The Out of This World Air Show

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The Out of This World Air Show


One of the reasons people build scale models is for the suspension of disbelief they can experience while contemplating their finished creations. When you build a spaceship, you have your imagined moments inside that ship. Same with a muscle car. Or a WWII diorama. So it only makes sense, in our increasingly analog-digital hybrid world, to literally put us (or facsimiles thereof) into the worlds we’ve built with our models.


Such is the inspiration behind The Sci-Fi Air Show. The website for this online, virtual air show is set up to look like the support site for an actual air show, with a slideshow of airfield highlights and a map of what spacecraft are on display.


What’s actually going on here is that practical effects miniatures, like the ones used in film and television, are cross-composited with crowd scenes from actual aviation shows. The effect is quite impressive and you find yourself very easily thinking that some of the shots must be real and trying to figure out just how they accomplished the seamless ‘shop job.


The site even includes a fantasy narrative for each air show entry. Here’s part of the entry for the “one of the three” Colonial Viper in the show’s collection:

Another crowd favorite at the Air Show is the Viper from Battlestar Galactica. In 1978, the legendary Hughes Aircraft built four flying versions of the Vipers at the Heartland Hanger, located at the Van Nuys Airport. All four are still in flying condition, although the trouble-prone “turbo-booster” (an effect featured often in the show) has been removed from all of them.

We are happy to display three of the original Vipers here in the Air Show. (The fourth Viper was re-fitted to allow a second rider for the series “Galactica 1980” and is currently in the hands of a private collector.)


The Sci-Fi Air Show is the brainchild of former ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Bill George. George, a lifelong model-maker, both personally and professionally, wanted to keep his model-making chops alive even as that part of visual F/X is dying out in Hollywood. The Sci-Fi Air Show is his excuse to keep at it and he vows to continue doing so until he can no longer use his hands.


You can visit the Sci-Fi Air Show yourself here.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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