An Episode Guide to ‘Blue Sky Metropolis’

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.

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.

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?

Watch the trailer for “Blue Sky Metropolis”

Explore the Aerospace Century as it unfolds through the lives, often in the words, of the men and women who created it: John Northrop, Glenn Martin, Donald Douglas, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Walt Disney and Wernher Von Braun. From the pivotal 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet, the second public showcase of powered flight in the world, through World War II; the Cold War and onward to the rebirth of the industry thanks to New Space companies such as Virgin Orbit, SpaceX and Relativity, “Blue Sky Metropolis” is a sweeping look at the century in Southern California that brought humankind to the skies and beyond.

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.

“Wings” establishes Southern California as the undisputed aviation capital of the world, tracing its growth from the 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet to becoming a America’s “arsenal of democracy” during World War II, led by Jack Northrop, Glenn Martin and Donald Douglas. 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.

This episode traces how The Cold War and Pentagon dollars fund the explosive growth of modern Los Angeles and create the military-industrial-complex. Entire suburbs such as Lakewood are built in record time to house defense industry workers, while also restricting non-white races from living there. Fear of nuclear annihilation spawns the science-fiction genre for Hollywood.

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

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