It’s no secret that we pilots love airplanes, though the reasons why we do are, well, not so much mysterious as wide ranging and, at times, hard to pin down precisely. We love airplanes for what they are, where they can take us, and for reasons that are more related to aesthetics than utility. We feel that airplanes, at least some of them, are beautiful to behold. Part of that is the emotional mystery behind airplanes. They are, after all, doing something that, until 150 years ago, was impossible. So we have a reverence for aircraft that at its root is steeped in wonder.
Not everyone believes that beauty is a mystery. For the past couple of decades, mathematicians have been attempting to quantify what we find beautiful, notably in human faces, by probing the relationship of parts and their arrangement to the whole and trying to arrive at some kind of equation of beauty. Other scientists who are interested in the question of what we find beautiful are teaching computers to learn to replicate the judgments we make in finding things beautiful, so far mostly in photos of nature and people’s faces and not airplanes. At least not yet.
In the process, we’ve surely picked a few that hardly anyone would disagree with. You’ll see. At the same time, it’s almost certain that we’ve picked a couple that you might disagree with, perhaps strongly.
And as you’ll notice, too, we’ve only selected conventionally certificated GA planes, so you won’t see any P-51s, Constellations or Lancairs here, even if they are sometimes under the GA umbrella. We’ve also stuck to piston-powered planes, so bear that in mind, as well.
So, without further ado, we present nine of the most beautiful airplanes in GA history.