Proficient Pilot

Mark your calendars

July 1, 2005

Retired airline captain Barry Schiff has flown 296 different types of aircraft.

When most people hear about a world premiere in Hollywood, they conjure an image of glamorous movie stars bedecked in tuxedos and evening gowns strutting before television cameras and paparazzi. But the stars of the movie that is scheduled to premiere at the Hollywood Pacific Theater on Saturday, June 25, do not include such celebrities. The stars of this documentary film, One Six Right, are a wide variety of general aviation airplanes that range from a Piper J-3 Cub to a North American B-25 bomber and from a Pitts Special to a Cessna Citation X.

Flash back to when 17-year-old Brian Terwilliger took a high school course in cinematography and became enamored with this art form. He had wanted to be a professional pilot since he was 5, but color blindness squelched that dream. Now, 12 years later, Terwilliger is an accomplished and talented filmmaker as well as a 300-hour private pilot.

During his flying activity at the Van Nuys Airport north of Los Angeles, he discovered that his home base has a uniquely rich history that had not been collated into a single reference. This inspired him to produce a documentary film about Van Nuys Airport. Hence the title One Six Right, which is the airport's most active runway (see " Movie Magic," September 2004 Pilot). At that time, his only purpose was to produce a film for posterity and his own gratification.

During the next three years, Terwilliger discovered through interviews being conducted for his film that the focus was changing, that a different kind of film was taking shape. Aviation people were baring their souls and discussing their feelings about the romance and passion of flight. Yes, the airport's history came through loud and clear, but the theme broadened and revealed an underlying concern for the future of general aviation. The scope expanded in a way that suggests the film has broader-than-anticipated appeal.

Terwilliger's project attracted financial support from those who sensed that the film's message needed to be seen by the general public. Similarly enthused, Panavision supplied high-end, high-definition cameras that — along with some incredible air-to-air maneuvering — produced remarkable and stunning footage. The result is a 70-minute documentary truly worthy of theatrical release.

I had the privilege of viewing the film during a recent private screening and discovered that it is everything Terwilliger intended it to be.

The first 20 minutes provide viewers with a positive and emotional perspective of general aviation. The segment explains without words why pilots are so easily and willingly addicted to flight.

The next 32 minutes deal with the history of Van Nuys Airport in a way that enables people to appreciate the value of all airports, not just this one. Even those who will never visit Van Nuys get a better understanding of how airports grew from "bean fields," and why they are now threatened.

The footage of Chicago's Meigs Field will tear out your heart.

The last 18 minutes return to the sky for more of Terwilliger's cinematic, air-to-air magic.

One Six Right is more than a documentary about an airport. It is a love story about aviation, and I doubt there are many pilots who will see this film and not shed a tear of joy and one of sadness.

Does the movie preach to the choir? How many not involved in aviation will see this film? The breadth of its exposure, I think, is up to us, those with the greatest interest in the survival of GA. Know people who speak negatively about airports or want to limit their operations? Be certain they see this movie. It will help them understand the importance of and need for general aviation. One Six Right can help ensure that future pilots will have a place to land. Viewers might begin to appreciate the words of Norm Crabtree, former director of aviation for the state of Ohio who advocated putting an airport in every county, who said, "An airport runway is the most important main street in any town."

Want a preview? Visit the Web site ( www.onesixright.com) and click on Trailer. Consider that it was produced before the film evolved into more than simply a historical review of Van Nuys Airport. You also can reserve a copy of the DVD.

More great news from Hollywood: The aviation cult films written by Ernest Gann and starring John Wayne, Island in the Sky (1953) and The High and the Mighty (1954), will debut on AMC, the American Movie Channel, on Saturday evening, July 16, and Sunday evening, July 17, respectively.

For those who want to purchase DVDs, both films will be available on August 2.

Paramount Pictures is so enthusiastic about the release of these classic films that it opted to treat purchasers of The High and the Mighty to a bonus disk. Disk one will contain the motion picture, and disk two will contain a plethora of fascinating added-value features such as footage about John Wayne and Ernest Gann, behind-the-scenes photos, interviews, Flying in the Fifties, and so forth. Bonus material for Island in the Sky includes Flying for Uncle Sam, Flight School: The Art of Aerial Photography, and Gentleman of Adventure.


Visit the author's Web site ( www.barryschiff.com).