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!
Starting back in the late 2000s, the race was on among aircraft makers to build their versions of what was popularly known as the “very light jet.” Descriptions of these aircraft varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, though the one constant was, it was very hard to do. Cessna succeeded, introducing the Mustang, which enjoyed some sales success before Textron canceled the program a few years ago. Diamond and Piper both built very light, single-engine jets before abandoning those projects amidst cost overruns and an uncertain world economy. It wasn’t until Cirrus certified its SF-50 Vision Jet that a truly practical single-engine turbofan was available. The Vision Jet won’t set the world on fire with its speed or altitude, but with room to spare, the up-to-seven-seater features world-beating ease of flying and sophistication, with a whole-airplane recovery parachute to boot. There is a lot to love about the Cirrus Jet, and in an age when step-up models are considered passe, Cirrus is selling hundreds of the $3 million jets to customers who are turning in their SR22 piston singles for a taste of the jet life.
Photo courtesy of Cirrus Aircraft