My Favorite Airplanes
Well, I conceived of this blog entry thinking it would be easy - just come up with a list of my top 5 or top 10 favorite aircraft, write a short entry on why I like each one, and put up a few pictures. However, when I got around to trying to figuring out my handful of favorite airplanes, well, it's tough. There are so many cool airplanes, it's tough to narrow it down. I mean, really, I could just about say, go here, and you'll see most of my favorites.
So, first of all, I decided to do just airplanes - no helicopters, autogyros, dirigibles, or any other type of aircraft. It's still not easy, and I'll probably come back and look at this post later, and wonder why I didn't include certain other airplanes, but this is probably a pretty good representation. Second, I didn't include anything from Carter Aviation Technologies. I figure I'm a little biased on that, since I help design them.
Now, to describe my criteria for selecting these planes- there wasn't any. These planes aren't necessarily the best, fastest, prettiest, or most successful. There's just something about them, that for whatever reason, I just find cool. So, if you want to see what they are, just follow the link to below the fold, where they're presented in no particular order.
North American F-86
This airplane is, quite possibly, my favorite looking airplane. There's just something about its lines. It's not too pointy, like a modern supersonic fighter, and with the swept wings, it's just so graceful.
Back when I was in college, I was so used to visiting airports, and seeing all the post WWII metal airplanes, when I saw my first picture of this composite beauty, with those sexy curved lines. I remember thinking to myself, "Now this is what a modern airplane should look like."
Consolidated PBY Catalina
This plane's so ugly it's cute. I don't know, I've just always had a thing for flying boats, especially big ones with hatches all over the place. I finally got to see one of these in person for the first time last week, and it looks even cooler in person.
Affectionately known as the "Flying Pancake," or the "Zimmer Skimmer," in honor of its designer, Charles Zimmerman, this airplane was an attempt to give the U.S. Navy a high speed aircraft with good low speed characteristics to let it land on a carrier. Ultimately, with catapults and arresting wires, it lost out to jets, but it was still a very interesting concept.
1903 Wright Flyer
The first truly successful airplane. Sure, there were other people that may have gotten a heavier than air machine to lift off before them (like Hiram Maxim), but nobody that did it in a machine that they could control. Orville and Wilbur really were among the first true aeronautical engineers. Although I could write a lot more about it, there's nothing more to be said on why it belongs in this list.
It may not be stealth, but it incorporated thrust vectoring nozzles before any operational U.S. fighter. I remember the first time I watched a video of this airplane maneuverinng. I couldn't believe my eyes. I never thought it was possible for a jet to move through the air like that.
It's not just the looks that make me like this plane, although that would probably be enough. I got to see one up close in person, and the interior is so roomy. I'm used to flying Cessna's, and this thing's huge by comparison.
Another flying boat. This one's completely unorthodox, though. The two huge pontoons are where the passengers ride, and the wing's so thick, that the pilot sits in a cockpit in the center wing section. It's practically a flying with, since the tail is just stuck on with a frame. It just looks cool.
Horten Ho IV
It's hard to pick a favorite Horton flying wing, but I think this might be it. Now this is one graceful airplane.
Okay, that picture I found above may not have the best paint job, but that's still one heck of a plane. The first operational jet fighter in history, and pretty cool looking, too, with that triangular fuselage (you need a front view to see what I'm talking about). Now, I know you're not supposed to do this, but when I was in the NASM in Washington D.C., I checked to make sure noone was looking, and reached my hand out to touch that plane. Who knows if it would have made a difference during the war - thankfully it didn't last long enough to find out.
Boeing 314 Clipper
What can I say? I like sea planes. And this one was huge - it had two decks. When it was introduced, it was the largest civil airplane in service.
If only for Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart, this airplane would be well remembered. But, it was a very modern design for its time. It had a fully cantilevered wing - no struts or wires bracing it. It was also one of the first airplanes to take advantage of certain NACA research by incorporating the engine cowling and wheel fairings.
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
Now, you might think that since I work for a company developing a technology that could compete with tilt-rotors, that I might not like this aircraft. And I realize that this pushes the boundaries of my "airplanes only" rule that I stated above. Plus, I realize all the problems that Bell and Boeing had during the development of this aircraft. But still, it's pretty cool. It's much more practical than any other high speed VTOL aircraft that came before it. And a lot of the problems that Bell and Boeing had were due to trying to conform to, I think, overly stringent and conservative military requirements. They weren't able to build a composite aircraft that really took advantage of the materials. And even with the company I work for, I can see niches for both tilt rotors and slowed rotor compound aircraft in the future. Plus, have you ever seen this thing fold up to fit on a carrier?
And finally, the Ercoupe. This is the type of plane I fly, so I may be a little biased. But this was a very innovative aircraft, with many new design features to improve safety. I think it's interesting to note that this airplane was first flown in 1937, the same year as a Piper Cub. To see how much more modern the Ercoupe looks, you know Fred Weick had a design ahead of its time. Plus, it's just so cute.
Okay, I know I left out a lot of cool planes, like the P-51, F-14, the Boeing 747, B-17, B-29, XB-70, Pogo Fighter, X-15.... Well, I think you can see my problem. But I think this list is still pretty good. As cool as so many aircraft are, I think there's just something about the ones I listed here that sets them apart to me.