'NOVA: Ben Franklin's Balloons'
(DVD / NR / 2014 / PBS)
Overview: The epic first stage in the adventure of human flight didn't begin with the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk but with daring inventors and aeronauts in 18th century Paris. In a period of just 19 months, humanity not only left the ground for the first time, but a handful of brilliant and colorful pioneers developed all the essential features of today's hot air and gas balloons.
DVD Verdict: 'NOVA: Ben Franklin's Balloons' is yet another stellar PBS documentary that grabs you from the off and never seemingly lets you go. Chock full of fascinating info, even if you're not a devote fan of history in this vein, you will still learn more than you ever expected to. Of that, have no fear!
I mean, like it says in the intro to this review, did YOU know that the epic first stage in the adventure of human flight didn't begin with the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk ... but with daring inventors and aeronauts in 18th century Paris? I know I sure didn't, but as this documentary evolves you discover that what you might have thought about aviation maybe just wasn't what really happened after all!
To explore this extraordinary burst of innovation, 'NOVA: 'Ben Franklin's Balloons' recreates key flights, including the world's first manned voyage on November 21, 1783. A descendant of the Montgolfier brothers, who invented the hot air balloon, joins a team to build a highly accurate replica of the fragile paper and canvas craft using 18th century tools and materials. In doing all this, NOVA further reveals the secrets of how the Montgolfiers invented flight, and evokes the thrilling and daunting prospect that the balloon pioneers faced as they left Earth for the very first time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.