There have been great movies about military aviation for almost as long as there have been movies and airplanes—seriously, the very first Best Picture Oscar went to a WWI aero-epic called Wings (and if you ever win bar trivia with that, buy us a drink). Eventually, the US military realized that high adventure onscreen could boost their recruiting efforts, and began to officially cooperate with films featuring flying service members. In this episode, we’ll look at two movies staring iconic aviators—Top Gun and Captain Marvel—and discuss how the military leans into their role as supporting players on the silver screen.
Art Scholl was a three-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team, a racer at the Reno Air Races, an airshow pilot, and a fixed base operator with an aerobatic school. His dog Aileron often flew with him in his deHavilland Chipmunk, riding on the wing as Scholl taxied on the runway or perched on his shoulder in the aircraft.
Today, marks the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Modern opening ceremonies are often accompanied by a flyover. In the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany, an actual gold medal was awarded for Aeronautics. Gliding, in which aircraft were catapulted into the air, and aerobatics were demonstration events, with the hopes of becoming full-fledged events in the future.
The Museum is fortunate that among our corps of docents, or guides, are people with direct experience flying or flying in a number of our aircraft. Among those docents are Buz Carpenter and Phil Soucy who know what its like to sit inside one of the world's fastest aircrafts, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Today in 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird broke the world’s record for sustained altitude in horizontal flight at 25,929 meters (85,069 feet). The same day another SR-71 set an absolute speed record of 3,529.6 kilometers per hour (2,193.2 miles per hour), approximately Mach 3.3. As the fastest jet aircraft in the world, the SR-71 has an impressive collection of records and history of service. The Blackbird’s owes its success to the continuum of aircraft that came before it.
This huge wind tunnel fan was one of two fitted to NASA’s Full Scale Wind Tunnel at its research center in Hampton, Virginia. Built in 1931 for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the predecessor to NASA), the wind tunnel was used to test most of America’s significant military aircraft of that era.
Also known as the 30 x 60 foot tunnel, the Full Scale Wind Tunnel could hold an aircraft with a wingspan of up to 12 meters (40 feet). Aerospace engineers used the wind tunnel’s accurate data to verify designs and make improvements. It was one of the most significant research tunnels ever built.
I recently attended a screening of Bridge of Spies, a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. Purportedly, Bridge of Spies was inspired by events surrounding the 1962 exchange of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederick Pryor for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel. The movie event was sponsored by Virginia’s Cold War Museum which was co-founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr., who was also in attendance and served on a Q&A panel after the film.