‘NOVA: Great Electric Airplane Race’ Is A “High Flying” Success

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

When the concept of mass transportation was first thought of in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the belief was that it would help reduce human created pollution.  As time has gone on, those views have increasingly changed, obviously.  They proved to be almost as problematic in terms of pollution as personal transportation.  Coal-burning steam engines that put so much smoke and other chemicals into the air have given way to much cleaner rail transport.  Many buses nationwide have switched over from gasoline and diesel to much cleaner power sources, too.  While those measures have done and are doing their part to reduce mankind’s impact on the naturally occurring process that is climate change, there is still much more to do even on their end.  While those mass transportation means continue to evolve and change for the better, one means of mass transportation that is sadly only now beginning to evolve is air transportation.  Jets and planes put pollution into the air every day, but thankfully, there is a growing number of companies out there whose work aims to eventually make mass air transportation cleaner.  Their work is the focus of another recently aired episode of PBS’ long-running science-based series, NOVA.  Having originally aired May 26 on PBS stations nationwide, it was released Aug. 3 on DVD, and is also streaming online now, too.  The noted “race” to develop “clean” air transportation is at the center of this episode.  It is quite interesting and will be discussed shortly.  The visual aids that are used to help tell the story add their own interest to the presentation and will be discussed a little later.  Considering all of that content, the DVD’s pricing rounds out its most important elements.  IT will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD.  All things considered, they make this episode a presentation that (pardon the awful pun) is a high-flying success.

NOVA: Great Electric Airplane Race is another successful offering from PBS’ long-running, science-based series.  It is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  Its success comes in large part through its central story, that of the efforts underway to evolve mass air transportation in regards to its energy source and impact on climate change.  This revelation leads to the story’s most important aspect.  While the impact of air travel’s pollution on climate change serves as the basis for the bigger discussion, it remains just that.  So while this is hardly the first time in recent years that PBS programming has focused on climate change and humans’ impact thereon, it does not just preach about it nonstop.  Rather the story naturally grows from that topic to the innovations that are happening as a result of the efforts to make air travel cleaner.  At no point does the program ever try to lie to audiences, either.  It is pointed out multiple times throughout the almost hour-long program that the efforts to make air travel cleaner are in their infancy and that there is still a very long way to go.  To that end, that realistic view makes things interesting in itself.  The various ways in which the different startups and established companies are trying to use clean energy to power planes and jets is just as interesting to learn about.  It seems, in watching the whole, that the most feasible energy source at this point would be hydrogen.  That is just this critic’s own interpretation.  That is especially considering the note of how many pounds of batteries would be needed to replace approximately 40,000 pounds of fuel in a full-size jetliner in order for it to maintain its range.  On another hand though, the thought of batteries being recharged in-flight by the same propellers that they are powering is interesting in its own right.  Of course, that would seemingly only be feasible in small, one and two seat planes, but is still a potential upgrade that could work in that avenue.  That so many efforts are being made to reduce the carbon footprint of air transportation companies is just as interesting to learn about as the efforts being made to simply pull carbon from the atmosphere in another of PBS’ climate-related NOVA episodes.  It is just one part of what makes this episode interesting.  The visual aids that are used add their own interest to the episode’s presentation.

The visual aids in question are actual footage of the prototype planes and “helicopters” that are being developed by the noted startups.  This may seem minor on the surface.  However, being that there are so many visual learners out there and that television is, after all, a visual medium, actually getting to put a picture with the discussed concepts serves very well to keep viewers engaged and entertained.  What’s more, actually seeing the concept vehicles at work (both in reality and in concept videos) enhances the viewing experience even more.  One cannot help but wonder if a “helicopter” powered by as many as six propellers is really as efficient as a combustion-powered chopper (which uses only two rotors).  That such a clean-energy vehicle would need that much power shows that there certainly is a long way for clean energy air power to go before it is perfect, but at least the effort is being made.  On another note, watching another clean-energy air vehicle actually taking off and landing around the Hawaiian islands shows that some progress is happening.  Again, these visualizations may not seem like much on the surface, but when viewers actually see them as they take in the story, they will ensure those viewers’ engagement and entertainment that much more.  That ensured engagement and entertainment will also ensure that viewers will better understand and appreciate the efforts taking place and why they are taking place.  Keeping all of that in mind, the overall content featured in this DVD does plenty to prove the appeal of the episode and DVD.  It is still just part of what makes the DVD and episode appealing.  The DVD’s pricing, again considering the content, proves important in its own right.

The average price point for NOVA: Great Electric Airplane Race is $21.49.  That price was reached by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ store.  While the average price point is a little bit high, some of the separate listings are more appealing by comparison.  Case in point is Amazon’s listing of $16.79, the leas expensive of the listings.  The only listings that exceed the noted average come from PBS, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-a-Million, at $24.99 each.  Best Buy offers the DVD at just under $20 at a price of $17.99 while Walmart’s listing is slightly more expensive at $19.17.  Given, with shipping, each listing’s price does go up, but  again by comparison to the three listings that exceed the average, those lower listings are still relatively affordable.  Considering again, the overall content featured in this episode of NOVA and its ability to ensure viewers’ engagement and entertainment, those less expensive listings are still money well spent.  To that end, the pricing and overall content featured in this episode of NOVA makes the episode in whole a fully successful presentation.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s presentation of NOVA: Great Electric Airplane Race is a successful new offering from the company and its home distribution arm.  That is proven in part through the episode’s central story.  The story in question follows the efforts underway to progress air travel from a hugely polluting means of mass transportation to something much cleaner.  The visuals that are used throughout the episode add their own appeal to the whole.  That is because they make the episode more interesting for viewers.  That added interest ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment in its own right.  To that end, the pricing for the episode’s home DVD release proves mostly positive in its own right.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD.  All things considered, they make the episode and its DVD presentation a presentation that passes…with flying colors.  Yes, that awful pun was intended, too.

NOVA: Great Electric Airplane Race is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:




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