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 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was used in frontline combat duty in the United States for 36 years. The Mach 2.2 screamer was a fighter, an interceptor, a bomber and an electronic surveillance platform that could launch from land or from sea. Over the plane’s production life from 1960 to 1981, McDonnell Douglas churned out more than 5,000 F-4s. The jet is perhaps best known for its service during the Vietnam War, during which it served as a ground attack, electronic surveillance and air superiority fighter, fielded by the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The Phantom, interestingly, is the only plane that was used by both the USAF Thunderbirds and the USN Blue Angels.
Photo by Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons