Don’t believe those naysayers who continue to claim aviation’s glass is half empty. According to these pessimists, technology is still heavily entrenched in the last century, and there’s not much reason to even celebrate the best, much less a “perfect” airplane. Forgive me, but that’s pure bull. In the first place, we’re not suggesting these are examples of perfection, just perfect designs for our chosen missions. Second, the amount of aviation innovation demonstrated in the last 30 years has been nothing short of phenomenal. There have been new and more efficient airplanes, airfoils and engines, full-airframe parachutes, wildly improved avionics and a level of gizmology that pilots from the ’50 and ’60s wouldn’t even recognize. These have pushed aviation at least three steps forward for every step back that the current administration has tried to force us.
So, grant us a little editorial license in naming what we regard as the 10 most perfect airplanes for our special missions. You won’t agree, of course (what fun would that be), but the process of winnowing down the selection from, oh, perhaps 100 or so models, has been barrels of fun.