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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » One Six Right: The Romance of Flying (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
One Six Right: The Romance of Flying (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
Other // G // November 1, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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"One six right: when you see those numbers and you hear the control say, 'You're clear to land - one six right', you know you're home."
- Tom Magglos, general manager, Petersen Aviation / pilot

"Asking someone why they love to fly is almost like asking someone why they like Picasso. The beauty is the fact that you can't really describe it; it's something you have to behold."
- Barry Schiff, aviation safety expert / pilot

Pilots like Barry Schiff may find it difficult to fully describe the sensation of sitting in a cockpit and soaring through the clouds, but what they struggle to verbalize individually, One Six Right expresses for them. This documentary is told through the words of dozens of pilots who are given the the opportunity to convey how much flying means to them, and their enthusiasm is infectious. There are men who appear to be well into their seventies or eighties, but when they approach the cockpit, their grins beam every bit as brightly as in the stills and archival films snapped of them a half-century earlier.

One Six Right doesn't need to lean on somber, wistful music or narration as a connective thread for the interviews. The documentary is driven entirely by the stories told by these pilots: a fascination with planes dating back to childhood that drew them towards aviation, the thrill of their first solo flights, and how they managed to buy their first planes. It's particularly fascinating that several of these pilots tell stories that date back to the days of Charles Lindbergh, having seen firsthand planes evolve from single-seat, single-engine craft to the first propeller-driven passenger airliners to the mammoth jetliners that shuttle hundreds of people at a time from coast to coast today. Anchoring the documentary around personal anecdotes while still carefully weaving them into a cohesive, coherent narrative gives One Six Right a warm, personal touch.

The documentary sets out to convey the indescribable passion these pilots have for flying, but One Six Right isn't meant as just a 73 minute love letter to aviation. Part of the reason it's spreading the gospel is that so many general aviation airports are being shuttered -- at a rate of one a week -- in large part because of the misunderstandings swirling around them. Some suburbanites dismiss these airports as a noisy nuisance they don't want in their backyards, shrugging them off as just a playground for the wealthy, and politicians often find themselves entranced by the other lucrative possibilities the land has to offer. The documentary shows what's become of some of the fifty-plus airports that have been closed in the greater Los Angeles area: condos, strip malls, and converted warehouses, mostly, and the disregard some hold for these airports is most glaringly reflected in what happened to Meigs Field in Chicago. Overnight, without any warning whatsoever, Mayor Daly had bulldozers carve two-foot deep Xs into the runways, preventing any landings and also stranding the planes housed at the airport.

One Six Right takes the stance that general aviation airports have a great deal to offer their communities, using the Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valley as a springboard for the discussion. The number of airports in the greater Los Angeles area has dwindled from 66 to just 9 over the years, but Van Nuys remains the busiest airport in the world, with a plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds and manned by the second largest staff in the Valley. There's something intriguing about the scale of such an operation and how cold and impersonal it would seem certain to be, but it's a tightknit community; when pilots call to the tower, they don't call for the "Van Nuys Airport"...they chat with "Phil".

One Six Right follows the Van Nuys Airport throughout its many name changes and its storied history, from its construction when the San Fernando Valley was a remote, desolate stretch of land, its collapse in the wake of the Great Depression, a rebirth courtesy of the flourishing movie industry, its role in World War II, and its subsequent revival in the aviation boom that followed. The indelible impact Van Nuys has had on aviation history is also delved into in depth, including hosting the first coast-to-coast flight, another record-setting flight that spent six full days aloft, Amelia Earhart setting the speed record, and serving as the departure point for the mammoth 'Pregnant Guppy' cargo plane that delivered the oversized components for the Apollo program to NASA in the '60s. One Six Right takes care to mention the more traditional services that an airport like Van Nuys has to offer as well, such as shuttling around cancer patients and serving as a launching pad for fire fighters.

