The Aviator

A&E aired an fascinating documentary about Howard Hughes today.

Well, it was half documentary. The other half seemed to be a combination preview and advertisement for the latest Martin Scorcese film, The Aviator. The program interspersed clips of the real Hughes with commentary from the cast and excerpts from the motion picture.

It’s obvious that the cast did their research, and I enjoyed the program — right up to the point where Scorcese himself jumped the shark by first waxing nostalgic about Hughes’ pursuit of aviation greatness and then claiming that “the word ‘aviator’ is meaningless to us today because there are no aviators anymore.”

Excuse me?

Try telling that to Steve Fossett, who in less than a month will takeoff from a midwest airport in the GlobalFlyer in a bid to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unrefueled. He’s a rich guy, just like Hughes was, and has set just as many records. Fossett currently holds ten world records, including the distinction of being the only person to have ever circumnavigated the world nonstop and solo in a balloon.

Tell that to Burt Rutan, who designed the GlobalFlyer and the first airplane to circumnavigate the world nonstop/unrefuled, Voyager. Or to the guys who piloted Rutan’s SpaceShipOne into space two months ago, becoming the world’s first commercial astronauts.

Tell that to Jon Sharp, Richard VanGrunsven, the Klapmeier brothers.

Tell that to the guys who funded the X Prize, or shoot past 500 mph at the Reno Air Races in 50 year old airplanes that weren’t designed to go anywhere near that fast.

Scorcese may be a brilliant director, but he’s so dazzled by the legend of Howard Hughes that he misses the incontrovertible fact that these and many other modern aviators have eclipsed Hughes’ achievements, and in every case done it with far fewer resources. Films will be made about those people, too, though probably not for a long time.

If Scorcese was truly visionary, he’d at least be able to step away from the camera long enough to see what’s going on all around him.

“No aviators”? Please.

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