Big Picture: Fifty Years of Aviation- This Army TV series displayed the aviation progress, the man and women who played big roles in it and how it resumed in an Army, Navy and Air Force aviation power second to none.
Seen on video is the Army’s Delackner Aerocycle and the Hiller Flying Platform and pictures of the proposed Aerial Assault Vehicle and the Aerial Jeep.
National Archives and Records Administration
Video formatted by Katie Filbert – Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. U.S. Army Audiovisual Center. (ca. 1974 – 05/15/1984).
this is the big picture an official television report of the United States Army produced for the Armed Forces and the American people now to show you part of the big picture here is Master Sergeant Stuart Queen in the fall of nineteen seven the United States Army purchased from two bicycle mechanics names right the first military plane guaranteed to remain aloft for one hour it carried two persons at an airspeed of 40 miles an hour was light enough to be transported in an army wagon 50 years have passed since nineteen seven the miracle of flight has become a commonplace reality there seems no limit to aviation progress this is the Army's tribute to the pilots the mechanics the engineers and the countless others who have given wings to man's dreams this is the age of flight the Aerie today air power is a dominant factor in the American defense program far out from all four corners of the United States Navy and Air Force radar planes are spreading an aerial umbrella across the sky careful men guarding against any sudden attack they are a vital link in a radar team that includes the new line early warning stations in northern Canada Texas tower installations at sea and navy picket ships America has a shield of radar which will search out unknown aircraft long before they reach us borders but it is upon our airmen and modern aircraft that we must rely in case of enemy attack here is our offense and our defense a magnificent bulwark of aircraft whose speed strength and dedication provides us with air power but it wasn't always like this for centuries man gazed up at the flight of the bird and helpless and how easy it see if all it took was wig alas wings alone were not enough as many Birdmen proof despite ingenuity and determination they flapped and flashed in vain and although the spirit was willing it remained for Orville Wright and his brother Wilbur to point the way on December 17 19 3 in Kitty Hawk North Carolina fortville won the flip of a coin and immortality with two bounces he was in the air where he hovered for 12 seconds at 31 miles an hour covering 120 feet but there were other early flying machine come the taxi then some the top some that didn't do much of anything and some that hey watch out there in nineteen seven the army recognized the potential of aviation and in nineteen nine had purchased the first military plane the US Army Air Service was founded under the supervision of the chief signal officer early army pilots were assigned the task of testing and improving the piano wire and canvas airships they flew test after test not all of the flights were successful the first man to die in a plane crash was an army lieutenant now claims were getting bigger by 1910 an unknown enthusiast named Glenn Curtiss with building and flying and fibia by 1914 the fledgling Army Air Service had expanded to several dozen planes at first planes were used only for aerial reconnaissance but in time bombs and then machine gun were added pilots who had once waved at each other as they passed now shot to kill these were the days of the Lafayette Escadrille and Baron von Richtofen Flying Circus of Billy Bishop and Eddie Rickenbacker Americans learn new words the spag the Parker the Jenny with the end of the war numerous new experimental planes appear and a new kind of scientist emerged the aeronautical engineer there was even a new kind of aircraft it was called a helicopter by the middle twenties there seemed no doubt that the helicopter would fly the only question was in which direction some early four bladed copters actually covered while others only bounced before long however there was evidence enough that the helicopter was here to stay now man was finding first one method and then another of flying where for thousands of years he had been able to do little more than watch the birds and cream these were the days of the stunt pilots the Barnstormers when the thrill of seeing a parachute opened was news records were being broken alcock and brown became the first to conquer the Atlantic then a few years later a small Ryan monoplane the spirit of st. Louis soloed the Atlantic and captured the imagination of the world meanwhile the army was flying the male's in all weather around the clock an army test pilot were studying and looping in new improved by plane the autogyro was having its day and opening the way for today's American helicopters commercial aviation was developing gasoline octane ratings were going up passengers were now carried on regularly scheduled flights this luxurious airliner of the early 30s carried eight some people even God commercial aviation had a future by the late 30s however the biplane had almost completely disappeared the army air service given way to the united states army air corps and although hard-pressed for funds had developed the nucleus of a modern Air Force but it was only after Pearl Harbor that America's factories started rolling in earnest now we needed planes not by the thousands but by the tens of thousands first and foremost was the b-17 the world famous Flying Fortress she packed a wallop from all over America gave the pilots and soon the planes were ready by 1942 vapuretrails were over France the air war was underway these were the men who flew with death the pilots the navigator the gunner 48,000 pounds of Steel 10 men swiftly they streak toward their targets mission to destroy the enemy's ability to make war that was their job and they did it a plane is a beautiful thing ten men's lives are beautiful a bomber going down is not but the odds were good for American pilots the planes they flew were fast rugged superb in combat American pilots gave a grand account of themselves in Europe they drove the enemy from the air and escapes like this worth you low altitude strafing shattered enemy ground installation remember the Memphis Belle the celebrated lady from Tennessee survived many a perilous assignment returning home scarred but happy and proud to be back in the Pacific many Navy ships were carrying claims courageous Navy pilots mastered early catapult launching device and aboard aircraft carriers they overcame an additional hazard a rolling landing field airpower was a major factor in the planning of the Pacific campaign these tough fighters out fought the best the Japanese had to offer they spearheaded the island hopping aligned forces across the Pacific as the war moved closer and closer to the Japanese homeland now it was only a matter of time b-29 bombers were visiting the Empire of the Rising Sun with ruthless regularity often in hundred plain raised but it took only one b-29 the Enola Gay to close that chapter in human history in the years that followed World War to even greater progress was made in aircraft design and development army aviation separated in 1942 from the Army Air Force or was experimenting with helicopters the rotary wing aircraft with its hummingbird qualities offered amazing possibilities it provided the extra speed and mobility needed by an army no longer content to move only along the ground aerial cargo carriers capable of supplying frontline infantry troops with heavy equipment quickly and when needed coming in a variety of sizes and shapes these are aged 21 flying bananas the helicopter added a new dimension to aviation progress the Army's foresight and Industry had been building air power for 40 years in 1947 the army air force received its greatest tribute it became the United States Air Force now from experimental labs and drawing boards there came yet another aviation miracle let jet after many years of study and research jet-powered aircraft was a reality more powerful than any plane previously conceived the jet opened up a new Vista in aviation progress by October 1947 of milestone had been passed a test ship the bell x-1 became the first aircraft to crash the sound barrier it reached a speed of 780 miles an hour already obsolete this ship is now on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute from such research came a host of modern Air Force jets this is the f-84 thunderjet which went into mass production in 1948 one of the earliest jet fighters it was also one of the best fast maneuverable heavily armed and deadly these f-84 is packed a real punch jet bombers came right along with the fighters first accepted was the p45 tornado powered by four engines with the top speed of over 500 miles an hour next came the sensational b-47 straddle jet driven at over 600 miles an hour with a range of 3,000 miles America was building an arsenal of jet bombers one of the most unusual test claims was the be 49 flying wing of a completely different aeronautical design it did away with the conventional fuselage and tail in this radical experiment it maneuvered in air like some giant back side by side with Air Force developments went experimentation by civilian bird men eager to try out the new jet power but it remained for Korea to demonstrate the real value of America's jet aircraft they proved themselves in combat squadrons of recon bombers were able to fly almost unmolested over enemy territory cruising in over 600 miles an hour armed with bombs machine guns and rockets they out flew out fired and I'll far the best Soviet fighters that the North Koreans could put in the air carrying up to 30 25 inch rockets they wreak havoc with enemy ground forces operating in close coordination with the infantry time and time again they destroyed enemy build-up center in this operation the Air Force was not alone Navy and Marine pilots know many of the sorties flown in Korea by American forces close support for infantry troops was a specialty of marine Airmen working together us airmen of all the services gained control of the skies for low-level aerial reconnaissance however army aviation was used in World War two light planes like this were first designed to infantry units the effectiveness of the early Scout planes resulted in the formation of army aviation in Korea they were invaluable for these planes were best equipped to cruise slowly through the winding mountain terrain life rugged and versatile they could go almost anywhere and where nothing else could go helicopters went the second half of the army aviation team they served as troop carriers and evacuated the wounded directly from rear line hospital the Korean War found the American army more and more airborne by transport by helicopter by c-119 cargo planes American soldiers took to the skies World War 1 saw the introduction of military aviation Korea saw it carried to a new peak of combat performance Korea over experimentation went on the age 37 helicopter and the el 17 Navy on were added to army aviation the Air Force was setting new records the bell x2 rocketed too many times the speed of sound this is not a jet aircraft landing it is rocket-powered a flying laboratory built for supersonic flight with aircraft like this research was moving away from Earth into the borders of space the air force research and development program requires a lot from its planes and a lot from its men the test pilots who take the chances as planes were getting faster so they were getting bigger this is one of two decks aboard the xc90 9 the world's largest cargo plane this extraordinary aircraft has a tail larger than the entire original plane flown by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk and its fuselage is longer than their first flight looking at it who would believe it would truly fly but it does and with a range of 8,000 miles it can carry 50 tons of cargo for 400 fully equipped infantryman despite its size however it requires only a five-man crew the six engines push it forward at over 300 miles an hour in recent years the Air Force has brought out even newer jet aircraft the swept wing f-100 Super Sabre unveiled in 1952 was the first of the supersonic fighters fighters capable of operating regularly above the speed of sound newest of these supersonic jets is the f-104 starfighter known as the missile with the man in it it made its debut in 1954 this fantastic fighter flies more than a thousand miles per hour a true mammoth of the sky largest and fastest jet bomber in the world is the b-52 Stratofortress pride of the Air Force this giant bomber with its 6,000 mile range can reach any target in the world today American air power with its arsenal of atomic weapons is one of the chief deterrence to war on this 50th anniversary of military aviation the b-52 is a shining symbol of American aviation problem and still the experimentation goes on this is the Army's convert a plane now being tested its propellers are designed to lift it as a helicopter and then fly it as a conventional place this is one of several converter planes presently undergoing studies at the same time a variety of small one-man helicopters are being developed one day this device may be standard equipment for all infantryman it has passed all tests to date with flying colors here's another version of the same idea the army the Navy the Air Force all three services are experimenting in this area one of the most unusual recent developments is the arrow cycle similar in concept the flying platform is another recent innovation the operator is standing directly above two revolving ducted fans he is literally standing on a column of air an astonishing new principle of flight one unique flying machine is the Navy's Aerodyne it sucks in air speeds it up and then blasts it out the bottom another way of riding on a column of air exactly where the future will take us no one knows but army scientists predict an aerial Jeep using the principle of ducted fans and an aerial assault vehicle within the next few years these drawings will become realities but in the years since World War two perhaps the single most important research program has been in the field of rockets and missiles here may very well lie the future of air defense for once perfected rockets and missiles may offer a far better defense against enemy aircraft than exists today and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles may replace today's long-range aircraft at the present time the greatest armament race in history is being conducted for space superiority while the time has not yet arrived to phase out ball fighting aircraft and replaced them with rockets and missiles already the three services have adopted numerous small weapons of this sort the army has an integrated team of rockets and guided missiles there is the dark nike hercules Honest John corporal and the giant red stone the potential of the missile seems unlimited already we have submarines and cruisers equipped for missile launching accurate and powerful these missiles can travel through space at incredible speeds up to thousands of miles an hour one day missiles in many sizes and shapes may replace conventional air defenses but today Americans everywhere look two planes which fly and the arsenal of army missiles to guard America against attack from the sky in a short half century America has built its airpower second to none in the Naval Air Arm the Marine Corps the Air Force and the army the big picture has paid tribute to the courage tenacity and skill of the men and women who have served the nation through 50 years of military aviation and on this anniversary the army salutes its sister service the United States Air Force now this is your host Sergeant Stuart Queen the big picture is an official television report for the Armed Forces and the American people reduced by the army pictorial center presented by the United States Army in cooperation with this station