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The Ugliest Light Planes (That Only Their Owners Find Beautiful)

Most of these aesthetically challenged aircraft have their hidden charms. At least that’s what their fans claim.

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.

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Beechcraft Musketeer

Beechcraft Musketeer
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While some of the planes on this list were challenged looks-wise as their designers struggled to make their special purpose configuration less than ungainly, others were clear attempts at doing something the company had never done before. In the case of the BE-23 Musketeer, Beech was hardly new to the all-metal airplane game, but its first (and last foray) into the four-seat entry-level personal plane market showed that making the aerial version of the four-seat family car is not as easy one might suppose. Over the years, the Musketeer kept pretty much the same general look to it, even as Beech rolled out lower- and higher-powered models with new dash numbers even. The shape of the Musketeer, along with Beechcraft’s tragically bad paint schemes and color choices—the last color that this plane needed was brown—didn’t help the plane look any less frumpy. Still, it was a pretty good airplane, if a little slow, and Beech sold more than 4,000 of them while continuing to rake in the big bucks with its Barons and Bonanzas.

On the other hand

The Musketeer and its stablemates suffered from what is admittedly one of the worst nicknames in aviation history. How did Beech not know that it would be forever mocked as the “Mouseketeer?” But the plane itself, I’d argue, while not drop-dead gorgeous, strikes a handsome figure. Had Beech done better with its paint schemes and branding, the much-maligned Musketeer’s place in history would be very different.

Photo by Aleksandr Markin via Wikiepedia Commons


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