Studios fly high in Burbank
BURBANK -- Born in Burbank only few years apart, the studios and the
airport have grown up together in a city that benefits from both
Warner Bros. made its home in Burbank when it purchased First National
Pictures in 1929, and United Airport came to town in 1930.
“The movie people liked to hang out at the airport because [they] had
their own planes, and they flew,” said Les Copeland, president of the
soon-to-reopen Burbank Aviation Museum.
From Howard Hughes to Tom Cruise, the industry has regularly made its
way in and out of Burbank through an airport that has weathered several
name changes. When Lockheed owned the airport, it aimed for attracting
business by re-christening itself the Hollywood-Burbank Airport. That
name stuck from 1967 to 1978, until the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport
took over, Airport Authority spokesman Victor Gill said.
“There was a lot of stunt-flying for the movies done at the airport,”
One of the more famous stunt pilots was Paul Mantz, who worked on
films including “The Spirit of St. Louis,” the 1957 movie starring James
Stewart as Charles Lindbergh. Mantz was also a technical advisor to
Toluca Lake resident Amelia Earhart, who did not take his long range
radio on her last flight in order to cut the weight of her plane.
His charter service was popular with Hollywood stars, many who boarded
his “Honeymoon Express” to Las Vegas weddings and divorces, Copeland
Some of the airport’s film shoots include Jerry Lewis’s “Geisha Boy,”
which opens with a cab pulling up to the terminal building, as well as
scenes from “Top Gun” and television shows such as “Mannix” and “Perry
Warner Bros. releases from the early 1990s with airport shoots include
“Memoirs of an Invisible Man,” “Final Analysis,” and “Demolition Man.”
In addition to shooting films at the airport, Copeland credits some
innovations in motion picture technology to the aviation industry.
“A lot of the advances in aviation and reconnaissance planes [involved
placing] huge cameras on board,” Copeland said. “A lot of things for
special effects were first designed for aviation.”
Today, general aviation businesses based at the airport have hangars
filled with the corporate planes of tenants that include the Walt Disney
Co., Universal Studios, Dream Works and Warner Bros., along with the
private planes of individual stars and executives.
“I think the airport is a convenience for them,” City Manager Bud
Ovrom said. “I’m sure that it helped contribute to the attractiveness of
Since Sept. 11, the use of general aviation, or noncommercial private
planes, has increased by 20%, Mercury Air Center Operations Manager Scott
“The studios have always used their jets for flying around their
stars, but the whole industry has really exploded,” Ovrom said. “More
people are insisting on it. I’ve flown on Southwest [Airlines] with Tom
Hanks, and I don’t think you’re going to be seeing that anymore.”