Aviation Warehouse in El Mirage, California; is acres and acres of everything aviation, from helicopters, to mock-ups, all sorts of planes from prop driven planes to jets. There are burned out shells of military and commercial aircraft, even a Russian helicopter used in the Tom Hanks movie “Charlie Wilson War”. I could not stray to far because I had a job to do, which is to stay with my motor home and help out the crew.
My call time was 6 in the morning, according to Google Maps, an hour and half drive from North Hollywood, my base. I decided to give myself twice that time to play it safe, I am glad I did, there was a five car pile up on the I-14. I arrived at the yard at 4:45 AM and pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the crew. Mark the owner of Aviation Warehouse and a friend, arrived at 5:30, and opened the gate. I hung out with Mark until the crew arrive about forty-five minutes latter, the Producer was surprise to see me waiting for them, but I explained I missed the accident because I left at 3:15, she was impressed. Because the yard has soft sand, I decided it was safer to remain on the shoulder of the road, which has steel grating. I am glad I listened to my instincts; one of the big five-ton trucks got stuck in the sand. My motor home weighs 34,000 pounds or 17 tons; I am always skeptical when driving on terrain that is questionable and with good reason.
The sun was slowly starting to rise over the foothills, revealing snow on the San Gabriel Mountains to the south. There was an abundance of life all around, desert flowers were blooming, a creek that was normally dry, had water flowing. One could hear coyotes in the background, and birds of prey flying above. Aviation Warehouse is not really a warehouse in the sense that it is not a big building, rather it is acres of fenced off open land with every imaginable plane and helicopters, and as I wrote many are striped down and some are whole.
After I knew my crew was set up, I decided it was time to explore the grounds, of course I had my camera and I took a ton of pictures. Since I am aviation illiterate, Mark guided me through the grounds and explained to me what I was looking at. For instance that helicopter next to my motor home look like an Apache helicopter to me, but it was a Russian attack helicopter.
The interesting thing about movie magic is the use of static objects. This is where blue screen or green screen (known as Chroma key, a technique that takes two images, one image is removed usually the background and another image is added) composing comes into play. One of the shots involved the talent flying a plane, the cost to rent a plane, the pilot and other such cost would have been expensive, a simple green screen and a composite shot, one has the picture.
I had a chance to do a little skydiving with some friends; it is the latest fad, skydiving without a parachute. I positioned myself at the end of the ramp, the green screen in front of me, and I jumped. A second latter I touched ground, this was the most exhilarating feeling, of course the plane was only a few feet off the ground, but for a few spilt seconds I was airborne. My feet touched the ground, the audience applauded me, or were they applauding that truck driver who finally gets his pick-up out of the deep sand. On film I would look like I had actually jump out of plane thousands of feet off the ground.
The day was coming to an end, the director got his shots, “it’s a wrap,” he says. Suddenly a whirlwind of activity ensues. Men and women scurry to put their equipment back into their trucks and cars. Since I am driving the production motor home I will be the last to leave. It is expected, the first to arrive, the last to leave, fortunately it will not be dark when I leave, the location has an easy turn around point, therefore I will not need a spotter to assist me when the producer allows me to wrap.
If you are interested at shooting at Aviation Warehouse or you need aeronautical props call Mark 760.388.4215. For multiple day shoots at this location or nearby El Mirage Dry Lakebed, Victorville is about thirty minutes south/east and has excellent lodging and restaurant accommodations. At the intersection of highway 395 and Palmdale Rd there is a grocery store and eating establishments. For film permits and more information call Sheri Davis 951.779.6700 ext. 231 or Dan Taylor at 951.779.6700 ext. 223.