From Superman to the humble city pigeon, there’s always been something inherently romantic about the possibility of flight. A favourite tool of documentary crews, a bird’s eye view lets you see the big picture.
Now the Smithsonian Channel is releasing nearly 70 episodes of its hit show Aerial America, available to view on YouTube, which means nearly 70 hours of stunning helicopter footage of every US state, and most major US landmarks.
What the US lacks in crumbling temples and ancient civilisations it more than makes up for with extraordinarily varied landscapes, spanning the swampy bayous of Louisiana to the dusty deserts around the Rockies.
The show started as a state-by-state highlight reel, but as the series wore on the brief broadened, with specials focusing on areas of extra interest. Cities like New York and Boston, habitats like Yellowstone National Park and the Great Plains, and territories such as Puerto Rico have all featured in their own episodes.
The production team spent more than 2,500 hours in the air spread across five years to film the armchair adventure, and accrued an estimated 150,000 air miles doing so.
The cutting-edge camerawork was achieved by bolting a state-of-art camera to the nose of a helicopter, and controlling its movements with a joystick from inside. The director remained on the ground, plotting a course via a GPS.
Narrated by Canadian voice-over veteran Jim Conrad, viewers can expect postcard panoramas of Civil War battlefields, visceral vistas of volcanoes in Hawaii, and a soaring sweep around the summit of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain.
The Smithsonian’s official online resources are America-only, but for viewers across the pond they’re uploading episodes twice weekly to the Smithsonian YouTube channel. So far we’ve got Alabama, Alaska, Arizona and Arkansas. See if you can spot the pattern.