Friday, June 4, 2010

Legends Of Flight IMAX

Legends Of Flight IMAX

Stearman Flight for IMAX Debut!

The new IMAX 3D movie, Legends of Flight, made aviation history of its own by arranging for a flight of eight PT-17 Boeing Stearman biplanes into Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA), closed to general aviation aircraft since 9/11, for the film’s world premiere at the National Air & Space Museum on June 8.

Months of preparation went into arranging the flight, according to Dan McCue of Freeman/McCue, the IMAX film’s PR firm. Details of the flight were worked out in meetings with Potomac Tracon, TSA and other agencies, according to flight leader John King. “They were excited,” King said of the officials’ reaction to the proposal for the flight. “There was some apprehension, but eventually the ‘Why nots?’ began to win out over the ‘You can’t do thats!’”

Five volunteer TSA officers from Dulles International Airport came to Manassas Airport (HEF), where the group flight originated, to screen the eight pilots and passengers, overseen by TSA Aviation Security Inspector Jim Marks. “I’d like to see more” flights like this, Marks said. “My Dad was a pilot for Piedmont Airlines. We’d go to every air show in the area.”

After screening, the group went to the ramp where TSA examined the aircraft. Engine start was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. local time. I flew with John Lebbon, a retired USAir pilot, in his 1940 Stearman, N416EM, based at Greenville Municipal Airport (4G1) in Pennsylvania. A feeling of anticipation tinged with incredulity permeated the group as engines were cranked and clearance awaited.

In a few minutes we were cleared to DCA in a flight of three followed immediately by a flight of five. The route was direct and we flew at an altitude of 1,000 feet cruising at about 90 mph. Cloudless blue skies added to the celebratory feeling as we flew into the ten-mile radius inner ring-the so-called "No Fly Zone" of Washington D.C.'s Special Flight Rules Area.We were vectored about five miles south of DCA and cleared for the visual approach up the river, then routed to Runway 33 for landing.

Volunteer ramp agents from USAir directed the aircraft to their parking place at the foot of the historic American Airlines Terminal at DCA, and afterwards posed for pictures with the aircraft. “I just wanted to get that feeling of stepping back in time and parking a plane like this,” said ramp agent Bobby Daniels.

James Wynbrandt
The IMAX film itself is a mesmerizing and riveting account of the development of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, and through this lens explores legendary aircraft including the Super Constellation, the Airbus A380, and of course, the Stearman. Boeing's chief test pilot on the 787 project, Mike Carriker, who is featured in the movie, was on hand for the event, along with director Stephen Low. The movie’s theme of the risk and triumph inherent in aviation was underscored upon the Stearman’s arrival at DCA. One aircraft experienced an accident upon landing that left it inverted on the runway. No one was injured, and the Washington Post reporter in the front seat captured the incident as it happened, now viewable on the Web.

"Legends of Flight" is now appearing at the National Air & Space Museum's Lockheed Martin Imax Theater, and will soon be shown in 3D and 2D versions at selected large screen theaters around the world.

Click on the thumbnails to view full-size images

TSA's Jim Marks inspects paperwork for flight leader John King (right) and NASM Director General Jack Dailey (left).
Retired USAir pilot John Lebbon with his Stearman.
Stearmans on the ramp at Manassas (HEF).
Stearman pilots on ramp at Manassas await start time.
Stearmans at run up area, ready for departure to DCA
Stearman on takeoff roll on 34L at HEF for DCA
Stearman flying up the Potomac, DCA in the distance
Stearmans on the ramp at DCA after arrival
Stearmans on the ramp at DCA
Forward cockpit of John Lebbon's Stearman (at HEF)
Stearman pilot Ron Gorr (center) and passenger Mark Kelly (left) upon arrival at DCA
Notables on hand at the "Legends of Flight" premiere included director Stephen Low (third from left), Boeing's Mike Carriker (4th from left), Executive Producer Bob Kresser (third from right) and NASM Director Gen. Jack Dailey (second from right)

Plane & Pilot recently visited the IMAX lab in Santa Monica, Calif., for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Legends of Flight ( We were offered a sneak preview of film clips, and it’s fair to say we walked away stunned.

The film explores several iconic aircraft within the context of aviation’s first 100 years of history. It traces the art and science of aircraft design as it evolved from early airplanes to the super efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Aircraft featured in the film also include the Stearman biplane, Harrier fighter jet, Lockheed Constellation, Airbus A380 and one of the most breathtaking glider sequences ever committed to film.

Legends of Flight is the first aviation documentary film to be shot in IMAX’s 15-perforation, 70mm 3-D format with separate sound. This format results in a film negative that's some 20 times larger than standard 35mm (10 times larger in 2-D format), and the 3-D effect makes for an aviation film unlike any that you’ve experienced before. Filmmakers shoot two different perspectives with two cameras rolling at the same time: a left-eye and a right-eye version. These are digitally scanned at ultrahigh resolution, enhanced meticulously for exposure and treated with absolute attention to quality, all the way through to shipping the finished “print” in 14 pizza-sized boxes to IMAX theaters in 40 countries, where it will be assembled for final showing by the theater’s projectionist.

Our host was David Keighley, Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. Keighley has a reputation for being passionate about quality. “We look at every frame and optimize it for color and exposure,” Keighley told us. “You can see the tiniest details, even in the corners of the screen.”

Legends of Flight was directed and produced by well-known Canadian IMAX filmmaker Stephen Low, who has created more than a dozen giant-screen wonders, including Fighter Pilot, a film that follows a young pilot taking part in Red Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base.

The film will premiere on June 8 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Look for our report from the big day!

Click on the thumbnails to view full-size images


1 Comment

Add Comment