I recently had the opportunity to attend a pre-release screening of National Geographic’s new IMAX film, “Living in the Age of Airplanes.” I first saw the trailer last fall and was immediately excited to see it. Being the aviation geek that I am, I held high expectations, and I’m happy to be able to say they were met.
The project was produced and directed by Brian J. Terwilliger, who is also known for the aviation film “One Six Right.” The runtime of the show was 47 minutes, and the producers maximized every minute with absolutely stunning cinematography, paired with majestic music tracks by Oscar-winning composer James Horner and narration by Harrison Ford. The show opened in the famous “Airplane Graveyard” in Mojave, California, with sad, parted-out 747s as Ford spoke about how air travel is now taken for granted. Next, we are taken down a timeline of human transportation. Beginning 200,000 years ago, humans had only one mode of transportation – our own two feet. Then roughly 5,000 years ago, the wheel was invented, and we began having animals pull us along. Fast-forward to the 1600s, when sailing ships took us across the seas and expanded our globe. In the 1800s, steam trains, and later, steam ships, propeller planes, and finally, the Jet Age.
Watching television is not one of my favorite things. Most shows just annoy me and I haven’t had cable TV in years. Sure, I watch stuff on Hulu and Netflix, but that is about it. Most of what is out there is poorly done reality TV, with bad plots and worst acting. Recently someone started talking to me about this show “Ice Pilots” that was in production and on the air in Canada and at first I wasn’t sure what to think.
I was told the show takes place way up north in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada and follows the company, Buffalo Airways, as they fly around the great white and cold north. Hmm, okay — keep talking. Then I was told that they use DC-3, DC-4, C-46, L-188 Electra and some other odds and ends planes –that got my attention. They are also the only airline in North America that flies scheduled flights for passengers using a DC-3 — oh heck yes.
The owner, Buffalo Joe, is one cool dude. If you had to create a personality of someone who owns a charter airline using a bunch of old planes, Joe would be that guy. I think Joe’s statement, “If you really want to experience flight in this life, you really have to strap a DC-3 to your ass, let the wings extend out, and that’s the closest thing you’ll come to a human flying,” really says it all.
That is a Buffalo Airways DC-3 on the left and C-46 on the right. Both rock!
To make a successful show takes more than a few old planes flying around. Sure that could satisfy us airplane nerds, but the show needs a wider audience to stay on the air. I had the opportunity to preview the entire first season (the first two seasons have already aired in Canada, they are currently working on their third) and I asked my good friend Ben and girlfriend Amy to watch it with me to get their non-airplane-nerd opinions.
Ben likes to watch reality TV shows and has a few favorites that take place up north. He watches Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch and Alaska State Troopers and was a little skeptical of another “up north” show. He thinks airplanes are pretty cool, but is not an airplane geek like most of us.
“I thought it was going to be yet another show about people doing stuff in up north, but David made me try it out,” Ben explained to me. He was happy I made him watch it for after watching a few episodes he wanted to keep on watching. “They set up the show so you do not have to be a plane nut to watch it. There are some interpersonal relationship stuff thrown in, but it doesn’t distract from the from the flying too much.”
Amy on the other hand really isn’t a plane fan. It took a bit more convincing to make her watch Ice Pilots (I had to promise to watch Glee, which I have been refusing to do). “It’s pretty absorbing and well-made. Even knowing nothing about airplanes, I was drawn into the stories of the employees of Buffalo Airways.”
Hopefully others will enjoy this show and it will take off (heh, pun intended). Check it out this Friday on the National Geographic Channel and let me know what you think.