One Six Right: Weeping on a Saturday Morning

One Six Right - Terwilliger Productions - It only took me four years to actually do it, but I finally watched the acclaimed aviation documentary One Six Right this morning after buying the last copy of it at the local pilot shop at Mesa Gateway Airport last weekend.  It had been on my Amazon list for a few years, but my frugality kept me from actually making the buy.  In the end, it was the feeling of goodwill I mustered up to make, what most probably was, one of the only sales that the kind, old gentleman at the pilots shop made last Saturday.

Buy the film at by clicking on this link: One Six Right The Romance of Flying.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the film, One Six Right is something of a documentary of Van Nuys Airport – the business general aviation airport in the United States and one of the most historic airfields still in the Los Angeles area.  It was created in 2005 by filmmaker Brian Terwilliger.

As Lil was using my office and the sole scanner in our household for the day in preparation for another large eBay sale today, I positioned myself in the living room with laptop and TV at the ready.  Instead of watching the usual schlock of Doctor Who, Top Gear, or even (God forbid) one of those Worlds Wildest Police Videos shows in the background while I worked, I decided to take advantage of Lil’s absence and pop in the DVD of One Six Right.

Within the first ten minutes of the film, my laptop was closed, my attention was squarely on the TV and my eyes were doing that halting weepy feeling you get when bagpipes play Amazing Grace at a memorial ceremony… and that way they stayed for most of the duration of the film.

The film is breathtaking – and that is an understatement.  For me, a person who considers himself pretty creative, the rich mix of beautiful cinematography, historical footage, and just the right mix of well done visual and digital effects astounded me.  I absolutely loved how there was no real narrator to the film, but rather an ever-changing array of real people who were involved with the history of Van Nuys Airport from early on to today.

When the movie came out, I was still living in New Hampshire and really didn’t have an attachment or even much awareness of Van Nuys Airport.  I knew it was the home of Clay Lacy Aviation and I knew of Mr. Lacy from his years of writing for Professional Pilot magazine and his history as one of the early pioneers of business aviation.

I remember being at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando, FL in 2006 with my team from Daniel Webster College and seeing a faux movie theater facade installed in front of one of the meeting halls for a premiere of the film – thinking back, I should have taken advantage of that showing…

Since relocating to Arizona and visiting Los Angeles a few times, I have become a lot more familiar with Van Nuys and its role in our industry now.  Working at Cutter Aviation, I see quite a few customers who originate from VNY – and many more who regularly fly in and out of there, including our own fleet.

So that made the film resonate so much more with me now. It was amazing what that little extra familiarity did to increase my enjoyment of it… “oh look, that’s (insert person here)” or “cool, that’s a T-6 from the Dawn Patrol”.  It was funny how the airport, for me in this case, took on the status of the celebrity in and of itself!

The beauty of the film really struck me, and that’s what initially got me weepy; but later on it was the realization of the reality we are faced with in aviation now… that’s what really got me teary near the end.

When this film was launched, business aviation was really growing… and general aviation was growing slightly too.  FBOs were busy, manufacturers were selling airplanes, and everyone was feeling good about the future.  The film carried a theme of “aviation is good for the community” throughout and warned that airports were closing and threats came from the ever increasing property values around an airport, complaining neighbors, and developers who felt that a profit could be turned on land if the airport was removed and another strip mall was built up instead.

Now, only four years later, the industry is radically different.  The economy is significantly down, private aviation has been vilified by our government and as a result, flight hours are down.  Manufacturers and dealers are selling far fewer aircraft, if any, and maintenance providers are slow or empty without the traffic that they once enjoyed.  Pilot starts are down and flight schools are closing all over – aviation as a career doesn’t hold the romance for the masses that it used to.

We all know it’s just another downturn on a cycle of business that we’ve ridden for years… another hill in the rollercoaster of capitalism.  The unfortunate thing is that it’s like a rollercoaster without seatbelts… and no one knows who’ll get tossed off as it keeps speeding downhill.

So, for me, the film is something of a benchmark… a flag stuck in the ground at a certain point in our history that we can look and reminisce back to.  Like the people who romantically recalled parts of the history of Van Nuys and got a twinkle in their eye that closed with a certain restrained sadness over the passage of time and the regret it could not be relived in any other way than memory; I look at the film and feel the same.  Vicariously I feel sad for the passage of time and the fact that I could not have been part of their history – a history when it seemed like the sky was literally the limit and the future was bright for aviation.

I am sure it will be again, but it will be changed for sure.  It’ll take time for people like me and my peers to adapt and become comfortable with it – but along the way, we’ll have movies like this to watch and reminisce.  We’ll use it to live, if only for 90 minutes, back when it was all comfortable to us.

Buy the film at by clicking on this link: One Six Right The Romance of Flying.

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3 Responses to “One Six Right: Weeping on a Saturday Morning”

  1. Adria

    wow, reading this article I have a deeper appreciation for aviation as a whole and a great desire to see this movie, One Six Right.
    I am also a Top Gear fan! ;)
    That actually surprised my boyfriend. He’ll happily watch that show with me anytime!
    Thanks, keep writing about what you know!

    Best, Adria

  2. Jeffrey

    I love aviation movies and such.

    One of my all time favorites is “Always”. Great actors, great story, great director.

    Funny thing is, it is a remake of an old WWII movie. I think it had Spencer Tracy. Only saw a short bit of it.

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestion.



  3. Duarte Fernandes Pinto

    What a fantastic blog for people who love aviation!!! Congratulations!!!
    Please visit a portuguese blog which shows aerial picturesfrom Portugal taken during my flights:
    Third Dimension – Aerial Photography from Portugal

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