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First Air War

How did fighter planes evolve from rickety biplanes to deadly machines during WWI?

Premiered: Runtime: 52:22Topic: Military + EspionageMilitary & EspionageNova

When World War I began in 1914, the air forces of the opposing nations consisted of handfuls of rickety biplanes from which pilots occasionally took pot shots at one another with rifles. By the war’s end, the essential blueprint of the modern fighter had emerged: it was now an efficient killing machine that limited the average life expectancy of a front line pilot to just a few weeks. To trace the story of this astonishingly rapid technological revolution, NOVA takes viewers inside The Vintage Aviator, a New Zealand-based outfit of aviation buffs dedicated to bringing back classic World War I fighters such as the SE5A and Albatros DV. NOVA joins the team as they discover the secrets of some of aviation’s most colorful and deadly early flying machines and explores how their impact played a key role in the nightmare slaughter on the Western Front. (Premiered October 29, 2014)

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