Wings (Discovery Channel TV series)

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"Wings" Title Card (1991)

Wings was an hour-long televised aviation history documentary series which aired on the Discovery Channel family of networks. It was produced by Phil Osborn.

Original Series[edit]

The original "Wings" series initially aired Wednesdays and Saturdays on the Discovery Channel in the U.S. from 9-10 p.m. Eastern in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Great Planes[edit]

"Great Planes" was a subset of "Wings" episodes which focused on one particular aircraft type. The original "Great Planes" series was initially produced by Aviation Video International in Australia, and distributed by the Discovery Channel.

When it initially aired in America, the majority of episodes were narrated by the series' Australian writer and director, Luke Swann, with some others written and narrated by John Honey. In 1991 (notably following the first Gulf War), episodes were re-edited to include interviews with pilots of the profiled aircraft types before and following commercial breaks, and the narration was re-dubbed with American narrators Ron David and Tom Hair.

Episodes[edit]

Some other episodes profiled non-American aircraft, including the Aérospatiale-British Aerospace Concorde, Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Panavia Tornado, and Supermarine Spitfire.

Strange Planes[edit]

A series of six episodes, entitled "Strange Planes" (and later released on VHS video), focused on several unusual aircraft types:

Other Episodes[edit]

Other episodes would focus on the history or operations of a particular foreign air force, such as the Israeli Air Force, a foreign aviation company or design bureau such as France's Dassault or Russia's Mikoyan, or the aircraft of a particular conflict such as the Korean War or the Afghan-Soviet War.

Spin-off Series[edit]

Wings of the Luftwaffe[edit]

"Wings of the Luftwaffe" was a separately-branded series that focused on Luftwaffe aircraft of World War II.

Episodes[edit]

Wings of the Red Star[edit]

"Wings of the Red Star" was a separately-branded series that focused on Soviet Air Force aircraft from World War II to the modern era. It was narrated by actor Sir Peter Ustinov. While generally highly accurate, the series is marred with repeated factual errors where the narrator uses the term 'Russian' where the term 'Soviet' would be correct. For example, the title of the episode 'Russian Giants' is particularly egregious, as the Antonov aircraft profiled therein could only be described as 'Soviet' or 'Ukrainian', never 'Russian'.

Episodes[edit]

SeaWings[edit]

"SeaWings" was a separately-branded series that focused on United States (and some foreign) naval aircraft from World War II to the present day, including:

Wings Over the Gulf[edit]

Following the Gulf War of 1991, Discovery produced a new short-run series, "Wings Over the Gulf", profiling the air war over Iraq before and during Operation Desert Storm, and select aircraft types used by coalition forces. The series was narrated by Will Lyman, and was released on VHS.

Episodes[edit]

Legacy[edit]

After a lengthy run in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Wednesday/Saturday time slot, Discovery moved "Wings" to every weekday from 6-7 p.m. Eastern, under the banner "Weekday Wings". The series ended its weekday run in the late 90s.

Discovery Wings[edit]

The series formed the programming backbone for the Discovery Wings channel in the United States and United Kingdom, which launched in 1999. Discovery Wings was rebranded into the Military Channel in 2005 and Discovery Turbo in 2007, respectively.

Some episodes are available on VHS via Ebay and Amazon. "Great Planes" episodes are available on DVD in Australia through Magna Pacific. "Great Planes" was also revived in a modernized format, hosted by Paul "Max" Moga, that aired on the Military Channel in the United States.

Luke Swann died on 6 October 2000 after a brief battle with liver cancer. He is survived by his two daughters, Emily and Madeleine, and son Jack.

Producer Phil Osborn went on to found AeroCinema, an online aviation history video web site which produces and hosts documentaries similar to "Wings" and are viewable online only via paid subscription.

External References[edit]