Director Joe Thompson offers this information about our film this weekend at the airport, The Great Waldo Pepper projected on a hangar door.Â Bring your own chair.
Among the subtler losses to civic life stemming from 9/11 is the great fortification of small local airports.Â The movement from aerodrome â€“ a magical field of flight, located at the edge of town â€“ to airfield, to airport, to the post 9/11 fenced and gated abstractions of today is not lovely.
Itâ€™s more than the difference between, say, the romance of a remote dirt road, a blue highway, and Interstate 90, because even in a world of 4-lane superhighways itâ€™s still easy to experience what it feels like to travel by road off the beaten track.Â But itâ€™s almost impossible to find spots to actually be inside aviation today, which has nothing to do with the horrors of commercial flight.Â Katama Airfield, a wedge of grassy sand just off the beach on Marthaâ€™s Vineyard, is one such place: my son and I spent a pleasant afternoon there on a bench a couple of years ago sitting next to David Letterman and his family, watching small planes take off and land, trying to talk over the beautiful throaty rumble of a Waco bi-planeâ€™s big radial.
Situated at the base of Mt. Greylock, North Adams Harriman West has one of the most beautiful airports in the United States.Â Before the days of fence and gates there were almost always small clusters of people gathered there on languid summer weekend days, watching gliders and their tow planes in search of upslope wind.Â The Taconic Ridge sunsets are spectacular from the airport.Â Itâ€™s one of the great hidden gems of our region.Â So, for a few hours on August 5th, MASS MoCA has teamed up with the City of North Adams and its Airport Commission to invite the public back inside the gates.Â Beginning at 7pm, there will be music, a balsa glider contest (with free gliders given to the first 100 kids), and good, well-priced food and drink, including beer and wineâ€¦ but not for pilots who plan to leave that evening (I should add, in case the FAA is listening) since pilots must abide by the â€ś8 hours from bottle to throttleâ€ť rule.
At about 8:30pm, weâ€™ll be screening cartoons and a movie on a huge hangar door, with BYOC (bring your own chair) seating on the tarmac.Â If you fly in, admission to the movie is free for you and your passengers.Â Or for those of us who live nearby, pack as many friends and family as you can get into a car (or any vehicle!) for just 14 bucks.
We had a lot of fun picking the movie: Airplane! was far and away the staffâ€™s choice, but in the end Iâ€™m a sucker for air-to-air photography, and the great flying sequences of Redfordâ€™s slightly goofy Great Waldo Pepper won out: there are scenes that look like they could have been shot right at Harriman West, and if we catch a nice night, it should be spectacular.
Which great aviation film should we show next year (assuming we try this again)?