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National Geographic Studios
Jet engines make it possible for mankind to get to remote areas of the planet that were inaccessible before the airplane.

LOS ANGELES — Brian J. Terwilliger, director of "Living in the Age of Airplanes," was waiting to board a plane when he participated in a phone interview this week.

He was on his way to the premiere of the spectacular new film that will be introduced at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It's a film brilliantly shot at 95 different sites in 18 countries in seven continents, and narrated by film star and aviation aficionado Harrison Ford.

"This is just a subject that has fascinated me since I was a kid," Terwilliger said. "It's a huge story, and there are so many ways to capture that. I didn't fully appreciate that until I started doing research and really began realizing all the ways aviation changed the world."

Terwilliger and his team of photographers, writers, researchers and technical experts spent six years working on the 47-minute film sponsored by National Geographic Studios for the big screens like Imax.

They cover the planet from ice caps to the savannahs in the five parts of the story, examining the world before the airplane, explaining how aviation opened up a portal to the entire planet, redefined remote, brought the world to humanity's doorstep and changed humanity's perspective on everything from relationships to doing business.

"Because we tend to romanticize the past, we tend to take the present for granted when it's incredible what we can do. We try to show that in the film," he said. "We just arrive at something ordinary that's extraordinary. I hope this changes peoples' perspective, people who were born into the age of airplanes."

With airplanes, people can not only travel to places formerly inaccessible like the South Pole and the Maldive Islands off the coast of India, but also get there in hours and days rather than in weeks, months and years, he said.

"We can go anywhere that anyone has ever lived," Ford says in the film. "An airplane is the closest thing to a time machine we've ever had. No other single mode (of transportation) could cross both land and sea (until the airplane).

"In a century, aviation went from impossible to nearly perfected. In the world we've made everything is connected. There's no virtual technology that can take the place of an airplane."

Terwilliger said the greatest challenge in telling the story of the development of the airplane, from its origins tied to the steam engine to the jetliner and 100,000 flights taking off and landing a day, was in boiling the story down to workable size.

"There were lots of moving parts," the director said. "We did a lot of research; a lot of writing."

The film's dramatic musical score by James Horner is accompanied by cinematography by Andrew Waruszewski that includes inventive shots, time-lapse photography and spectacular aerial views.

All combined, it makes for an enlightening and remarkable ride.

The film opens at Thanksgiving Point's Mammoth Screen Theater Friday, April 10, and it will play at big-screen theaters throughout the U.S. for the next year to 18 months before it will be released on DVD, according to Terwilliger.

To see the trailer and for information on showtimes and ticket prices visit airplanesmovie.com

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com