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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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Cessna T-50

Cessna T-50
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The T-50, as fans of the show might remember, was the first airplane owned by the hero of the popular television show Sky King. It was also Cessna’s first twin, and looking at it and the materials it was constructed from, it’s clear that the T-50 was transitional technology, helping pave the way for Cessna, and Sky King, to move on to the new all-metal and decidedly modern model 310. The Bobcat’s snub-nosed look and its almost completely retractable landing gear, coupled with plywood-covered structures and big round engines, give it a decidedly 1930s appearance. Despite it being outmoded at delivery, the twin was a big success for Cessna. It sold more than 5,000 of them, mostly to the United States armed forces.

On the other hand

Like many aircraft from its era, the T-50 was captive to the materials and components available. Its workmanlike balance and presence gives it a handsome familiarity, like that favorite old car that’s dated but still beautiful.

Photo by Bill Larkins via Wikipedia Commons


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