Iron Eagle Stunts | Looking Back With Michael Runyard
If you grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s then there’s a high probability that you’ve seen the movie “Iron Eagle”. The story focuses on Doug, a son of an F-16 fighter pilot, who grew up on base and learned to fly at an early age by going on training missions with his dad. When his dad gets shot down while on a mission in the Middle East, though, Doug is forced to take matters into his own hands. And after hatching a plan with his dad’s good friend and former ace pilot Chappy, they steal two F-16s to fly over and rescue his dad. In the end, Doug’s dad is safe, the bad guy—who bears an uncanny resemblance to Saddam Hussain—is shot down, and both Doug and Chappy get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for stealing two multi-million dollar fighter jets. Yes, the plot is a little far-fetched, but it’s an entertaining film and one that any kid of the '80s and '90s knows well.
During the time the film was made, our good friend Michael Runyard performed stunts alongside Mic Rodgers and a host of other talented stuntmen. As a former professional motocross racer, Runyard was responsible for riding the bike in the iconic scene where Doug—in his Cessna—races the town’s bad guy for bragging rights. The whole scene was shot just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, in The Valley of Fire with famed stunt pilot Art Scholl at the controls of the airplane. “I was going between 65mph to 70mph so Art could maneuver around and fly safely right behind me,” Runyard remembered. “Boy was he good.”
While the finished scene appears seamless, keeping a plane and bike in the same frame isn’t easy. “It was suppose to be a close race,” Runyard said. “Art was really consistent with his speed, so I could roll off the throttle a little and let him get beside me. At one point, I actually got a little too far behind and got into his smoke trail. I had to change the gearing by putting on a smaller rear sprocket, so I could go fast enough to keep up with him.”
The cat and mouse game of timing of the plane and bike was something that required not only a lot of skill from both Art and Runyard, but also a tremendous amount of trust. “At the end of the day Art and I went to the bar and talked about what we did that day, and it was very interesting,” Runyard said. “When we got to the beginning of the pavement where we headed for the finish line, I had to get down really low. He actually tapped my helmet once with his wing, because I was sitting up too high. While we were sitting at the bar, I looked at him and he just laughed, so I laughed too. I said, ‘Yeah, you sure got low. I felt I could just reach up and touch the wing.’ He said, ‘Yeah, sorry about that. I went through an air pocket and just tapped your helmet.’ He laughed again, and so did I. Thank God he was so damn good. What a great pilot and nice down-to-earth guy.” If you haven’t watched Iron Eagle, you’re missing out. And if you haven’t checked out the iconic scene, be sure to watch it here.
Runyard has had a long career as a Hollywood stuntman and even doubled as James Bond in “Never Say Never Again”, which we also spoke with him about. Check out the full story below.