As a kid, I would sit transfixed as a worn-out VHS played (and re-played) Pratt & Whitney’s 60th Anniversary Air Show Special. It made me easy to babysit; once the video started and the tracking was set I was immobile for hours…though my brothers found it difficult to remain conscious for the duration.

Whether it was that air show, movies or television, I became a sucker for aviation. I memorized every dogfight in Top Gun, recounted every joke in Airplane, relived every daydream in The Spirit of St. Louis and marveled at every feat in The Right Stuff.

I am still hooked.

Filming Flight

Aircraft have played every role, from hero to villain to prop to backdrop. In comedies, dramas, action thrillers, animation and farces – in airports and at altitude – flight and film, once introduced, became fast friends and regular collaborators. Movie makers seek to stretch the imaginations of viewers because aviation pioneers routinely stretch the assumed boundaries of the real world.

Film can be a powerful ally or a dangerous rival. Its ability to explain, explore and inspire can serve both curiosity and contempt. From great stories of human and technological triumph, to cautionary tales of equipment failure and personal loss, the camera celebrates the best and examines the worst. Just as Harrison Ford softly narrates the grand Living in the Age of Airplanes, a small production studio investigates Pilot Error and its fallout.

For the general public – the flying public – a streaming video might be the closest they ever get to the actual gears and levers that carry them safely across the world. Regulatory compliance issues, business realities, emerging markets and the demands of a shifting globe are hidden from travelers at the airport gate.

Who are these actors? Air traffic controllers, maintenance providers, reservation clerks, flight crews, baggage handlers, flight dispatchers, maintenance controllers and fixed base operators get no camera time unless there is a search to lay blame or explain a mishap. The truth is that you and I can’t fly without the efforts of many who will never be on a marquee.

Millions of on-time departures and safe arrivals and no time to take a bow.

Big Screen to Your Screen

The magic of flight is not about Bernoulli’s principle, airspeed, altitude or technology … it’s not even about an artistic livery or lavish in-air accommodations. What matters is aviation’s impact on our lives and livelihoods. With that story, we can build support to ensure that both our fleets and the goods or families flown in them are maintained by the finest men and women.

So, let’s start with exploration. Go to your favorite video-streaming site and search “aviation.” (If you dare, search “aviation + [some specific aspect of the flying world].”) You’ll see instructional videos, testimonials and documentaries – tragedy, history and comedy – shot in studios and on flight lines, with high-tech cameras or smart phones. All tell a vivid story with a rich cast of characters:

The woman making her living as a mechanic.

The friends and colleagues who build and fly elaborate model aircraft.

The schools that teach pilots, technicians and engineers how to care for the lives placed in their hands every day.

The organizations that work to keep all of it moving forward.

For Your Consideration

For the critic and publicist inside you, we submit the Aeronautical Repair Station Association’s You Can’t Fly Without Us – The World of Aviation Maintenance for your consideration. The short documentary, produced with the support of some industry members, is a seven-minute welcome to the often-overlooked aircraft maintenance industry.

It was made, not to celebrate any organization or company, but to put maintenance on the marquee for one and all. If one traveler recognizes the hundreds of thousands of men and women working across the world, it will be a box office smash.

Put yourself and your colleagues on the world stage, take You Can’t Fly Without Us, along with your own favorites, and play producer. Send it to friends. Create links in your emails. Share with colleagues and the media. Send it with a note to your elected representatives. Show your kids and let them see a future in the sky.

When the credits roll, there won’t be time for us to take a bow. There’s always another departure scheduled or landing to prep. What matters, though, is that we tell the story.

Whether your trip begins on an air strip or a film strip, the sky isn’t even the limit.