The dream of flight was finally realized on a North Carolina beach in 1903. In the century since then, innovations have come fast and furious, and the skies have filled with extraordinary creations.
This 4-part documentary mini-series looks at key developments in powered flight. Fly past tells the story of the legendary figures and machines that pepper the history of aviation, breathing new life into a story that is as vital today as it was when it began almost one hundred years ago.
Produced & Directed by Monte Markham ; A Perpetual Motion Films production for The History Channel
Part 1: The Wings Of Man
Two pair of pioneering brothers helped free mankind from Earth. They were working privately without government assistance, and their story cover the 20th century in the first episode, “The Wings of Man”.
Orville and Wilbur Wright broke the bonds of earth and made the first controlled flight in 1903. Over 80 years later, Burt and Dick Rutan made history of their own with the revolutionary Voyager, making the first around-the-world non-stop flight.
Part 2: Straight Up
Igor Sikorski’s prototype machine, vertical jets and the revolutionary and controversial tilt-rotor designs of the 1990s are in the spotlight as Fly Past chronicles the development of vertical takeoff vehicles.
The second episode, “Straight Up”, details the history of VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, from Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings, through Igor Sikorsky’s invention of the helicopter, to the development of tilt-rotor and vectored-thrust machines such as the XV-15, V-22, Harrier, and the X-32/X-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Part 3: A Wing and a Prayer
The B-2 stealth bomber–one of the most advanced aircraft of all time–is the direct descendant of Jack Northrop’s revolutionary XB-49 flying wing, a project cancelled nearly 40 years earlier.
The history of the “flying wing” is told in episode 3, “A Wing And A Prayer”, the story of Jack Northrop and his dream of perfecting a practical flying wing. Originally designed in the 1950s, his project was canceled in favor of a more conventional B-36 bomber, but the low radar profile of the flying wing design makes a comeback decades later in the form of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Now the elderly Northrop, confined to a wheelchair, would view the prototype of a plane inspired by his original concept.
Part 4: The Cutting Edge
Peer into the future of aviation as Fly Past features craft like the stealthy, robotic Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle and a solar-powered flyer designed to stay aloft for months at a time!
The 4th and final episode, “The Cutting Edge”, explores future developments in aviation such as stealth technology, hypersonic flight, lifting bodies, solar power, remotely-piloted vehicles, and mini-spy-planes no bigger than an insect. A glimpse at the future of flight technology, including the stealth-like Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV’s); Mini-UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), tiny 8-inch long vehicles that fly to equip special forces behind enemy lines; solar powered aircraft designed to stay aloft for months; and the X-planes from X-32/X-35 JSF Joint Strike Fighter concepts to X-43 hypersonic test vehicle.