Many of the over one million yearly visitors who tour the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio have no idea that they are in the presence of movie stars, some of whom have appeared in numerous more Hollywood blockbusters than many industry A-Listers. As an example, in addition to an illustrious military career as an Air Force developmental test and evaluation aircraft for more than 20 years, the museum’s Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is appearing in this summer’s Superman Reboot, “Man of Steel” and has already appeared in four other major motion pictures, including “Transformers,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” as well as appearing in country music superstar Toby Keith’s Emmy Award-winning production of “American Soldier.” The plane bears several small camera icons applied to its fuselage commemorating each of its many Hollywood roles.
Other Air Force assets featured in “Man of Steel” include an A-10 Thunderbolt cockpit that is on loan to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona as well as an Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II that were used in the film.
The US Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office is tasked with working with film, television, music video, video game and even comic book producers who want direct access to Air Force people, aircraft and equipment, technical assistance, military advice and/or locations. “We are always looking to participate in entertainment projects that provide the opportunity to positively project the U.S. Air Force and its Airmen to the American people,” said Lt. Col. Francisco Hamm, director of the Entertainment Liaison Office. “Ultimately, the Air Force is interested in great storytelling that organically involves Air Force characters, assets and missions.” The original Entertainment Liaison Office opened at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1947, and later moved to Los Angeles to be more accessible to the industry.
The museum has other “star” aircraft as well. Visitors can sit in the cockpit of a Navy McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom that was used in the 1980s ABC television series “Call to Glory” when cockpit scenes of the F-4 were needed. The Grumman OA-12 Duck on display appeared in “Murphy’s War,” a 1971 film starring Peter O’Toole. The 1965 film “The Flight of the Phoenix” starred Jimmy Stewart and featured the museum’s Fairchild C-82 Packet.
Showcasing Air Force people and equipment in Hollywood productions and highlighting famous service members helps the Air Force stay connected to the American public and the Air Force’s assistance in providing industry support, from authentic dialog and operational procedures to locations and equipment, allows the military to ensure it is portrayed accurately and positively, shaping the public’s opinion of the military in general and the Air Force in particular.
Colonel Hamm feels that it’s important to engage with the public, and believes movies like “Man of Steel” give the Air Force a unique opportunity to show people what it means to be an Airman: “The Air Force character, Col. Hardy, does an amazing job of incorporating the core values of the Air Force that are instilled in all of our Airmen as he teams up with Superman to fend off the bad guys,” Hamm said, expressing both his heartfelt belief and genuine enthusiasm for the medium in a single statement.