Movie review: The Aviator

Even if you’re a pilot it is tough to recommend the new movie The Aviator.  Despite its ponderous length the story seems told in a very sketchy manner.  Hollywood seems to have forgotten what Homer demonstrated in the Iliad:  Epic works best when told in medias res (“in the middle of the thing”).  Attempting to cover decades of events in 169 minutes results in raising more questions than can be answered.  It might have been a better film if it had covered just the years in which Hughes lived with Katherine Hepburn, for example.  The flying and engineering scenes were not very accurate.  One thing that was horrifyingly accurate was the crash of the XF-11 reconnaissance plane (background).  If you have a multi rating this will bring back some memories of your instructor cutting off the fuel to one engine and the resulting yaw.  In the case of the XF-11, however, it was designed so that a loss of oil pressure would result in one of the props going into reverse pitch and producing so much drag that one couldn’t hold altitude on the remaining engine.  It would be interesting to know why the plane even had the ability to reverse pitch; a recon plane wouldn’t have needed to land on short runways and use the engines for braking.

Airplane nerds will enjoy, which makes it clear that nearly all of Hughes’s crashes were due either to failure to preflight/plan or failure to “plan the flight and fly the plan”.

12 thoughts on “Movie review: The Aviator

  1. One well-done airplane crash is more than most movies have going for them.

    A plane crash was the highlight of The English Patient and it won like a million academy awards.

  2. I think the book “Citizen Hughes” by Michael Drosnin was probably a more descriptive history of the guy….

  3. I saw The Aviator tonight and really enjoyed it. It leaves me wanting to learn more about Howard Hughes.

    I had an opportunity to see the Hughes H1 replica at Oshkosh last year. What a beauty. I was saddened to hear that the pilot who recreated it crashed and died while flying home from Oshkosh.

  4. I just saw it last night and somewhat agree with Philip. Compressing his whole life in less than 3 hours doesn’t work very well. That said, it was an enjoyable movie none the less.

    I am not a pilot but like to think I know a thing or two from countless hours on FS4 as a teenager. (including reading books on how to actualy fly) I never knew it was possible to avoid a “rather large mountain” just by pulling back on the wheel, I though that would likely just result in crashing into it with a higher vertical speed. And he also seemed a bit too gung-ho when flying new aircraft. Did this guy have a death wish?

    That said, it wasn’t nearly as cringeworthy as other movies that try to cover the subject.

    I also though that in reality, the “Spruce Goose” only lifted very slightly out of the water for a very short period and people argue about wether it actualy flew or not.

  5. Overall I enjoyed the movie, especially the music. It’s true what they say about trying to condense two decades of one of the 20th century more controversial figures in less than three hours, but I can’t think on a specific period that would have been significant by itself.

    At least they didn’t try to include his whole life.

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