This isn't a documentary hammered out by someone with an HDV camcorder and some free time on his hands. The production values of One Six Right are staggering for an independent movie, featuring a great deal of stunning photography of aerial acrobatics as masterfully shot as any I've seen. Director Brian Terwilliger has a flair for keeping even the talking head interviews interesting, striking a perfect balance of fluid camerawork, clever compositions, and sharp editing without ever distracting from the storytelling.

One Six Right is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in aviation, and the enthusiasm of the dozens of pilots interviewed throughout the documentary is so contagious that those who've never thought about taking flight lessons will almost certainly consider it afterwards. A remarkable movie, and there's nothing else like it on HD DVD right now.

Video: One Six Right is proof-positive that you don't need advanced video codecs or even a second layer to stand out as one of the best looking titles on the market. Encoded using the workhorse MPEG-2 codec, the 1080p image is smooth, crisp, and strikingly detailed. One Six Right was primarily shot on high-definition video, and accordingly, the flaws associated with film-based transfers are largely absent. Colors are often eye-popping as well, from the azure skies to the brightly painted, immaculately maintained aircraft. One Six Right includes a fair number of vintage film clips, and most, if not all, of them have been transferred in high-def as well. Much of this footage is heavily speckled, but that adds a sense of nostalgia rather than feeling like some sort of glaring flaw, and the grain inherent to that decades-old, largely black and white photography is tight and perfectly compressed.

As wonderful as the overwhelming majority of One Six Right looks, space limitations do creep in, if only to a small extent. For one, presumably more of the disc's extras would've been in high-definition if there had been more breathing room. One of the most memorable shots in the movie starts on the "1-6-R" runway that gives the documentary its name, zooming out to show the scale of the bustling airport and contrasting it with how barren the landscape was when construction first began. The fully zoomed-out image is richly detailed, but portions of it look slightly unstable when it rotates. A handful of the high-resolution stills incorporated into One Six Right exhibit some light moire artifacts as well. These are all exceedingly minor concerns, and One Six Right wholly deserves its reputation as one of the most visually impressive HD DVDs available today.

Audio: One Six Right also boasts a particularly nice Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack. As this is a documentary about aviation, One Six Right is littered with shots of planes careening across the sky, and the soundscape is brimming with pans from channel to channel and is bolstered by a strong sense of directionality. The focus of the mix is generally on the speakers being interviewed, and they remain clear and easily discernable throughout. The mix is creative enough to flesh out the sound design without drowning out the interviews, placing such sounds as radio chatter in the surrounds when appropriate. The music also comes through well, including nimble bass lines and swing beats, plinking piano keys, and softly strummed acoustic guitars.

Extras: One Six Right's extras are a mix of 1080p and standard defintion footage, and the disc's menus take care to divide them up accordingly. The lengthiest of the high-def extras is a twelve and a half minute highlight reel from the documentary, and it's joined by an Enya music video set to aerial footage and a minute and a half clip of a loop-de-loop joyride.

One Six Right also includes another half hour of standard definition footage, the bulk of which are themed montages that revolve around still galleries, clouds, and a wide-eyed fascination with airplanes from a child's perspective. Several short deleted scenes include a look at Lockheed's presence at the airport, Ercoupe's attempt at furthering amateur interest in aviation with their accessible, comparatively inexpensive planes in the '40s, Air Force One becoming a fixture at Van Nuys during Reagan's tenure as president, and one elderly pilot dusting off his old helmet and goggles to see if they still fit.

This HD DVD includes some of the extras from the companion DVD One Six Left, but others, such as the making-of featurette, have not made their way to this release.

Conclusion: One Six Right is subtitled "The Romance of Flying", and that's as good a description as any of this documentary. The deep and abiding love these men and women have for aviation is contagious, and One Six Right is bolstered by some gorgeous aerial photography and an impressive assortment of vintage photographs and films. The 1080p photography looks remarkable on HD DVD as well, and a handful of high definition extras and a very modest sticker price make One Six Right that much easier to recommend, particularly for home theater enthusiasts with an eye for something unique. Highly Recommended.

Related Links: One Six Right has an extensive website if you'd like more information on the documentary.
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