Tuesday, October 25, 2011
10 Sexiest Airplanes
More than mere machines
Okay, now that we've mentioned the Stemme, let's create an arbitrary list arranged in an arbitrary manner of those airplanes that we (read "we" as this specific author) think are sexy and why (or as close to "why" as we can come).
The Convair B-58 may not have occupied center stage of the bombing arena very long (1960-1969), but while it did, it was spectacular! Using everything listed in the aerodynamicist's book of tricks, including area rule modeling that gave it a sensual Coke-bottle-shaped fuselage, this svelte-looking honey could CRUISE at 2.0 Mach. Part of looking sexy is looking fast (read that any way you want), and this one can really haul the chili!
The Spitfire's graceful, and wildly complicated, elliptical wing has earned it a place on every artistically oriented list compiled since it first flew in 1936. Continually updated through the war and during the early-postwar period, it took the jet fighter to end her (and it's definitely a "she") RAF career. The final versions with the monstrous 2100 hp Griffon engines and bubble canopies had the most balanced visual lines of the period, and blistering performance to match. How can it not be sexy?
Although the Mustang has to give up points to the Spitfire in the graceful-looks department, just as the Spitfire was England during WWII, the Mustang has come to epitomize America's fighter effort during the same period. Of course, the Mustang wouldn't be the Mustang we've all come to know and love without getting a nose job that included the installation of the Spitfire's two-speed, supercharged Merlin engine. Progressing past the birdcage canopies of the A and B models, to the final wartime version, the P-51D, its svelte bubble-top outline grabbed a hold of American aviators' hearts from day one and hasn't let go yet.
You need to sit next to a Citation X in the low sun of a late summer afternoon to appreciate the art created by the Cessna wind-tunnel types. They lovingly sculpted every curve in every hidden crevice of her body to keep local airflow from going supersonic. It's that attention to detail that makes it the fastest civilian airplane extant: When being served your coffee and croissant at 50,000 feet, you can look out at the world flashing past at .92 Mach. It's amazing to think those curvaceous hips and finely formed wings can be as fast as many fighters in cruise.
|Staggerwing (Postwar G-Model)
In 1946, Beechcraft produced one last, thoroughly voluptuous, version of the D-17 Staggerwing: the stunning G-model. They were cranking them out right alongside the newfangled Bonanza, and, in so doing, took a classic diamond, did a little recutting and polishing and made it a forever classic. We especially love the way the cowling flows into the windshield: It's one of the most sensual curves in aviation. Everything about the airplane reeks of class, luxury and character. Sexy? Yeah, in a lusty, Mae West sort of way.
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