Two of the most popular questions, at least for pilots and other students of aviation history, are: What are the top 10 planes of all time, and which one’s the greatest of them all?
Seems impossible, but we think we did it. Here’s how.
We started with a group of really great airplanes, which automatically turned into cross section of airplane types.
Then we narrowed things down even more by asking if there was a top dog among them. Usually, surprisingly, there was. That one made the list.
We think you’ll agree with at least two-thirds of our picks.
After our Top 10 Planes Of All Time, we present 25 others that a lot of you will argue belong on the main list. In many cases, you’d have a strong argument. Enjoy!
Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
Say what you will about it: It costs a boatload of dough, $350 million a pop, all up. It was late. It was way over budget, and some say in today’s global political world, we don’t even need it. But from a pure design perspective, the F-22 is the all-around most capable airplane ever, and by a good margin. The F-22 is the only full-up fifth-generation air superiority fighter in the world that’s in full production and that’s fielded. And besides, it’s better than the others, anyway. The F-22 is capable of a supercruise (that is, sustained faster than the speed of sound flight without afterburner) of Mach 1.85; it’s incredibly maneuverable—the first time we saw a slow flight demonstration, we were absolutely spellbound, as this plane is capable doing things that look aerodynamically impossible; it features stealth technology; and, with a range of 1600 without long-range tanks, it can go a long ways between refuelings.
Margin of error: 25%. Contenders: McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom; Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; F-117 Stealth Fighter; F-15 Eagle; F/A-18 Hornet.