Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10 Sexiest Airplanes

More than mere machines

We thought we were doing something really clever when we came up with the "10 Sexiest Airplanes" idea. It wasn't until we delved into making up the list that we came face-to-face with the need to define the term "sexy." Right there is when we realized we had probably bitten off more than we can chew, because "sexy" is very much in the eye of the beholder. And, as we quickly found, within aviation, beholders' tastes vary considerably.

In an effort to reach some sort of understanding of "sexy" and how it applies to airplanes, we put a poll up on our website, and asked what we thought were fairly straightforward questions. We asked which of five different airplanes (we had two lists: one military, one civilian) readers thought was sexiest, and the following were the results

In other words, the plain-vanilla Bonanza won out over all of the much sleeker, more modern aircraft by a HUGE margin. Even more mystifying, the classic Staggerwing biplane (which we dearly love, btw), with all its wires and fillets and washtub nose, handily blew the doors off the same airplanes the Bonanza did. Valuating the sex quotient of Staggerwing over a Cirrus by a nearly 50% margin convinced us that we didn't have a clue as to what constituted "sexy" in many aviators' minds. The term entails more than sleek lines, apparently.

The military popularity poll was equally as interesting.

Again, the hands-down winner was a classic that has been a favorite for generations, the Mustang, while the other-worldly shape of the B-2 Spirit barely got mentioned. Is this generational? If the questions were asked of a group of 25-year-olds, would the answers have been different? Are those subliminal feelings of visual enjoyment generated by our favorites because they're what we grew up with? After all, we always see our first love in a special light, right?

After our less-than-scientific investigation of the visual preferences of pilots, we came to the conclusion that pilots pretty much like what they like, and the "whys" of why we like it defy definition. Although, certain flying machines, like the P-51D Mustang, will generally be on everyone's lists, outside of those few favorites, all bets are off, as the favorites picked were all over the block.

Incidentally, we knew we were working with a gossamer definition of "sexy" when Editor Jessica Ambats again insisted we mention the Stemme motor glider as being one of her favorites. So, we caved in and included it. Sort of.


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