Television Reviews

DVD Review – Nova: A Daring Flight – Aviation Exploits Beyond the Wright Brothers

While many of us grew up knowing the story of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, why that was such a remarkable feat is something we don’t always understand. Although not specifically about them, this installment of the PBS series Nova gives viewers a look into the paragraph or two we often read in history books.

Nova: A Daring Flight details the aviation exploits of Louis Bleriot, a French pilot who crossed the English Channel just six years after the Wright Brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk.  It juxtaposes this feat from nearly a century before with attempts by Bleriot’s grandson to recreate the feat in the modern day.

The documentary opens at the home of Bleriot’s grandson who collects his grandfather’s memorabilia.  He even has an original model of the plane that his grandfather flew across the Channel.  As he and others attempt to recreate that famous flight, they run into problems that make the feat in 1909 all the more remarkable.  This is the cue to cut back to those years leading up to and just after the Wright Brothers’ first flight.  It cuts back and forth between the present day and the past quite nicely.

I had never thought about it before, but after watching this I do find it remarkable that these two brothers who knew more about bicycles than anything else were able to design an airplane that overcame so many obstacles which others couldn’t solve.  There were issues of control and weight that dogged those in the aviation community that the Wrights managed to overcome.  Nova: A Daring Flight also looks at the early days of aviation in Paris, capturing the excitement of the balloons that were frequently seen in the air above the city at the time.  The Paris aviators were quite put out that these American brothers managed to do what they could not, while at the same time, they were anxious to see their design so as to copy it.

Nova: A Daring Flight uses early film footage, which is pretty incredible in and of itself, as well as photos to tell the story through the history of the events leading up to Bleriot’s successful trip across the Channel.  It doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact Ken Burns has managed to craft in his documentaries, but it is edited quite well and the footage used propels the narrative quite nicely.

Narrated by David Ogden Stiers, I didn’t find Nova: A Daring Flight boring at all. It was a great look at what had previously been a short mention in history’s timeline for me.  It’s well put together and informative.  There are no extras on these DVDs from PBS as they are straight-forward episodes of the show.  If you can find them to stream online it’s a great way to watch without investing in your own copy.  If you ever wanted to learn more about what made that first flight so incredible, check this out.

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