Re: 1969 film
I believe the huge airforce thing is true.
They used a bunch of contemporary planes for fliming purposes, becauase they were the same speed as the fighters / bombers.
They had a couple of B17s, because they were the right speed and also because they had lots of gunports that you could mount cameras in. And there was space for equipment and people - and they could be in the middle of the action.
For the ultimate shots though (two fighters closing head-on), a B17 wasn't suitable. As it would be in the way, and crashes are bad.
So they built themselves a gimballed steadycam equivalent. And slung it on a long line dangling from a helicopter above the fighters. With cameran dangling of course...
So he hung there, in mid-air, with a fighter flying straight towards him at several hundred miles an hour. Filming and dangling and swaying and waiting for the pilot to fly round him.
Balls of steel...