departments are running with what they have and interpretation is a vital part of everyone’s job… For Jim Van Over who does all the animations and graphics he has to run with very little. He has an extraordinary talent with his style and especially getting all the things done in as short of a time that he is given to do them in. The wall graphic is his beautiful interpretation from a rough sketch and models was also Doug’s There is a lot of collaboration going on in four corners of a room then Construction also has to do the same. What I do is just the idea and everyone else does the magic!!! This production was an oddity and I have never been on a show before or since that I miss more!!! It was a great group of friends.

  27. April 8, 2009 at 6:28 am

    I can imagine how great it was to work on Star Trek from all the stories I’ve heard from you and other people who worked on Trek. When Enterprise was cancelled, it must have been just as shocking for you as for us fans, especially after so many years of working together as a team. Is working on the new movie with so many new people very different from working on TNG, DS9 VOY and ENT?

  28. 37 mike
    February 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    You’d love our PHATHOM ORIGINALS….all original science fiction story-blogs….check them out and let me know what you think. We’d love to link with you!

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April 2009

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