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'The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' sub has been flying upside down all this time

Image: 20th Century Fox Television

As Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea sailed into its second season in 1965, the formerly black & white series, like most of television at the time, blossomed into full color. Creator Irwin Allen decided to add some extra pizzazz to the bright, new color season, and the call went out to Fox production designer Willian Creber to come up with a super new mini-submarine.

While the show did already have a two-man sub that was a carry over from the original 1961 Voyage feature film, the vehicle did not have the ability to zip through the air, let alone be a high-tech character in its own right like the Flying Sub.

20th Century Fox TelevisionRichard Basehart poses with the Flying Sub.

The Flying Sub was an instant hit with viewers — and it caused a stir in the military. Some high-ranking generals demanded a functional version of the sub to be engineered. This, of course, proved to be impractical, as salt water and flying turbines do not mix well in reality.

The other issue that came to light was the sub's design. When it was first conceived, the flying yellow submarine was designed with its fins pointing downward. They would have acted like rudders, and maybe would have aided in steering the sub. The view screen would have been far more prominent. In other words, all these years, based on its initial designs, the Flying Sub has been flying upside down. 

At an early production meeting to introduce the Flying Sub, Irwin Allen's wardrobe designer and right-hand man Paul Zastupnevich saw a better way to show it off and simply turned the original production drawing upside down. Viola! The Flying Sub was changed forever.

They then built three amazing scaled miniatures, all hand-carved in wood by Fox master toolmaker Ross Wheat, who also made up the patterns for all the fantastic craft that came from the fertile minds of the Irwin Allen crew.

The largest of the Flying Subs was four feet in diameter, flown on wires against a true-blue sky and plunged into the giant water tank at the old Fox ranch in the Santa Monica mountains.

So next time you watch Voyage, take a closer look at the Flying Sub and imagine what it may have looked like upside down — as it was first intended.

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