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!
From their advent in the early 1960s, a class of aircraft we have come to know as business jets offered so much more than any propeller-driven plane could. They could fly higher, faster and farther, giving their well-heeled passengers the pressurized comfort and short-leg times that then and now only money could buy. While there are a handful of top-of-the-line business jets all costing well north of $50 million, the very epitome of private jet flying, at least as of 2021, is the Gulfstream G650. The twin-jet fly-by-wire 650 is fast (Mach .925), capacious, light-filled and long-legged, with a range of 7,000 nm. This $70 million bizjet opens the world to only the most exclusive private flyers.
Photo by Bene Riobó, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons