DIY first flyer Richard Pearse aptly leads off this three-part 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the survey of the pioneers of the “birdman’s art” covers daredevil balloonists, World War I fighter pilots, flying bishops, and frontrunners like the Walsh bros and George Bolt. A forgotten silver treasure from the archives is footage of Percy Fisher’s monoplane, filmed on a hand-cranked movie camera in the Wairarapa in 1913. The series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.
One of the most daring balloonists — who broke innumerable bones in forced landings and parachute jumps — was Captain Noah Jonassen, who styled himself as ‘The Aerial King’. Clad in circus tights, these performers thrilled the crowds as they swung on trapezes or leapt in parachutes from their drifting dreadnoughts.– Peter Clements