Movie cameras at March Field in Riverside, CA, c. 1937 | Courtesy of Dick Whittington BSM

Wings: Aviation Takes Flight in Early Los Angeles

In this episode, the documentary establishes Southern California as the undisputed aviation capital of the world and introduce the industry founders — Jack Northrop, Glenn Martin and Donald Douglas.  Nice weather attracted them but so did a climate friendly to dreamers, risk takers and entrepreneurs.  Amelia Earhart learned to fly here, becoming only the 16th woman in the world to earn a pilot’s license, succeeding in an industry dominated by men. African-American William Powell defied racial stereotypes, becoming an aviation hero despite a federally-funded study that deemed African-Americans unfit to fly.  He starts an all-Negro flight school in Los Angeles and many of his students became pilots of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  This first installment of "Blue Sky Metropolis" traces the evolution of civilian and military aviation and examine the extraordinary mobilization during World War II, considered the greatest industrial achievement in history.  Two million workers built 300,000 aircraft — one plane rolled off the assembly line every twelve minutes 24/7 for the duration of the war.  In the episode, we see the Hollywood movie industry and aviation grow up together. "Wings" won the first Best Picture Academy Award in 1929.  Many stars, directors and producers owned their own airplanes and landing fields.  During the war years, movies that featured fighter pilots and romance never crashed at the box office.  

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