director of photography, holds the 16-mm camera as he shoots the
Gossamer Condor in flight, piloted by Bryan Allen. Producer Ben
Shedd’s shadow can be seen in the lower right-hand corner.
This picture was used in the film and on the DVD cover.
no doubt Ben Shedd is persistent and patient. That’s the only way you
can explain how the film The Flight of
the Gossamer Condor came to be.
his crew spent one year following and filming Paul MacCready as he
attempted to create the first human-powered airplane and win the Kremer
Prize. In 1959 Henry Kremer, a British industrialist, offered a prize of
50,000 pounds—$85,000—to the first group that could fly a
human-powered aircraft over a figure-eight course covering a total of 1
mile, or 1.6 kilometers.
wound up with 25 hours of film for a 27-minute documentary.
was worth it; the short documentary earned Shedd and producer Jacqueline
Phillips Shedd the 1978 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, as
well as 14 other international film awards.
celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, The
Flight of the Gossamer Condor has been
remastered in high definition and digitally restored from a new Academy
Film Archive preservation film print. The movie, which will be shown
throughout the AirVenture grounds during the week, can also be purchased
at EAA merchandise outlets. Shedd will bring the film’s Oscar to the
showings, where he’ll talk about the film and show behind-the-scenes
cyclist to power the craft, MacCready built the Gossamer Condor from
aluminum tubing, piano wire, and Mylar plastic. It was basically a
96-foot long flying wing. But at times both Shedd and MacCready wondered
if the plane would ever fly and capture the Kremer Prize. (It achieved
team made hundreds of test flights, sometimes crashing but all the time
learning how to make the aircraft more stable and easier to control.
After six months, MacCready tore it apart and started anew, changing the
shape of the wing and enclosing the cyclist. More tests, more crashes,
and more changes followed.
August 23, 1977, the Gossamer Condor flew into aviation history by
successfully flying the course set up by the Royal Aeronautical Society,
at Minter Field in Shafter, California. The aircraft now hangs in the
Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, and a clip of
Shedd’s film is part of the exhibit. The winning flight is shown in
the film, but Shedd said they had to be innovative in filming.
it made longer and longer flights, we had to find different ways of
filming it," Shedd recalled. "First we used a camera dolly and
ran pulling it on the runway as the plane went by. But as it made longer
flights, we rented a 1961 Dodge convertible from Rent-A-Wreck and stood
in back…driving parallel with the airplane."
The Flight of the Gossamer Condor
Oshkosh Screening Schedule
- Sunday, July 27, 8:30 p.m. - EAA
Fly-In Theater, shown with The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying
- Tuesday, July 29, 11:30 a.m. -
SkyScape Theater, EAA AirVenture Museum; immediately followed by an
Authors’ Corner session with Ben Shedd at the EAA AirVenture
- Wednesday, July 30, 2:30 p.m. - Honda
Pavilion; 4 p.m., Authors’ Corner with Ben Shedd at the Sky
- Thursday, July 31, 11:30 a.m. -
Authors’ Corner with Ben Shedd at the Sky Shoppe.
- Friday, August 1, 11:30a.m. - SkyScape
Theater, EAA AirVenture Museum; 1 p.m. Authors’ Corner with Ben
Shedd, EAA AirVenture Museum store.