Wings (1988 TV program)

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"Wings" Title Card (1991)

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

Original program[edit]

Originally called Great Planes, the Wings program initially aired Wednesdays and Saturdays on the Discovery Channel in the United States from 9–10 p.m. Eastern beginning in 1988 and into the early 1990s.

Great Planes[edit]

Great Planes was the original subset of Wings episodes which focused on one particular aircraft type. The original Great Planes program 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 program's Australian writer and director, Luke Swann, with some others written and narrated by John Honey and Phil Chugg. 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.

Episodes[edit]

Miscellaneous programs[edit]

These programs were shown occasionally during the Wings time slot. They were produced from various sources.

  • Air Combat Today
  • Combat Aircraft of the Future
  • Modern Air Combat 3
  • Modern Fighters
  • Modern Missiles
  • Naval Combat Aircraft
  • Soviet Air Power
  • The MiG Story
  • US Air Power

Wings II[edit]

Starting in the mid 1990s, newer Wings episodes, sometimes referred to as Wings II, 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. These episodes, narrated by Stuart Culpepper, often had interviews with the aircrews and famed aviation historian/writer Jeffrey Ethell, the "Fighter Writer".

Episodes[edit]

  • (A-4) Hugging the Deck
  • (A-10) Steel Rain
  • (AH-1) Whispering Death
  • (AH-64) Guardians of the Night
  • (AV-8) Harrier
  • (B-1) Doomsday Mission
  • (B-52) Instant Thunder
  • (F-15) Eagles Over Lebanon
  • (F-16) Flight of the Falcon
  • (F-105) The Thud
  • (Mi-24) Bear Trap
  • (SU-25) Flying Tank
  • (U-2) Spy Planes
  • (UH-1) Landing Zone Vietnam
  • Flying Coffins
  • Red October
  • Top Guns
  • Wings Over Europe
    • Wings: Target Berlin (P-51)
    • Wings: Dresden Firestorm (B-17)
    • Wings: The Valiant Few (Spitfire)
  • Wings Over the Pacific
  • Wings Over Vietnam
    • Wings Over Vietnam: The Cavalry
    • Wings Over Vietnam: The Gunships

Spinoff programs[edit]

Wings of the Luftwaffe[edit]

Wings of the Luftwaffe was a separately-branded program 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 program that focused on Soviet Air Force aircraft from World War II to the modern era. It was narrated by actor Sir Peter Ustinov.

Episodes[edit]

SeaWings[edit]

SeaWings, narrated by Edward Easton, was a separately-branded program 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 program, 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 program was narrated by Will Lyman, and was released on VHS.

Episodes[edit]

A separate episode that aired around this time period was "Nighthawk: Secrets of the Stealth"

Wings Over Vietnam: The Missions[edit]

In 2002, this 8 episode program was aired, hosted by David Scott.

  • The FACs
  • Dust Off
  • Rolling Thunder
  • The Jolly Greens
  • Spookies, Spectres, and Shadows
  • MiG Killers
  • Wild Weasels
  • Linebacker II

Revival[edit]

In 2008, Great Planes was revived in a modernized format, hosted by Paul "Max" Moga and Terry Dietz, that aired on the Military Channel in the United States.

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 program ended its weekday run in the late 90s.

Discovery Wings channel[edit]

The program formed the 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.

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 links[edit]