Question: Hello! I remember watching a Japanimation-type series in the late '70s, but cannot recall the name! It was set in the future and a group of teenagers flew a spaceship called the Phoenix and wore masks that had beaks. I remember a big deal on the show would be if they had to escape something. The ship could go so fast it turned into a blaze of fire and took on the shape of the legendary phoenix rising from the ashes. Can you help? Kelley, Memphis, Tenn.
Televisionary: Sounds to me like you're thinking of the import hit Battle of the Planets, which was syndicated in the late '70s and featured the adventures of a teen team called G-Force as they fought the evil Zoltar and his minions.
Now, Zoltar may have been evil, but not without motivation. His planet, Spectra, wasn't long for this... well, his world. It was dying, and he hoped to take over Earth in order to save his home. In addition, his boss, the Spirit, commanded him to do bad things, like sending his robotic forces and creatures at the humans, who had to be defended by our heroes. G-Force Mark, Jason, Princess and Tiny did indeed wear birdlike costumes and helmets and flew around in the Phoenix, which was ultracool and fast and could change into a flaming bird when necessary.
You may also have caught the late-'80s TBS sequel show G-Force (which has also showed up on Cartoon Network) or the Saban version, Eagle Riders, which came out in the mid-'90s. And if you'd like to take a trip back in time, Rhino recently released a Planets collection on DVD.