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!
When it was launched in the early 1990s, the Pilatus PC12 was a revelation. A single-engine turboprop, pressurized and with a big seating/cargo area with a huge side loading door, the PC12 was a single-engine King Air. If that sounds like a great idea, we agree, and the PC12 has enjoyed great commercial success ever since, with many of its sales going to private flyers or business flight departments who could use the economical (at least compared with twin-engine turboprops or business jets) pressurized single to fly quickly and comfortably to regional destinations that made more sense in a smaller plane. That said, the PC12’s cabin is roomy and well appointed, giving it the air of a much larger aircraft but at operating economies unheard of for multi-engine competitors.
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