Old Guys & Their Airplanes: Debriefs - Winning A COVID Dogfight


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Rick Lingberg directs John Mollison at OGTA: Debrief live streamed from Sioux Falls Country Club.

In March of 2020, Old Guys and Their Airplanes had several history film projects ready for take-off in hopes that once they were posted on line they may go "viral". We got viral, but not the way we had hoped. Instead, the Coronavirus had made its way from China and was rapidly infecting all activities in the United States. All projects were grounded.

Old Guys and Their Airplanes is the brainchild of John Mollison, aviation artist, writer and producer. I quite literally mean "child", as John began drawing fighters and bombers at a very young age. Later he would meet and interview the men who flew these planes. It was then he realized it was no longer simply about drawing flying machines, but learning lessons in character, morals, history and patriotism that these "Old Men" had in common and were willing to share with young John that would prove to be most valuable. Years later I would meet John and suggest the idea of making films of his old guys and his airplane drawings.

The films began with a couple of South Dakota "Old Guys" but would rapidly expand to pilots and stories from across the country and around the world. More films would follow. Film festivals began to recognize these historical productions. John's artwork would find its way into private and public galleries. Educators kits were produced and made available to history teachers in classrooms across the country. OGTA films were picked up by Public Television networks and online plays were exceeding millions. Then COVID hit. We knew we were in for a dogfight.

OGTA’s John Mollison interviews Vietnam War B-52 navigator and former P.O.W. Col. Bob Certain in San Antonio, Texas for Debrief.

"What about this Zoom thing?" That was the question on the table in a desperate brain-storming session to figure out how to get OGTA off the ground. The first test flight, called OGTA: Debriefs, was an interview with a Vietnam helicopter pilot, Pat Owens from his home office in North Carolina. About 50 people joined online.

Next, another helicopter pilot, Distinguish Flying Cross recipient Bruce Huffman. 150 participated. A joint venture with South Dakota Public Television followed featuring Tuskegee airman—100 year old General Charles MaGee. Over 12,000 viewers watched live and then later online.

Airline travel became available, film production restarted and a remote production was livestreamed from the San Diego Air and Space Museum with South Dakota native, Korean War hero Royce Williams. Now the online audience is allowed to participate by texting questions directly to the interview site. A nine-year old watching online got his history question answered directly and immediately by a real live war hero.

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OGTA Production "An Evening with James McDivitt".  McDivitt was a Gemini/Apollo astronaut and Korean War fighter pilot.  Live streamed on YouTube from the Hacienda del Sol in Tucson, Arizona.

This was followed by three more remote live stream productions on YouTube (Custer, SD, San Antonio TX and Tucson, AZ) with a full compliment of history lovers in the studio audience.

Hence, OGTA wins a dogfight despite a killer virus and history is kept alive.

OGTA: Debriefs

If you would like to see all the "OGTA:DEBRIEF" click on any of the images below. 

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Charles McGee
Bob Certain
Marty Mahrt
Royce Williams