Our list from a few years ago of the most beautiful light planes of all time focused on, well, beauty, and we highlighted planes that were sleek and graceful. If there were an airplane equivalent to the golden ratio, said to define human beauty, then those planes were all about that thing.
The planes on this list, not so much. Indeed, if there’s any guiding rule in their design, it’s impossible to discern, and if anyone does figure it out, we sincerely hope they keep the secret to themselves.
Almost all of these aircraft were designed the way they were for purely practical reasons. Which makes sense. Otherwise, why would anyone intentionally adopt the aesthetics represented here? After all, the 747, which is not on this list, has the hump for its second seating area. The Chinook has its profile that only a mother could love, so it could have two giant main rotors and a big place to put troops and weapons. Try doing either of those two things and still come out with a runway-worthy model of beauty. Can it be done? Can you combine beauty and purpose-built design? Clearly, you can. Just look at the multitudinous business jets that look the way they do because of the things, like wing sweep and area rule fuselage design, that makes them the heavenly chariots their manufacturers advertise them as.
In these instances, the result of the quest for a plane that would do something outside the box was the creation of an odd-shaped box all its own. You won’t find any one-off World War I tri-plane light bombers here, either. The defining factor, apart from their ungainly appearance, is that most of these planes were at least fairly successful and produced in good numbers. If nothing else, that’s proof that beauty sometimes takes a backseat to more important things, like revenue and utility.
Here are the seven ugliest light planes.
The Erco Ercoupe was an early 1930s attempt to create a plane that was safer to fly than most of the things that were falling out of the sky right and left that came before it. And while it is exceptionally awkward looking, there are good reasons for why it is. The plane, one of the first successful all-metal light planes, had no rudder controls—the plane’s control system mixed aileron and rudder input, so all the pilot needed to do was steer. Various companies produced the Ercoupe over the years, with production ending in 1969 after its makers churned out more than 5,500 of the little two-seaters.
On the other hand:
The author couldn’t be more wrong. The tail of the Ercoupe itself is a masterpiece, and while a little awkward looking, there’s a lot to love about the Ercoupe’s looks.
Photo by David Miller via Wikipedia Commons