With the tens of thousands of airplane models that have been built and flown since the days of the Brothers Wright, how is it even possible to come up with a list of the greatest planes of them all?
It’s a fair question, and it’s one we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing before we even embarked upon the journey. At first glance, the exercise seems a bit silly. After all, planes come in so many different shapes and sizes, with an equal number of mission types to match. How could you possibly choose just one?
But the more we thought about it, the more sense it made to us. To start with, we needed to acknowledge that there are a lot of great airplanes. There are also a lot of historically significant airplanes, which is a more exclusive club, we decided. But finally, there is a level of greatness that you can indeed measure using a few distinct and, in most cases, at least somewhat quantifiable categories, such as how many were built or what its top speed is or how long it was in service.
But looking at the different kinds of mission types, i.e., training, personal transportation, commercial transportation, fighters, bombers, reconnaissance and more, we decided to narrow things down even more by asking ourselves if there were a top dog among those planes.
Surprisingly, the answer to that question was often an unequivocal, “Yes!” That surprised us to no end, but the more we reflected upon it, the more we knew it was true.
So without further ado, we proudly present our list of the Top 25 Planes of All Time. Enjoy!
The King Air was an outgrowth of the company’s twin-engine development, and it has continued to be a good seller and much-beloved load hauler for private pilots and corporate operators for decades. The first King Airs were conventional tailed planes. The Model 90 was for a time a popular owner/pilot aircraft, though with the introduction of the model 200 Super King Air in the early 1970s, Beechcraft positioned the King Air as a business and utility aircraft. There were other turboprop twins, some faster and some larger, but there have been none that have come close to matching the King Air’s sales numbers, and sales come because customers are getting value. While not super speedy, the King Air has always been fast enough, and its payloads and operating economies inhabit regions that light jets or single-engine planes can’t touch. Over the years, Beechcraft, now owned by Textron Aviation, has grown the King Air. The latest model, the King Air 360, is a big and fast turboprop twin, one that is a great solution for business travel, for special operations like search and rescue and surveillance, and for freight hauling. Still in production more than 60 years after Beechcraft first brought it to market, the King Air shows no sign of slowing down.
Photo by bomberpilot, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.