Saturday, September 1, 2007
10 Sexiest Airplanes
…in the eye of the beholder
When old A.V. Roe (hence Avro) laid down the lines for his first biplane before WWI, it was unlikely that he expected his company would someday (in the 1950s) be building something as sinister and magnificent as the Vulcan. With its huge, butterfly-like delta wings and nuclear capabilities, it lived up to its namesake, Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.
"In the eye of the beholder" definitely applies here. We're afraid to pick one over the other because our mail bin isn't big enough to hold the nastygrams from champions of the plane that places second. Both airplanes represent quantum leaps in terms of airframe design and overall performance, although we could easily nitpick both of them, e.g., we don't like the tail on one or the windows in the other. You decide which.
There are no questionable lines to North American's F-86 Sabre Jet. It's the airplane all pilots would kill to fly and the hands-down favorite of those who have flown it. There's something about the cleanliness, the swept surfaces and a general "feeling" about the airplane, that even before you strap it on, you know it's going to fly great. According to those who did and do fly it, it's a pilot's airplane: quick to the hand, completely balanced in all areas and as honest as the day is long.
"Sexy" is probably the wrong word here, but it's hard to find only one suitable adjective. Aggressively sexy? High-performance sexy? The F-22 is such a new combination of visuals that it hasn't had enough time to settle into our subconscious and generate its own adjective. Where an airplane such as the F-86 is clean and easy on the eye, the Raptor jars our senses with its occasional abruptness of line, but that's nothing compared to the way it flies. Watching it perform brings sensuality into the new millennium.
"Blackbird" Because of the Blackbird, you can retire the word "presence." It's doubtful that anyone will ever produce another form that evokes the same shiver down the spine that the Blackbird did. It's not necessary that you understand its awe-inspiring performance (cruises faster than a .30-06 rifle bullet) for its Darth Vader shape to leave a mark on your memory.
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