The Aviator

The Aviator (2004)

22 corrected entries

(6 votes)

Corrected entry: To make his planes go faster, Howard Hughes decided to take all the top wings off his biplanes, for the film "Hell's Angels." But when the film was played for the first time all the planes were biplanes; they all had the top wings.


Correction: He took the top wing off a plane he wanted to build for speed tests. The Hell's Angels movie planes were biplanes, as he was making a movie about the dogfights in WWI which were, of course, biplanes.

Corrected entry: When Hughes is being shown the model for the Constellation plane he is quoted $450,000 per aircraft. He then says "that's $18 million for the first four". Four times $450,000 is only $1.8 million.

Correction: Actually what is said is that it is 18 million for the first 40. Not 4. Hughes ordered the first 40 aircraft for TWA. Juan Trip placed an order for the next 40 for Pan Am. The math is correct.

Corrected entry: Aircraft speeds in the film are frequently given in miles per hour. Airspeed is always measured in knots, and the aviators would certainly use the correct units when talking to one another.


Correction: At the time of the movie airspeed was measured in statute miles per hour. Not nautical miles per hour, or knot. General aviation planes did not regularly get ASI's (airspeed indicators) until the mid 70's. Traditionally, acrobatic planes still have ASI's that read in statute miles per hour.

Corrected entry: The fuel gauge for the speed test is grossly exaggerated for effect. They just got done telling him that there is minimal fuel for weight considerations. Just after takeoff, it reads about 40, which is half full. After the first run it's down around 30. Going into the third run it's near 10. Given the H-1's range of 2,490 miles, even pushing the engine to it's limits shouldn't drain that much fuel that quickly nor should the engine stall at 10. (01:44:40 - 01:46:20)


Correction: The H-1 was modified after the initial test flight. The first model was not intended to fly a long distance. After the initial flight basically the only thing that was not changed was the fuselage itself.

Corrected entry: When Howard and Katherine Hepburn are eating dinner, Errol Flynn comes by to talk. The waiter delivers Howard's dinner, a steak, twelve peas and a jar of milk with the cap on. Errol reaches over a takes one of the peas off of Howard's plate. In slow motion we can see that Errol indeed removes a pea from his plate. Howard then looks at his plate. When paused we can count that there still twelve peas on the plate. There should only be eleven peas. Howard then pushes his plate away from him. A few shots later the peas have moved position and then there are only ten peas on the plate. (00:33:40)


Correction: The rules of this site are clear - if you have to use slow motion or freeze frame to detect a mistake, then it is not a mistake in the first place.

Corrected entry: When Howard Hughes comes out of the plane right after it crashes in the city, the fire burns his chest and part of his face, however it does not burn either his hair or his eyebrows.

Correction: Just as it did in real life. The film is 100% accurate on this point.

Corrected entry: When Howard is watching 'Hell's Angels' footage in his private screening room, he holds his hands up in front of the projection and the image of several planes from the footage can be seen on his hands. The corresponding long shot shows his hands, illuminated by the projection, yet there are no corresponding shadows of his hands on the screen.

Correction: The tight shot has his hands in the projector's beam as two planes fly right-to-left across his right palm. In the long shot, his hands are actually lit by a hidden light to Howard's right (note the light source direction on his left hand in the long shot). No film objects are seen on his hands because his hands aren't in the projectors beam at this no shadows either.


Corrected entry: In the first shot of the nightclub in the 1920's, there are latex balloons over the bandstand. These were not invented until the 1940's.

Daniel Granahan

Correction: The first toy rubber balloons were sold by the J G Ingram Company in London, England in 1847 and by the "Roaring Twenties" they were perfectly common.

Corrected entry: The actual flight of the Spruce Goose was only up in the air and then down - it did not soar across Long Beach. It was simply to prove the thing could become airborne.

Kathleen Albers

Correction: According to the official Spruce Goose museum located online at, Hughes "flew her for a little over a mile at an altitude of 70 feet for approximately one minute." The film's portrayal is accurate.

Corrected entry: In one scene Howard Hughes is watching "Hell's Angels" alone in a private screening room. He puts his hands up, one on each side of his head and at eye-level, and looks at the images from the film being projected onto them. Meanwhile, the back of his head, directly between the hands, is in deep shadow.

Correction: The angle in which the light comes from is pointing slightly down, so hands in front of him at the same height would be lit, but not his head.

Corrected entry: When Howard Hughes is starting the Spruce Goose his engineer says "A-OK." It is well documented that this expression was first used during the Mercury space program, over a decade later.

Correction: The exact words uttered when the engines are firing up is "Engine 1: good. Engine 2: good. Engine 3: good. etc." Not A-ok.

Corrected entry: After talking about the plane orders and plans with Juan Trippe, Howard goes to the bathroom to wash his hands. Notice the dish he takes the soap out of. From the shot to shot above the sink, the soap dish on the right hand side of the sink constantly changes position and the interior of the soap dish is sometimes brown and sometimes aluminum. (01:23:20)


Correction: The soap dish keeps moving because Howard is putting the soap in it and taking it back out. The interior of the dish (which is really a portable case) is always aluminum. The brown seen is the soap itself.


Corrected entry: When Hughes and Harlow are being assaulted by the paparazzi flashes at the premiere of "Hell's Angels", the discarded "flash bulbs" they step on are badly simulated by regular screw-in 60-watt-type light bulbs strewn about the walk. The screw-in base and distinctive shape and color (white) is easily identified (there are close-ups of them). Look for the GE logo.

Correction: "Press" type flashbulbs were commonly used by news photographers of that era, often with a Speed Graphic camera. They are about the size and shape of regular light bulbs with screw bases. Examples at

Corrected entry: In the movie, TWA (Transcontinental and Western Air) gets renamed Trans World Airlines, but that didn't really happen until 1950.

Correction: In the film, the name is not necessarily changed; Howard only pitches the idea of the name. The name may have been changed in 1950 but there's still a possibility that it had been considered before then.

Corrected entry: As Hughes cuts through the "beet" field in his emergency landing, the splatters of red were entirely inappropriate. Beets grow under the ground. The colors of the splattered, wet stuff hitting the plane were intense green (OK) and bright red like tomatoes (not OK). Had he really been grinding up hardy tubers like beets, he would be spitting up mostly dry dirt. The true color from beets would be altogether different (beet red is more purple than orange-red), it looked more like he skimmed a tomato field.

Correction: Hughes was trying to comfort his lady friend by lying to her and telling her it was beet juice. It was in reality blood. He just didn't want to frighten her.

Corrected entry: Howard Hughes never made an XF-7. The XF-7 was in fact a modified 1943 armed photo recon versions of the Consolidated B-24D's and B24J's.

Correction: There's no reference to an XF-7. The XF-11 (which sounds similar) did fly, did crash in Beverley Hills and Hughes was seriously injured.

Corrected entry: When Hughes is flying with Katharine Hepburn, he hands over control of the aircraft to her. When they approach a hill she asks him what to do and he tells her to pull back on the stick. She does this, without touching the throttle, and the aircraft climbs. The problem is, that this would also cause it to lose speed, stall and probably crash.

Correction: This would depend on how fast the plane was flying and what the minimum speed required to keep this plane aloft would be. If it was flying 20-30 miles per hour over the stall speed it can climb for quite some time before it would loose enough forward speed to actually stall.

Corrected entry: After Hughes has flown 353mph in the H-1, it's claimed that he's the fastest man in the world. That's not true - the Italians had set a world air speed record of over 440mph in 1934. Surely everybody involved would have aware of this? Hughes actually set a landplane speed record, not a world speed record.

Correction: You've provided your own correction - it is CLAIMED that Hughes is the fastest man in the world. The claim was false, but it was still made as shown in the film.

Corrected entry: When they are increasing the speed of the Spruce Goose preceding takeoff, the flight engineer calls out the speed in miles per hour. When the camera shows the vibrating gauge it is calibrated in knots.

Correction: The engineer is doing the conversion in his head before calling it out.

Corrected entry: Howard makes an emergency landing in a field of rhubarb. In the following scene, however, he tells Kate Hepburn that the stains on his clothes came from beet juice.

Correction: It is quite possible that with all of his other quirks he didn't know the difference between rhubarb and beets. Or thought that they were actually beets.

Continuity mistake: In the dining scene where Howard Hughes' girlfriend has a sundae sitting in front of her, the cherry which is on top of the sundae changes positions in several different shots. First, the stem is turned towards the left, a few shots later, it is turned towards the right, then left again. It also shows up in the bottom of the dish, then in the next shot, it is back on top of the sundae.

More mistakes in The Aviator

Ava Gardner: You listened to my phone calls?
Howard Hughes: No! No! No! Honey I would never do that! I'd never do that! I... I just read the transcripts, that's all.

More quotes from The Aviator
More trivia for The Aviator

Question: The colors in this film are otherworldly, (almost like the colors in a black and white movie that has been artificially colorized) and could not have been natural or achieved with any net or filter. I'm fairly certain that there is no method of stylized pre-exposure, and digital colorization, while possible, would have been painstaking on such a grand scale. How did they accomplish it?

Answer: The first sections of the film are shot in two-strip and three-strip technicolor, a common practice in the early versions of color filmmaking that were happening at the time. The scene on the golf course between Howard and Kate Hepburn is a prime example. As far as the later sections of the film, never underestimate the power of digital effects. :)

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