‘Blue Sky Metropolis’ Uncovers the Untold Story of Southern California’s Aerospace Industry

A new four-part documentary mini-series from acclaimed filmmaker Peter Jones showcases a century of aerospace in Southern California and explores the intersection of aerospace and Southern California from multiple perspectives.

Relive the excitement of man’s first steps on the moon and the long journey it took to get there with 20 new hours of out of this world programming on PBS SoCal’s “Summer of Space” Watch out for “American Experience: Chasing the Moon” and “Blue Sky Metropolis,” four one-hour episodes that examine Southern California’s role in the history of aviation and aerospace.

How did Southern California become the aerospace capital of the world?  What were the consequences of this development for the region, for the nation and for aerospace itself.  “Blue Sky Metropolis,” written and directed by two-time Primetime- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jones, is a series of four one-hour episodes that examines the largest homegrown industry that has received only a fraction of the attention heaped upon the Hollywood entertainment business.

Like its counterpart, aerospace was an industry created by dreamers drawn to a region that was invented by dreamers — civic boosters comprised of newspaper publishers, real estate developers and Hollywood moguls.  Their entrepreneurial spirit resonated with those imaginations attuned to the possibilities of flight.  With more than 60 interviews, “Blue Sky Metropolis” explores the intersection of aerospace and Southern California from multiple perspectives: technology, popular culture, politics, race, business, labor, environment and gender.

Learn why Southern California is the undisputed aviation capital of the world on “Blue Sky Metropolis” S1 E1: Wings: Aviation Takes Flight in Early Los Angeles. Watch now.

Throughout the twentieth century, millions flocked to Southern California to claim aviation/aerospace jobs, forever changing the social and physical landscape.  Did the “blue sky” environment nurture that combination of vision and technical know-how as it did for Walt Disney and his Imagineers?

Narrated by Emmy Award® winning actor Tony Goldwyn, “Blue Sky Metropolis” will air back-to-back on Thursday, August 1, 7 p.m. PT. Following the broadcast, each episode will stream on this page, as well as the PBS Video app (available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, the App Store and Google Play) and YouTube.

NASA research pilot Bill Dana takes a moment to watch NASA's NB-52B cruise overhead after a research flight in the HL-10. | NASA
NASA research pilot Bill Dana takes a moment to watch NASA’s NB-52B cruise overhead after a research flight in the HL-10. | NASA


Save August 1 for these upcoming episodes

Wings: Aviation Takes Flight in Early Los Angeles” – 7 p.m.

Aviation takes flight in early Los Angeles, becoming an industry of dreamers, risk takers and entrepreneurs. The region is America’s “arsenal of democracy” during World War II, as two million workers build 300,000 aircraft. Critics see an unhealthy alliance developing between the federal government and aircraft manufacturers.

The Big Chill: The Cold War Fuels Business and Anxiety” – 8 p.m.

The Cold War and Pentagon dollars fuel the explosive growth of modern Los Angeles and creates the military-industrial-complex. Entire suburbs are built in record time to house defense industry workers, but  covenants restrict non-white races from living there. Fear of nuclear annihilation spawns a new genre for Hollywood as ‘science fiction’ movies become a box office goldmine.

A Space Odyssey: Southern California Spearheads Mankind’s Greatest Achievement” – 9 p.m.

The triumphant and tragic Space Race unfolds in first-hand accounts of those who pioneered the technology and built the hardware that made possible mankind’s greatest achievement. Meanwhile, the military-industrial-complex expands unchecked.

Back to the Future: A New Space Age Dawns in Southern California” – 10 p.m.

The end of the Cold War brings massive layoffs but tech billionaires choose Southern California to launch their space companies. Though committed to the “democratization” of space, SpaceX and Virgin Orbit include the Pentagon as a major customer.