Jump Back a Century in Time With This AI-Colorized 1920s Footage of a Flight Over Europe

No lines, no security—just radial engines ticking away and incredible views.

byPeter Holderith|
Culture photo


Needless to say, air travel today isn't what it was even a year ago. COVID-19 has changed how we treat taking to the skies, but long before the pandemic, the TSA, or even jet engines, getting on a plane was way different than it is now.

Thanks to Rick88888888 on YouTube—this guy really likes the number eight—we can see how it used to be in 1929. This isn't just black and white footage, though. It's been motion-stabilized and had its speed adjusted to give it a less choppy feel, all while having its quality enhanced with help from A.I. colorization. The result, plainly put, is incredible.

Rick88888888 via YouTube

The image above is really best experienced as a moving one in the video below, but yes, that's the Eiffel Tower—just 40 years young when this footage was taken and still the tallest man-made structure in the world. What you're seeing in the left of the frame is the Fokker F.VII airliner's radial engine. In the clip, you can see its exposed valvetrain ticking away as the plane cuts through the air. 

The film actually has a few different planes in it. The first is the aforementioned tri-engine Fokker, while at around 2:27 a twin-engine plane—likely also a Fokker—replaces it. The last aircraft to be seen is the one in the lead image, another tri-engined machine, perhaps a Fokker F1X. With these early aircraft, sometimes it's hard to know exactly, and I'm no expert.

Interestingly, at least one of the planes in the video is being operated by KLM, also known as Royal Dutch Airlines. If that name sounds familiar, it's because KLM is still in business. It's been operating continuously for 102 years since its founding in 1919, making it the oldest airline in the world.

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We've previously covered a similar restored film depicting a road trip that took place way back in 1895, well before cars were even close to mainstream. That was pretty cool—and extremely peaceful on the re-watch, gotta say—but the views weren't quite as spectacular. Paris before World War II is an incredible sight to behold from the air, especially after being restored in color and enhanced by A.I. 

It may not be as cool as custom Dodge Neon airport baggage tractors, but hey, those things set a pretty high standard.

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