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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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Piper Apache

Piper Apache
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Another snub-nosed twin, the Piper Apache isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but if you can believe it, Piper actually improved its looks after adopting it from Stinson. That original airplane had a twin-tail to go along with its short nose cone, and the combination wasn’t flattering. The Apache is proof that there can be an ugly duckling outcome for planes like this. The more powerful model, called the Aztec, had a redesigned nose for most of its life, and with its larger, more substantial engines and nacelles, it is a handsome-looking airplane. Piper built nearly 7,000 PA-23 Apaches and Aztecs over their nearly 30-year production run.

On the other hand

Where do I begin! Between the Apache and its elongated sibling, the Aztec, the “snub-nosed” model is the clear winner, if not by a nose. Its balanced, harmonious shapes and lines look for all the world like it came into being exactly as it appears. The Aztec, on the other, hand, ruined that symmetry. Just as the Cherokee Six or Cessna 207 look misshapen, the Aztec, too, took the extension too far, literally.

Photo by wiltshirespotter via Wikipedia Commons


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