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 PZL Wilga, our sole Eastern European listee, was designed to be a sport plane, a trainer, a parachute plane, a STOL utility workhorse, and a glider tug. So this one’s a case not of weird design because its creators were trying to make a plane that did one difficult thing but, rather, because they were trying to build a craft that could accomplish approximately 90 different things. The all-metal taildragger holds its nose up high to allow for better ground clearance by a big prop. And its trailing link gear made arrivals on rough surfaces a little less jarring. The Wilga was produced pretty much continually in Poland and elsewhere for more than 40 years. More than 1,000 of them made their way into the hands of customers, too. A particularly impressive Wilga conversion was accomplished by Mike Patey. His creation, Draco, took the cringey angles of the original and went even farther with it, including using a turboprop engine. The result isn’t necessarily beautiful, but at least it’s a lot less, well, you know.
On the other hand
The Wilga is simply cool looking, all surfaces and angles like it’s ready to leap into action. It might not be a 10, but it’s a solid 8.
Photo by RuthAS via Wikipedia Commons