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.
You’ve noticed that a lot of these planes were purpose-built, and this one is no exception. Except you probably know what that purpose was. The 337 SkyMaster was Cessna’s answer to the question, “How do you make a light twin that isn’t prone to loss of control following an engine failure on takeoff?” The answer was, put one motor on the front and one in the back. The Sky-Smasher had its strengths. It did what Cessna designers set out to accomplish. It wasn’t a lot safer than other twins, and it was loud. But all in all, it wasn’t a bad plane. It carries a good load, it’s a decent cruiser (around 160 knots for the non-pressurized version), and it does have that second engine. Cessna built almost 3,000 of the push-pull twins, and, if we’re being honest, it’s not as ugly as it might have been. So kudos to Cessna for that.
On the other hand
Granted, when its gear is extended, the SkyMaster has a lot, perhaps too much, going on. But when it’s all cleaned up and cruising along, the venerable Cessna push-pull twin is remarkably sleek and powerful looking.
Photo by bomberpilot via Wikipedia Commons