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OU on the BBC: Nation On Film - Flying With Cobham

Updated Tuesday, 24th October 2006

‘Flying with Cobham’ is the story of one trail-blazing pilot in the 1920s and his mission to get the British public airborne, as part of the BBC/OU's series Nation on Film.

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Sir Alan Cobham sought every available means to achieve his goal; moving footage became a key vehicle for his propaganda.

Cobham was a World War One pilot who secured employment with an aerial photography company after the war. In 1924 he won the King’s Cup air race around Britain. He later became known for his adventurous flying trips to places like Africa and Australia.

Cobham realised that he needed to maximise filming opportunities if his message was to spread to a wider audience. In 1926 a documentary film-diary was made of his trip to Cape Town. Cinema audiences were treated to fantastic images of exotic locations. The footage included stunning aerial images of the Pyramids and Victoria Falls.

Later in his career Cobham also developed commercial ‘joy rides’ for people who wanted to experience flying. He staged the flying circus where the public would enjoy great aerial stunts including ‘wing walking’. However, Cobham never lost sight of the fact that he needed film to promote his pioneering activities.

First broadcast: Friday 14 Jan 2005 on BBC FOUR

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