ZDFinfo: Superlative Fliers

Movie recommendation – ingeniously designed: The Superlative Fliers!

Martina Roters
4 pictures
4 minutes

The name says it all – because it fits the flying machines as well as their pilots…

Attention all aviation enthusiasts! It’s time once again to highlight an appointment in red in the calendar or –  in a very modern-day way – to talk into your smartphone so that it reminds you in time on Wednesday (August 14th) not to miss the show “Die Superflieger” (“The Superlative Fliers”) of the German documentary series ZDFinfo “genial konstruiert” (“Ingeniously designed“).

History excursion with a double expert

Knowledge and technology – both needed further development, and also claimed numerous victims – including human lives. Many of those who lost their lives to the cause were pioneers of aviation.

Pioneers, pioneers!

Two of the most famous pioneers were the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright with the first motorised aircraft (more in this article). They not only knew something about technology, but also about marketing. But wait, did they really build the first motorised airplane? Or is this honour not due to the Frenchman Clément Ader and his bat-like construction? 

And who still has the audacity today to do the same as the pioneer Louis Blériot of that time and cross the English Channel 100 years later in a true to original replica of the wooden double-decker? And what would be the motivation behind it?


If your children have problems with physics, just stick them in front of the TV on Wednesday evening, because complicated processes are made wonderfully clear several times, amongst other things, why an airplane flies at all and how improvements of the aerodynamics of aircraft came about.

In this context one can also ask oneself whether the French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose name everyone associates with the Eiffel Tower, did not perhaps save many human lives by doing aviation a decisive service. And no, it has something to do with Paris, but nothing to do with the Eiffel Tower!

As always in history: All inventions have two sides and can be used for good as well as for evil. Also the airplanes in the sky developed fast to be war equipment and the Japanese air attack on the US naval base Pearl Harbour was the trigger for the entry of the USA into the Second World War.

Victory over the demon

Once the maximum speed for propeller-driven aircraft (700 km/h) had been reached, a new engine was needed: the jet age began. And immediately, resourceful minds set about building machines that eclipsed anything previously known: flying faster than the speed of sound!

And when they were ready, in the 1950s, another flight pioneer was found who was brave enough to stand up to the “demon of the skies”, who – as some actually believed at the time – had smashed the planes that had tried to break the invisible sound barrier.

On the outside, Chuck Yeager argued coolly that bullets fly faster than sound and still don’t disintegrate. But who knows? Maybe he kissed his Glennis goodbye a little longer – the test plane bore the name of his great love: “Glamorous Glennis”. We know how it turned out: there was a deafening bang, Yeager of course landed unharmed. Glennis and he later had 4 children (so there was also no other revenge of the demon…)

No longer “higher, faster, farther.”

While the Concorde and the A380 were still examples of “higher, faster, farther”, the flight pioneers of the 21st century are on a completely different track. And so it becomes particularly exciting in the end, because we can take a look into the future, which has just begun: with new methods of propulsion[LC1] , completely new prototypes, which were designed on the basis of drone types. And of course with new pioneers, such as Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who did not accept a “That’s impossible!” and finally made a complete circumnavigation of the earth in 17 adventurous stages in a kerosene-free plane with 17,000 solar cells.

So don’t miss it:

Ingeniously designed: The Superlative Fliers – ZDFinfo: August 14th, 8.15 p.m. (in German

Press photos from ZDFinfo

by Martina Roters

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