Most Famous Airplanes
List of the 20 Most Famous Airplanes
This was the name of one of the first B -17 to safely complete 25 missions during World War II. This led to a 31-city war bond publicity tour in America during the war and even a Hollywood feature film in 1990. A member of the 324th Bomb Squadron, the Memphis Belle flew its first mission on November 7, 1942 in its last on May 19, 1943. The captain Robert Morgan named the B-17 for his sweetheart named Margaret Polk in Tennessee. After the war, the city of Memphis brought the airplane home and put on display at that National Guard armory near the city's fairgrounds. Due to vandals and weather the plane was in a sorry state but eventually was rescued by the Memphis Belle Memorial Association. Today the plane is undergoing an extensive, 10-year restoration for its permanent public display at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton-Ohio.
Betty Skelton's Little Stinker
This plan is suspended at the entrance of the capital national Air and Space Museums Center and is a red and white Pitts Special named Little Stinker. This is the oldest surviving Pitts and is a second Pitt's airplane built by Curtis Pitts in 1946. It was made famous by Benny Skelton who flew it to win the US Female Aerobatic Champion several years in the late 1940s. Similar to the other Pitt's airplanes constructed at the Aviat Factory in Afton, Wyoming, Little Stinker was constructed of a fuselage frame made of steel tubing and covered with fabric. It was powered by an 85-horsepower Continental C85 engine, the tiny tail dragger biplane, which was 14'6" long and had a 16 foot, 10 inch wingspan. It would quickly respond to pilot inputs. It had exceptionally new variability, which is proven during Skelton's early competitions and has stood the test of time and remains a highly successful platform for aerobatic competitions.
Hughes H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose"
This was an engineering marvel of its time in the largest airplane to have ever flown. The Howard Hughes H-4 Hercules, is widely known as the Spruce Goose. It was an enormous, eight engine airplane constructed mostly of wood due to World War II restrictions on the use of metal. Despite its name, the flying boat is actually made of birch. Howard Hughes conceived the design in 1942 and won a contract from the US Air Force for the purpose of moving men and supplies across the Atlantic. It was to have reportedly cost 22 million to build which was a large sum in 1940. The Spruce Goose only lifted off once in Long Beach Harbor on November 2, 1947 and flew up to about 70 feet for one minute. That single flight proved too many critics that it's 219-foot airplane with a wing span of 320 feet was capable of flying. It is currently on display at the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
Two adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones made history in March 1999 when their Breitling Orbiter 3 completed the first nonstop balloon trip around the world. This 20-day trip was harrowing and took the pair over Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and the Atlantic Ocean. The hybrid Rozier balloon used for the record flight stood hundred and 80 feet tall and curious pilots in a pressurized Kevlar in a carbon fiber gondola which pumped in oxygen and nitrogen and expelled carbon dioxide as a balloon was carried by the wind and heights above 37,000 feet. The journey began in Switzerland on March 1, 1999 and ended on March 21 with a safe touchdown in the Egyptian desert after it had traveled 25,361 miles. It now resides in The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Three years after that in June 2002, Steve Fossett completed the first solo round the world flight in his Spirit of Freedom balloon in just less than 15 days.
"Miracle on the Hudson"
U.S. Airways flight 1549 started like any other routine trip as the Airbus 80 320 took off from LaGuardia's runway on the afternoon of January 15, 2009, headed for Charlotte, North Carolina. Three minutes into the flight, passengers heard a loud bang as a flock of Canadian geese took out both of the airplane's engines. At just 2818 feet above the ground, the massive airliner was like dead weight flying over New York City. The audio revealed how the ATC tried to direct the captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to emergency landing site but to no avail. With the final words," were going to be in the Hudson" Sullenberger signed off, focusing his full efforts on maneuvering the Airbus into a smooth water ditching it in the Hudson River. From the time the engines quit, the airplane had less than three minutes to lift before the crew deftly maneuvers the airplane under the surface of the river. All hundred and 55 people aboard survived the crash which is now named the miracle on the Hudson.
Red Barons' Fokker Dr.I
Manfred von Richtofen, famously known as the Red Baron was the top scoring ace of World War I and recorded over 80 official air combat victories. All of his victories came off flying his bright red Fokker Dr I triplane. It was introduced into service toward the end of the war and it offered exceptional maneuverability compared with other pursuits of the day. Fokker developed it in response to the Sopwith Triplane, which began appearing over the Western front in early 1917. He recorded two kills on his first day and was so impressed that he told his commanders they should begin building large numbers immediately. He excelled as an aerial tactician and marksman. Typically, he would dive from above to attack with the advantage of having the sun behind him, with German pilots covering his rear and flanks. Von Richtofen was shot down and killed on April 21, 1918 in a dogfight over northern France. A Canadian ace, Capt. Roy Brown was credited with the victory that it is more likely that the Red Baron was killed by ground antiaircraft fire.
Air Force One
You probably already know that this is the sign Air Force One used for any airplane in which the President of the United States is flying. We usually think this is a specially equipped Boeing 747 but they are known by their military designation as the VC-25, in the 1990s. Before then, the president typically flew aboard a Boeing 707, which was introduced as Air Force One during the Nixon administration and made his last flight in that capacity in 2001 flying Pres. George W. Bush. Built to function as an aerial command center, Air Force One today is capable of aerial refueling allowing you to remain in the air indefinitely. Inside there is a 4000 ft.² for space on three levels including an executive suite with a large office and conference room. There are 85 onboard telephones in 19 TVs for the use of its 70 passengers.
Space Ship One
This idea of sending a paying tourist of the cosmos sounded like a science fiction story before Burt Rutan's Space Ship One rocket blasted into suborbital space. He and his ingenious converting space plane gain worldwide fame 2004 when the prototype won the $10 million Ansari X Prize by becoming the first privately financed land craft to leave Earth's atmosphere. He has since partnered with Sir Richard Branson to build a fleet of next-generation spaceships based on the reusable Space Ship One design that takes tourists for brief encounters with the weightlessness of space from the ventures base New Mexico. The Space Ship One is carried to an altitude of 50,000 feet. It lines for about 10 seconds before firing its rocket engine. Flown on the 2004 X Prize flights by veteran test pilot Mike Melville, Space Ship One accelerated to Mach 2.9, and blasted to a height more than 100 km above the planet. From there, the rear half of the craft folder upward, increasing drag and allowing for hands-off reentry.
The Hindenburg is a sight to behold at 800 feet in length and its massive body stretches over the distance of what would constitute nearly 3 football fields. It was developed in the 1930s and is more than 7,000,000 ft.³ of volume. It is the largest aircraft ever flown almost 8 decades after its inaugural flight. It was originally designed to use helium gas but the United States would not relinquish its monopoly of substance to Nazi Germany out of fear the country would use it for weapons development. The Hindenburg was forced to rely and highly flammable hydrogen for its buoyancy. The airship included a full dining room smoking lounge and was made for a major commercial voyage by carrying 1002 passengers across the Atlantic in 1936. Its grandeur was short-lived. On May 6, 1937 the Hindenburg burst into flames while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. 36 of the 97 people aboard perished in the flames and the images of the fiery disaster were displayed in the press all over the world.
Amelia Ehrhardt's Locking Model 10 Electra
Amelia Ehrhardt bought a twin-engine Lockheed 10-E Electra and planned around the world flight. This was an all aluminum airplane designed to carry as many 12 people with variable pitch propellers, flaps and a retractable landing gear. It also had a cutting-edge Western Electric communications radio and Bendix radio direction finder the predecessor to the automatic direction finder. This Elektra was modified to include six fuel tanks in the wings and six inside the fuselage, carrying 1151 gallons of fuel, which provided the airplane with a range of more than 4000 miles. After departing Oakland California in May 1937 on the round the world trip with Fred Noonan, Ehrhardt flew about 22,000 miles before mysteriously disappearing in the vicinity of Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
There are many barriers in aviation that are challenges for engineers and pilots. As airplanes continue to evolve, one of these berries was the sound barrier and it was thought by many to be unbreakable. They were proven wrong on October 14, 1947 when Charles E "Chuck" Yeager strapped himself to the rocket powered Bell X-1. To maximize speed this aircraft design the fuselage in the shape of a 0.5 caliber machine gun bullet was known to be stable at supersonic speeds. The wings were made thin to minimize drag, but though swept designs are now known to be faster, the wings of the X-1 were straight. The airplane was powered by one XLR-11 engine, which burned liquid oxygen, alcohol and water. On its historic flight the X-1 was dropped out of the bomb bays of a Boeing B-29 bomber at 23,000 feet. Yeager then climbed the bright orange X-1, which he had named Glamorous Glennis after his wife to 43,000 feet where he reached Mach 1.06.
Space Shuttle Columbia
Throughout the history of NASA space shuttle program astronauts have completed some incredible feats. The construction of the international space station, the first untethered spacewalk in the launch of the Hubble telescope are a few. This was an era of ingenuity and achievement and traces directly back to April 12, 1981, the day Columbia common NASA's first base for the shuttle, lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was designed to reinvigorate space travel and was an entirely new type of spacecraft, the first ever that could not only be piloted but also reused on the later mission. The design work for the space shuttle first began in the early 70s and after years of design changes and adjustments, engineers agreed upon the economy lower risk provided by a shuttle launch of the space by two solid rocket boosters. Columbia alone would go on to make 28 flights, traveling a total of 122.7 million miles set the foundation for three decades of space shuttle missions.
Doolittle's Raiders'B-25 B Mitchell's
North American Aviation put out more than 9800 B-25 bombers during World War II. 16 of those twin-engine airplanes became particularly famous and they are called the B-25B Mitchell's. The accountant Doolittle Raid is a surprise attack on Japan on April 18, 1942. The U.S. Air Force selected Mitchell because of its stellar combination of short field performance, range and bomb carrying capacity. It was a first time a medium bomber had been deployed from an aircraft carrier and Lieut. Col. Jimmy Doolittle was forced to launch his Raiders early; as a result, the airplanes ran out of fuel before their intended destination to the Mainland China. While the airplanes were lost, most of the crewmember survived. The aerial attacks down the Japanese, forcing them to withdraw some of its fighter groups to protect its borders. This all week and the Japanese frontlines and boosted morale for the US military, which had suffered big losses in the preceding months.
This is an airplane that the people of heard of today, that in it's day he was arguably the most famous airplane in the world. It has an odd name and was a slightly modified Wright biplane. Thanks to a number of unusual circumstances, it became the 1911 first airplane fly from coast to coast across the United States. The moniker came from a soft drink manufacturer that put up the money for the voyage, which took months and a huge amount of infrastructure to pull off. The pilot, Rodgers, I know this airman, bought the Wright playing to win a prize put forward by publisher William Randolph Hearst for the first transcontinental flight, but he never collected the cash the flight departed from Long Island, New York, in mid September 1911, and proceeded across the country, making 75 landings crashing 16 times, being closely rebuilt along the way. It was said that the airplane that landed in Pasadena, California before a crowd of many thousands of onlookers in November, shared very few parts in common with the airplane that it taken off from New York weeks earlier. Rodgers suffered a horrible injury shortly after his landing in Pasadena and after he'd recovered sufficiently to get back in the cockpit died shortly thereafter in another crash in the surf of the Pacific Ocean. The Vin Fiz is today part of the collection in this National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
Like some other airplanes on this list, the Voyager was a one off specially designed for a mission to prove a far-fetched concept. In this case the idea was to fly around the globe on one tank of gas. It was designed by the engineering legend Burt Rutan and wasn't unconventional carbon fiber airframe and had a fuselage in the center and twin booms mounted along a 110.8 Long wing and was powered by two continental engines mounted to the nose and tail of the fuselage. The front engine was 130 hp 0-240 while the rear was 110 hp IO L-200. The Voyager carried 7011.5 pounds of fuel in 17 tanks when it departed on his questionable journey in 1986. The tips of the fuel laden wings drag along the tarmac, putting in question the success of the journey. But the damage wingtips didn't stop Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager from completing the historic journey, which took over nine days.
Commanded by Col. Paul Tibbets: this first airplane was the first to drop an atomic weapon when it bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was named for Tibbets mother, the famous P-29 Super fortress served as the weather reconnaissance platform three days later during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, leading to Japan's unconditional surrender ending World War II. The Enola Gay was built in Nebraska with modifications to deliver atomic weapons. It was personally selected while it was still on the production line. Tibbets was personally briefed on the existence of the atomic bomb by Manhattan Project scientists. He was selected to fly the Hiroshima bombing mission for his skill as a pilot any had the most experience flying the B-29. It is on permanent display today at Smithsonian's Center in Virginia.
One of the most significant flights in history was the first crossing of the English Channel, the feet that many other pilots and tried but failed in their quest to offer a cash price offered in October 1908 by Lord North Cliff the publisher of the Daily Meal of London, England. Ultimately Louis Bleriot completed the feet on July 29, 1909 in his own design. Unlike most airplanes built in the early 1900s he used a monoplane design with a 25 hp Anzani engine mounted up front. The fuselage was a wood frame and the wings fabric. While the winds were calm when he departed the French shores, gusty winds at Dover causing the crash-land his airplane which never flew again. It was not a landing competition so he did win the prize money in his historic 36-minute flight. The Bleriot XI became a huge success and there are a few examples still flying today.
Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle
Most famous crafts are known for a single remarkable flight as such is the case of Apollo 11 Lunar module, the Eagle. The words" the Eagle has landed" voiced by Neil Armstrong upon the modules touching down on the moon surface on July 20, 1969, are among the most famous words ever spoken by a human being. The mission carried unfathomable risk. The craft separated from the command orbiter Columbia, which was commanded by Michael Collins. The module then entered lunar orbit and ascended to the moon surface where it landed without damage. It then supported Armstrong in Buzz Aldrin for the nearly daylong duration of their world-changing visit to another heavenly body. After successful moonwalk and well-deserved sleep, they lifted off the lunar surface successfully and re-docked with Columbia, reuniting the crew of Apollo 11. They then successfully returned to earth and splashdown in the North Pacific on July 25. Lunar module Eagle is not in the collection of the Air and Space Museum. Instead it rests somewhere on the surface of the moon, after crashing into it a couple of months after it's historic first landing there when it's orbit decayed.
It is debatable whether the Wright brothers are in fact the first to achieve powered flight but there is no doubt that the Wright Flyer was a revolutionary machine of his time. It was developed with elements from the brother's lighter designs with some aerodynamic aspects tested using a rudimentary wind tunnel. It was a canard biplane, with a wooden airframe fabric covered wings. It was powered by a four-cylinder, 12 hp engine, driving to large, wooden, pusher propellers rotating opposite directions. A stick like wood lever controlled the pitch in the airplane was steered by wing warping achieved by the pilot by sliding left and right, cradle on a mobile platform. They first flew on December 17th, 1903 and was documented by still photography making it one of the most famous airplanes in history.
Spirit of St. Louis
In 1919 there was a cash prize of $25,000 to the first pilot to successfully fly nonstop from New York to Paris. In the mid-20s, the young aviator Charles Lindbergh set his focus on the prize. Despite objections from many in the industry he wanted the weight advantage provided by a single engine airplane and found it in the high wing Ryan M-2. San Diego-based Ryan airlines agreed to build a greatly modified version of the M-2 for Lindbergh, stretching the fuselage and the wing span, adding additional fuel tanks an animated fuel tank in front of the pilot as opposed to behind him. This finish project came together in April 1927. After fearing the airplane to New York and waiting out some bad weather, Lindbergh took off for a historic flight on May 20. 33 1/2 hours later he touched down in Paris, making history and enthralling the world with endless possibilities that it never happened before. He inspired the launch of Popular Aviation magazine. After his successful flight, Lindbergh toured Central and South America before bringing the airplane in 1928 to its final resting place in the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC.