The Movieland of the Air museum, once located
at the Orange County Airport, seems to be no more according to Google searches I
did to try to find it. There are few archive photos on an Orange County, California,
website, but not much else. Tallmantz Aviation, Inc., was formed in 1961 by pilots
Frank G. Tallman and Paul Mantz. The scant information available indicates that
sometime around 1991 the museum was closed and the aircraft and other exhibits were
sold or donated to various collectors and museums. The photos from this 1971 issue
of American Aircraft modeler, which will now be discoverable on the Web, might well
be the only accessible ones of their kind. Most, if not all, of the planes in these
early photos were used in Hollywood movie productions like "Dawn Patrol," "North by Northwest,"
The color photo thumbnail is a view of the Movieland of the Air provided by Bill
Larkins, who evidently lived near the museum. News Flash: I found a few more color
pics of the TallMantz Aviation "Museum of the Air" on the Museumerica website
(bottom of the page).
Movieland of the Air
By George Siposs
Curtiss 1910 Pusher, foreground, was first plane to fly from
the deck of a Navy ship. French Voison, hung from ceiling, was featured in movie,
Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines.
Sopwith Triplane used by British Royal Naval Air Force stunned
the German fighters in WW I prior to introduction of Fokker Triplane (inspired by
the Sopwith) and D-7. Note hut and mural terrain typical of conditions at Front
B-25 Valhalla? Eighteen of these WW II North American Mitchell
medium bombers were amassed by Tallmantz for movie, Catch 22.
Two-seater Curtiss P-40 was seen in the movie, Tobruk, featuring
Rock Hudson, although poster in foreground depicts John Wayne and the movie, Hellfighters.
The Museum, a 20-minute drive from Disneyland, contains 44 planes,
some dating back to the Wrights.
What Museum worth its salt could afford to be without the Wright
Brothers' first plane to fly? Movieland resorted to a clever replica, since the
original history-making machine is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington.
This J-1 Trainer from 1915 is a true star among movie-making
airplanes, having been featured in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Wings of Eagles, and
Wackiest Ship in the Army. Model in foreground is Douglas Navy Skyray.
Many of the WW I and before craft were found in barns in stripped
or crashed condition. Adding human interest to this display are dummy figures of
pilot and observer-gunner, with period helmets and goggles. Note drum feed on flexible
The Tallmantz collection of historical aircraft stresses association with famous
stars and movies.
If you think the pilots who fly stunt planes in motion pictures, who fly through
hangars, who crash planes deliberately and walk away with nary a scratch, are zany,
half-drunk kooks, you are wrong. Dead wrong! It takes the utmost flying skill, an
uncanny sense of balance and timing, a cool head and a steady hand to do these tricks.
Frank Gifford Tallman is such a man and he has a hangar full of planes which have
been used in well-known movies, doing stunts, simply "acting", or carrying the camera
Tallman, a retired U.S. Navy Commander, began collecting vintage aircraft for
a hobby and did a fair amount of movie flying on the side. He is one of the handful
of pilots today certified to fly any kind of aircraft from jets to helicopters or
Up until 1961 he was in competition with the granddaddy of all stunt pilots,
Paul Mantz, who also owned many vintage planes. The two decided to join forces in
1961 and founded Tallmantz Aviation for the purpose of chartering flights and doing
flying for movie cameras. Movieland of the Air was founded soon after, when it was
found that most of the planes in their collection had been used in one movie or
another with resultant wide public appeal.
The famed Movieland of the Air museum is located at the Orange County Airport,
about 20 minutes by car from Disneyland, south of Los Angeles. Visitors find a movie
marquee beside every plane, explaining where and how it was used. Famous planes
from the Dawn Patrol, Angels With Wings, North By Northwest, Hellfighters, Fate
is the Hunter, Carpetbaggers, Catch 22, Spirit of St. Louis, and many, many other
films can be seen here.
Most planes are shown in an authentic setting with relics of the Lafayette Escadrille,
signed photographs of famous movie stars, as well as interesting objects which have
a human interest story connecting them to the planes. Take "the hand" for instance.
During the filming of Catch 22, a plastic dummy "actor" was standing on a raft and
was supposed to be cut in half by a low-flying L-5 Army spotter plane. The stunt
went off well but part of the dummy, the hand, broke off and lodged in the elevator
of the plane, almost causing it to crash.
For the filming of Catch 22, Tallmantz hired and trained pilots and mechanics
to take care of no less than 18 real B-25's. For four months, the cameras ground
away as the 18 planes acted out their scenes, while three Cessnas, an L-5, and a
helicopter did the filming and transporting of freshly shot film daily from Mexico
to Los Angeles. Thirty-six mechanics, 36 pilots-copilots, and 20 flight engineers
plus six "filming" pilots were engaged in this gigantic enterprise.
Most of the aerial photography seen in movies, TV, or commercials is done by
and from Tallmantz planes. One of them has a camera mounted in its nose and flies
at 50 mph. They also use B-25's with the camera mounted in the tail and film in
reverse so that when the film is projected in the regular manner it looks as though
the plane is approaching the subject.
On display are 44 airplanes, some of which date back to the Wright brothers,
but must of them are of WW I vintage. Among the most interesting planes are a P-40,
one of 18 originally manufactured as a two-seater, and another P-40 which won several
cross-country races and set speed records with Paul Mantz at the stick. The replica
Wright brothers plane comes from a museum in Niagara Falls, Canada. A Jenny used
for the filming of the initial sequences for the Spirit of St. Louis is on display.
(A replica "Spirit" was built for the film and subsequently flown around the Eiffel
Tower on the anniversary of the famous Lindbergh flight) Several bamboo and canvas
gliders of pre-Wright brothers vintage are included. Some of the WW I planes, were
found in farm barns in original stripped and/or crashed conditions and are waiting
to be restored.
A Curtiss Pusher (equipped with a Lycoming engine) is flown almost daily, as
the pilot's legs dangle from the open cockpit - to the delight of the crowds that
gather here. Visitors can fly in a barnstorming Waco biplane for three cents per
pound. They also can talk to the managers and mechanics who are all very knowledgeable
about their airplanes. "It is hard to find mechanics who can service rotary engines
and stitch canvas as well as service our helicopters ... but we have the best,"
says Jim Appleby, the museum's curator.
Appleby also is the chief pilot for the organization. An old-time model airplane
builder, who started in 1935 with rubber and stick models, he graduated to GHQ-powered
models and then went on to the first tube-controlled RC. He reminisces about the
day right after WW II when he walked through the snow outside a museum in Munich,
Germany, and found some old blueprints in the mud. Upon closer examination the prints
turned out to be the original drawings for the famous Eindecker. Jim had always
wanted to fly this ship. Instead he decided to build a model of the plane from scratch
and now proudly claims to be one of the originators of the WW I plane fad. He built
other vintage aircraft as well and, being a retired Air Force major himself, he
eventually joined Tallmantz.
Frank Tallman, noted aerobatic pilot, popularized WW II homebuilt
movement. Here he poses with Fokker E-3 Eindecker, built by the Museum's curator,
Jim Appleby. In 1961 Tallman and Paul Mantz, movie "stunt" pilot, combined collections.
In 1967, Paul Mantz did the stunt flying for the movie, Flight of the Phoenix.
When the last scene was being filmed, the plane broke up in midair, killing him.
During the ensuing years the museum almost went broke, many planes were auctioned
off, Frank Tallman lost a leg in (of all things) a go-kart accident. But, determination
and perseverance have their rewards. Today, Tallmantz and the museum is a bustle
of activity with planes being restored or built from scratch (and the wing fabric
is still hand-stitched). The charter service is busy, movie engagements keep the
pilots occupied and, at this writing, Appleby and Tallman are on a cross-country
promotional tour. They fly authentic dogfights with their Nieuport (with Snoopy
painted on the fuselage) and Fokker triplane, for Mattel-Monogram.
If you have a half a day or more to spend in this area, visit the Movieland of
the Air Museum at the Orange County airport, Santa Ana, Calif. But please do not
write for plans or details of planes. The administrative staff is just plain overloaded,
and at this time they have no plans service. Mr. Tallman is presently writing a
book about "how it feels and smells to fly vintage airplanes." It will describe
each famous model in great detail and is based on firsthand experience.
Future plans for the Tallmantz organization include more movie work, although
preferably not as strenuous as the scene in Mad, Mad, Mad World where a two-engine
plane was flown through a huge Coke sign with only three feet to spare. Nice, quiet
shots, such as "Fly the friendly skies of United" with the plane slowly disappearing
in the sunset, are preferred!
The Museum is planning to expand with the acquisition and/or building of vintage
aircraft. WW I Camels, Fokkers, Nieuports and other planes seem to have the widest
With dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts like Tallman arid Appleby, the organization
is bound to prosper ... to the delight of us all.
The caption reads that Snoopy's Sopwith Camel was decorated to
resemble the model kit. Perhaps Snoopy looks so perplexed because he is seated in
a Nieuport 28. Many other WW I ships are to be found at Movieland - an SE-5 as an
The "Red Baron" pilots Fokker enroute to New York during Snoopy/Red
Baron Transcontinental Air Race sponsored by Mattel/Monogram; 21 cities visited.
Valued at $30,000, this Tripe has 160-hp Warner engine.
Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain some form
of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey
through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which
all began in Mayo,