Air Battles of WWI

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Social Studies
World War I

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Air Battles of WWI

Air Battles of WW1

In the summer of 1914, the airplane was less than 11 years old. Aviation was a relatively new form of technology that fascinated many people, but was still seen as 'impractical.' They were slow, flimsy, and could only lift up to one passenger at a time. Even though numerous countries had interest in using aviation for the purpose of war, it was still seen as a pretty ridiculous proposal. All of these perspectives changed at the start of World War I.

New Technology

Early on in the war, it was realized by military strategists that the airplane could be easily used as a method of spying on the enemy's troop movements from afar. Hence the creation of the reconnaissance plane. These aircrafts typically carried a pilot and an observer who would take photos of the army formations on the ground. The popularity of the reconnissance grew throughout the first few months of war and proved itself to be a beneficial asset, crucial to winning particular battles.

Airplane Models

The Reconnaissance

As reconnaissance planes became more popular, so did the need to stop them. Soldiers attempted to shoot at from the ground, however this method proved itself ineffective. It was realized that the reconnaissance planes could only be taken down from within the sky. Aviators tried pistols, rifles, bricks and even grenades from the comfort of their own planes, but the machine gun was the only thing that proved itself to be effective. The German people invented a timing system so that the gun would only fire when the propellor was not in the way.

Fighter Planes

The use of bombs and artillery were one of the most effective weapons in the first world war. Many countries had different interpretations on how they could be used. Russia was the the first to adapt an airplane for the sole purpose of bombing from the sky.


Germany took a different approach to bombing, with the use of the zeppelins. The slow-moving zeppelins were large in size and therefore able to carry large amounts of explosives at a time. They reached their peak in war during the year 1915. As war progressed, these aircrafts became extremely vulnerable to the growth of the fighter planes. The zeppelins were filled with hydrogen, so one small spark could have easily set the whole plane on fire. As a result, Germany stuck to the use of fighter planes.

The Zeppelins

Real Dogfight Footage

War in the air had an attractive appeal to many people at this time. Pilots lived in luxury compared to the soldiers fighting in the horrendous conditions of the trenches. In addition to this, pilots did not die 'anonymously,' their names and accomplishments were publicized and glorified. The average life span for a pilot during the time of WW1 was approximately two weeks.

A Dogfight is a form of aerial combat between fighter planes at a short range. Dogfighting itself first appeared in World War I, shortly after the invention of the airplane. It was used up until the second world war, when the tactic itself became obsolete.

What is a Dogfight?

German Recconaissance

Russian Fighter Plane

Italian Bomber

German Zeppelin

Play an online dogfight simulation game at:


A flying ace was any pilot with over five kills.1.) Manfred von Richthofen aka. "The Red Baron" of Germany - 80 kills2.) Rene Fonck of France - 75 kills3.) William "Billy" Bishop of Canada - 72 kills4.) Ernst Udet of Germany - 62 kills 5.) Raymond Collishaw of Canada - 60 kills6.) James McCudden of Great Britain - 57 kills7.) Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor of South Africa - 54 kills8.) Georges Guynemer of France - 54 kills9.) Erich Lowenhardt of Germany - 54 kills10.) Werner Voss of Germany - 48 kills

WW1 Top Ten Flying Aces

DID YOU KNOW?Manfred von Richtofen (The Red Baron) was eventually shot down by a Canadian man by the name of Arthur Roy Brown.

Billy Bishop, 1916


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