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You can finally learn to fly a Star Wars TIE fighter

The TIE fighter, the greatest ship in the galaxy, gets the behind-the-scenes look it deserves.

This Haynes Manual is based on the Sienar Fleet Systems TIE Fighter. 
Insight Editions

The notoriously lethal TIE fighters were among the most feared, deadly starfighters deployed by the Galactic Empire and the First Order -- and by Darth Vader himself

Star Wars TIE Fighter: Owners' Workshop Manual, out now from Insight Editions, is 125 pages full of art and technical specs that reveal everything from the early concepts and prototypes of these vehicles to the mass-produced starfighters fans have seen in numerous Star Wars films.

The book, which retails for $24.99 (£19.70, AU$35.85), is published as a practical Haynes Manual that explores the extensive story behind the famous twin ion engine fighter. The history of the TIE bombers, boarding craft and shuttles is illustrated with photographs, schematics, exploded diagrams and computer-generated artwork.

I chatted with the book's author Ryder Windham and illustrators Chris Reiff and Chris Trevas about the new book. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity. 

Inside the book Star Wars: TIE Fighter: Owners' Workshop Manual.

Insight Editions

Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned working on this book?
Ryder Windham: For years, Lucasfilm maintained that ILM model makers used a slightly modified TIE bomber model for the TIE "VIP" shuttle, which is glimpsed briefly and not very clearly in The Empire Strikes Back. But Chris Reiff and Chris Trevas told me the TIE shuttle had unique wings, and ILM veteran Lorne Peterson confirmed that information. So that was news to me.

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Chris Reiff: As a pilot I really liked seeing just how different the TIE fighters would be to fly. It's as different from an X-wing as a helicopter is from an airplane -- a totally different design and control philosophy and perfect for its role.


Here's a cutaway of a solar-collector wing on a TIE fighter.

Insight Editions

What made this book fun to illustrate?
Reiff: Looking at NASA designs for real engines and melding our real-world theoretical tech with the fictional universe is especially fun, as well as figuring out how the reactor/engines might actually work and visualizing those systems. 

Chris Trevas: I really liked drawing the cover cutaway. It's a ton of work but very satisfying fitting all the parts together. Even though it's a flat drawing, the experience is almost like building a model with all that detail.

What are some of the geekiest fact fans will learn from this manual?
Windham: This manual reveals that the Commander of Zeta Squadron is Jad "Scorch" Bean. If that doesn't impress and deeply affect every Star Wars fan on the planet, I suppose that's because they may have had limited awareness of "Scorch" before this manual.

Reiff:  Fans will learn exactly how to fly a TIE fighter. The controls are all there, labeled in diagrams, and a few maneuvers that take advantage of the TIEs capabilities are explained in detail.

Trevas: This book is full of geeky facts from the history of the TIE series, details for every model. They can even compare the Imperial and First Order TIEs to see the system upgrades and differences in the flight controls.

Insight Editions

What challenges did you face working on this book?
Windham: We used many photos from Star Wars movies to illustrate this manual. Until I started looking for decent screen grabs of the TIE Interceptor in Return of the Jedi, I had no idea every TIE Interceptor in that film appears as a fast-moving blur. Fortunately, we found photos of the actual models that served our needs well.

Trevas: It was tricky creating blueprints for the TIE fighters from the Star Wars Rebels animated series like the TIE Advanced V1 and TIE Defender. We illustrated them in a very realistic style, which required adding detail and adjusting some parts to have more realistic proportions.

If you had your pick of the fleet, which TIE fighter would you prefer to fly?
Reiff: I love the classic TIE fighter so much and would love to have one in my hangar for nostalgia and ease of flying. Things like having a pressurized cabin, the improved maneuverability, and the ability to bring a friend along nudge the First Order Special Forces TIE into the top spot though... if I had to choose just one.

Trevas: I think I'd pick Vader's TIE Advanced X1. His ship is nice and classic, but also includes shields and a hyperdrive. The standard TIEs don't provide much protection for their pilots.

Detailed specifications of a TIE fighter.

Insight Editions

Why do you think Star Wars fans will like this book?
Reiff: Fans will love the minutiae. We do some pretty deep dives on different systems like the reactor and engines. Though for everything that makes it into the book there are stacks of notes and hours of phone calls working through how things work or why they are the way they are. It doesn't make sense to include everything, but going through the thought process and figuring out how things like how the engines and flight controls work gives a richer feel to the pieces in the book.

Trevas: The TIE fighter is an icon of Star Wars but we only get glimpses of them in the movies. They scream by on screen so fast and we only get quick views of their menacing pilots. With this book, fans are like Poe Dameron jumping into the cockpit in The Force Awakens: "I always wanted to fly one of these!" This book allows fans to take their time and really explore the ships.