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Neil Armstrong adds to his long list of aviation accomplishments as he takes the controls of a variety of flying machines. Each episode blends historic footage, interviews, and flying. Armstrong takes you on an exhilarating adventure through time. First Flights is a Documentary & Biography series that is currently running and has 3 seasons (39 episodes). The series first aired on December 31, 1990.

First Flights is available for streaming on the Kinonation website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch First Flights on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, Hoopla online.

Kinonation
3 Seasons, 39 Episodes
December 31, 1990
Documentary & Biography
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First Flights Full Episode Guide

  • The Wright brothers realized that a propeller was a rotating wing.In the 1930s, variable pitch and NACA research revolutionized propeller design. Today, fast turboprops with advanced propellers can be more efficient than the best jetliners.

  • Two years after the first manned flight, the Wrights mastered control sufficiently to fly the first circle. By WWII, the first hydraulically boosted controls were invented. Digital flight control, fly-by-wire technology, has become state of the art.

  • In the early days of flying, a weighted silk stocking tied to a strut might help the pilot gauge his airspeed. Wartime forced pilots to learn the skill of blind flying. Today, orbiting satellites and autopilots enable an aircraft to fly itself.

  • Searching for flight efficiency, some designers thought the ideal shape should be just a wing. Though development of flying wings has often proved illusive, Northrop's designs proved feasibility. The B-2 Stealth Bomber shows the concept holds promise.

  • When the small tail wings which enable an airplane to go up or down are moved to the front, they are called canards. It was an almost forgotten technology as old as manned flight, but canards are making a bold reappearance on the modern aviation scene.

  • Conventional airplanes need large runways, a limitation that concerned defense planners. As turbine engines became lighter, a new breed of aircraft became possible -- one that could take off and land vertically, yet fly with the speed of jets.

  • By the 1930s, flying boats and seaplanes were the craft of the future. Flying boats -- massive, airborne ocean liners -- opened up global routes for passengers, while floatplanes were the fastest, most innovative flying machines in existence.

  • From Cierva's autogyro, to the BK-117, the heart of the helicopter has been the rotorhead. Early helicopters were complex, dangerous machines, prone to failure. For the men and women who took the controls, concentration and daring were essential.

  • The turboprop is a mix of two successful technologies, the jet turbine and the propeller. Highly reliable, the turboprop has been the workhorse of the skies for decades, and remains the mainstay of commercial short-haul aviation.

  • Ultralight airplanes evolved from hang gliding enthusiasts' attempts to glide further by adding small engines and propellers. Now reliable, tested ultralights are flown by multitudes of recreational pilots.

  • During the 1960's, the general population embraced air travel. Larger airplanes were needed, with lower noise levels. The pilot's role changed to meet the demands of the developing airlines. Jumbo and narrow body jets were developed.

  • The ultimate test of aircraft and pilot was to fly around the world. Competition and showmanship were always a part, but it was the mental and physical endurance of the men and women who climbed into the cockpit that made success possible.

  • A hundred years before the Wright brothers, the hot air balloon had already lifted man to the sky. It grew in size, and culminated in the huge pre-WW1 dirigibles that still hold the record for the largest craft ever to lift off the ground.

  • In the 1920s, aircraft designers began searching for ways to incorporate the powerful propulsion of rockets into their flying machines. Efforts to harness and control rocket propulsion resulted in many failures but also some dramatic successes.

  • Chuck Yeager's X-1 flight through the "sound barrier" set the stage for the U.S. experimental X-program, a systematic exploration of fresh ideas in aviation. Pilots flew at the cutting edge of technology in untried, untested, and unknown aircraft.

  • From the early days of flight, the military looked behind enemy lines with better and better spy planes. After the top secret U-2 was shot down over Russia, Lockheed developed the SR-71. Flying at Mach 3 near the edge of space, it out flew any missile.

  • When a fighter or bomber strikes ground forces, it is acting as an attack aircraft. Many fighters can play this role, but recent wars have shown the value of dedicated attack aircraft, designed to hit hard and survive extensive battle damage.

  • The helicopter took on an offensive role for the Vietnam War. Bristling with cannons, rockets and guided missiles, created the gunships. Now the American Apache and Russian Hind are equipped with infrared night vision and lethal anti-tank weapons.

  • In the early 1960's, the U.S. Strategic Air Command wanted high-flying supersonic bombers like the B-58 Hustler and the XB-70. But now the newest bombers are sub-sonic: the low-flying, radar-evading B-1B, and the high tech B-2 Stealth bomber.

  • The U.S. and Russia rivalry developed jet fighters with fantastic speeds and high tech weapons. Computers were unseen co-pilot and some fighters only fired guided missiles. Before long a new generation of highly maneuverable dog-fighting jets was needed.

  • Development of jet engines and the tensions of the Cold War pushed development of long-range bombers that could fly around the world. While designers grappled with structural challenges, pilots struggled with the complexity of flying gigantic machines.

  • WW2 aviation advances such as hard runways, large long range aircraft and cabin pressurization set the stage for growing passenger transport after the war. Soon jets slashed travel times and brought unheard of growth in mass transportation.

  • When jet engines appeared, a whole new set of problems appeared with them. For pilots, the early jets were a nightmare. Trained to fly propeller aircraft, pilots found themselves in need of drastic changes in technique.

  • The World War II bombers were capable of delivering an arsenal of destruction. Aerial warfare became a team effort that relied on coordination, accuracy and determination with up to 10 men in an aircraft, and sometimes 1,000 airplanes in a formation.

  • In the 1920's, early autogyros made breakthroughs in rotating wing design, and by the 1930's military interest propelled helicopter development. Advances in controls, and the availability of lightweight turbine engines finally made a practical helicopter.