When WW I broke out a whole new type of warfare emerged, aerial combat. This new warfare brought on a new breed of fighting-man, one who had extreme courage and gallantry in the face of death.
WW I, was a dangerous time for pilots because aerial combat was something new, exciting and very dangerous. Many pilots crashed and were killed as a result of inexperience, and the aircraft of the time were hard to maneuver.
As a result of aerial combat, or dog fighting a new term was coined, the flying ace. An ace is a military aviator or airman who has at least five confirmed kills. French newspapers termed the phrase "ace" during WW I, when Adolphe Pegoud was described as l'as (French for ace) after he shot down five German aircraft.
The German government set the bar even higher for one to be considered an ace. A German pilot had to acquire 15 kills before they could be considered an ace. Upon achieving 15 kills a German pilot became eligible for the prestigious Pour le Merite award.
Britain and the U.S. followed the French example, for their pilots to become an ace they only had to have five kills in aerial combat. Both countries were more lenient in allowing probable victories to count. The British Distinguished Flying Cross was available to those pilots who had scored at least eight victories.
Their were requirements for aces there had to be independent confirmation of a kill. This often proved to be difficult in a sky full of enemy aircraft when dog fighting broke out. The following list is the best of the best during WW I.