EAA’s 1929 Ford Tri-Motor and parts of Pioneer Airport are featured in the major motion picture “Public Enemies,” which opened in theaters around the country July 1.
Many of the scenes in the film, which stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, were shot in Oshkosh. The Tri-Motor can be seen about an hour into the movie.
Filmmakers used the Tri-Motor to depict the aircraft that the FBI used to transport Dillinger to Chicago from Arizona, according to EAA officials. They spent several hours filming the airplane in flight as well as on the ground and on several landing rolls. Set designers transformed the plane from its Eastern Airways paint scheme into that of American Airways, the predecessor to American Airlines. They also turned Wittman’s Basler Flight Service FBO into Chicago Municipal Airport (what today is Chicago Midway). Sean Elliott, EAA director of flight operations, and George Daubner of flight operations were cast as extras to depict the flight crew and took turns flying left seat.
A specially equipped Eurocopter AStar helicopter was used to shoot the airplane in flight and during the landing scenes. Pilot Craig Hosking literally flew rings around the Tri-Motor, Elliott said, including flying backward in front of the airplane on its landing roll.
The landing scene was shot about eight or nine times in the pouring rain, Elliott said. When shooting finished, the Tri-Motor was quickly repainted before a crew of EAA staff towed it all the way back to Pioneer for a different scene. Then it was towed back to Basler in the wee hours of the morning and repainted to American Airways.
Later that day film crews shot air-to-air footage of the Tri-Motor over Lake Winnebago. Elliott said that post-production would use computer-generated imagery (CGI) to insert the Chicago skyline into the background.