Remembering Walter Boyne

One of the hidden joys in my life as a filmmaker has been the huge, unexpected benefit found in the friendships we have developed in the academic, museum world. Before Jim and I produced the IMAX film To Fly!, all our films had been shown in commercial theaters. But because all of our subsequent 40plus IMAX films were destined for museum-based theaters, our lives grew richer in many new ways, including in knowledge and curiosity. Suddenly, I was taking directions from astronaut Mike Collins, physicist Jeffrey Kirsch, and astronomer Paul Knappenberger. 

Meetings over dinner were now vastly more interesting, and film discussions were more expansive and openly creative. For Barbara and I, our lives were enriched in ways we never expected, and never as often as with Walter Boyne, the past Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., who passed away recently. 

Walter was a true renaissance man—multidimensional and skilled, open to bucking the status quo to bring a better educational experience to the public. He began his love of flying in the Air Force as a cadet, rising to the rank of colonel and piloting the jet bomber, B-47, for SAC. When Walter retired in 1974, he joined the National Air and Space Museum as a curator while it was under construction. As I began writing the script for To Fly! in 1974, I met Walter, and he and Don Lopez helped me with my research for the film. Then, when the museum wanted a follow-up film in 1980, Walter, Barbara, and I worked on a new project with Dennis Moore, culminating in Flyers

Walter was a joy—creative, inventive, always looking ahead. When he became Director of the National Air and Space Museum (from 1983 to 1986) he channeled that creative energy into bold, innovative improvements, including the desperately needed (and huge) restaurant, more restrooms, the new Air and Space Magazine, and the expansion of the museum with the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles airport—another Air and Space Museum with a glorious IMAX theater! He dreamed big. Afterward, he went on to write 50 surprising and varied books about his love—flying! We talked often over the years as I kept him involved as our key museum advisor. Barbara and I loved this man—and we were very fortunate to have had his brilliance in our lives. 

— Greg MacGillivray

Read more about the life of Walter Boyne here.

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