Film Reminds Us Of Flying’s Wonder

by Dominic Gates

Seattle Times Aerospace Reporter

The experience of traveling coach class on commercial airlines has degenerated into something largely drab, cramped and awful. For most of us, it’s almost killed our sense of flying as a wonder that in just 100 years has totally transformed the world. A new National Geographic documentary — “Living in the Age of Airplanes” — aims to lift you into the air and remind you of that wonder.

Panning out in the opening scenes to an extraordinary high-definition aerial shot looking down upon San Francisco airport, the movie first offers a quick history lesson on humanity’s earlier modes of transportation.

For thousands of years, the size of the world experienced in a lifetime was confined by how far a person could walk.

While trains, cars and ships sped up our progress on land and on sea, it was the invention of the airplane that allowed us to leap over both and at previously unimaginable speeds.

The movie, produced and directed by Brian Terwilliger and narrated by Harrison Ford, is about how this amazing shrinking of the planet has affected our lives.

It takes us on a deliriously beautiful tourist travelogue spanning the wonders of every continent as a reminder that the airplane serves like some science-fiction transporter to take us to faraway places, or even back in time as we visit ancient sites.

We look around a shopping mall and a living room, and see how many things have arrived there by plane. We see cargo planes filled with fresh roses newly cut in Kenya, delivered just three days later to an isolated home in Alaska.

Even kings from earlier times never had such riches to choose from.

The new wonder of today’s age is the mobile connectivity provided by the Internet, making Apple and Google cooler to youngsters than Airbus and Boeing.

Yet no virtual technology can ever match the physical connectivity airplanes provide.

The movie is playing now on giant screens at aviation and science museums around the country and comes to Seattle’s Pacific Science Center IMAX theater at the end of May for a summer run. Now playing in Pacific Science Center’s PACCAR IMAX Theater.

It’ll give you pause to think, next time you’re stuck in a TSA line, about how Boeing’s 80,000 local employees have so dramatically changed the world.

Boeing partisans be warned though: the movie illustrates the current “nearly-perfected” state of aviation with repeated shots of majestic A380 superjumbo jets taking off from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse.

Read the story in The Seattle Times. (Scroll down, past the Issaquah drones story.)


Learn more about this marvelous movie in this PacSci Podcast: