LONDONDERRY — It was a highlight of the summer of 1979 —an aerial stunt that attracted crowds from throughout the region.
It was a local pilot's daring flight under an enormous railroad trestle that once spanned Route 31 and the Souhegan River in Greenville. Now, 40 years later, local residents can relive local inventor/pilot Bronson Potter's legendary aerial feat via recently rediscovered movie footage.
The long unseen 8mm home movie film, taken by Dave Morrison of Mason, will be screened Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, 27 Navigator Road.
The museum's "Movie Night" program also includes a rare screening of 'Flying Luck,' a 1927 silent aviation comedy starring Monty Banks and Jean Arthur.
Live music for both films will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, the museum's director and also a musician who specializes in silent film accompaniment. Admission to the screening, a fundraiser for the museum's student plane-building partnership, is $20 for the general public or $10 for members.
In the annals of New Hampshire aviation, Potter's fly-under stunt is an intriguing chapter, in part because no one is entirely sure why he did it.
"We've been trying to get the real story from local residents who knew Potter and were there," Rapsis said. "Some say it was done on a bet. Others say it was a tribute to his flight instructor, who had recently died."
Over time, the fly-under became subject to varying interpretations, somewhat like a piece of performance art, Rapsis said.
The trestle was taken down in 1984, and Potter died in 2004. But the legend of his stunt has endured.
The movie footage of Potter's flight was unearthed earlier this year by Morrison, who found the film in storage when the Aviation Museum was planning to celebrate the stunt's 40th anniversary.
"We had no idea anyone had filmed it," Rapsis said. "But when Dave's spectacular movie footage came to light, it quickly became the centerpiece of our program."
The program is family friendly and all are welcome. Popcorn and drinks will be sold, with all proceeds to support the museum's plane-building partnership with the Manchester School of Technology.