Friday, November 09, 2007

Five planes.

NRAhab started this...

5) Fokker Dr.I

Manfred fricken Richthofen scored his last kills in one. Painted red. If that's not cool enough for you, go find another hobby.

4) Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Yeah, other planes have served longer or dropped more bombs or been more common, but the B-17 will forever remain the symbol of the first strategic air campaign. You tell some guy who had his wounded carcass dragged out of one that brought him safely home after having both wings and the tail shot off that it's not the greatest airplane ever...

3) Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog

Strap wings to a cannon and watch it fly.

2) Curtis P-6E Hawk

The best looking biplane fighter ever built... Heck, it's a contender for the best looking plane ever built. If truth = beauty and beauty = truth, this was the truest thing with two wings ever made by mankind.

The next is a tough one... What to put in the #1 slot when there are so many worthy candidates? We'll try, though...

1) Hawker Sea Fury

Okay, this one is the best looking piston engine fighter ever. Clean, slim fuselage. Graceful elliptical wing. Shot down jet-engined MIGs over Korea. Dreadnought still wins air races. Makes the heart race just to look at...


Anonymous said...

B-17 at the top of my list too. My dad flew 35 missions over Europe as a B-17 pilot with the 447th bomb group. Excellent web site at:

Anonymous said...

I would argue the P-38 Lightning should have been included if for no other reason than America's top two aces of WWII (Bong and McQuire) used them to clear the skies over the South Pacific.

Also I just think they are really cool sounding and looking. Shame there are only nine still flying in all the world.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

My picks, and thanks for the idea...

Anonymous said...

Oh, Tam. Now you're really talking my language. ;)

5. Consolidated PBY Catalina. It's a boat! It's a plane! It's a flying boat! Jigged
up the Imperial Fleet at Midway. Unnerving 'Black Cat' night missions over the
Pacific. A once in a century blend of romance, wartime and derring-do. So
fugly it's gorgeous!

4. Vought F4U Corsair. Come on- a prop arc so large they had to bend the wings!
2250 ponies in a single package! Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington! Two words:
Flying Testosterone.

3. Lockheed P-38 Lightning. From the never-again mind of Kelly Johnson, the John
Moses Browning of aviation. Wicked, delicious & hot- almost dainty, even delicate
(from BEHIND!) The forked-tailed devil in its one-of-a-kind beauty (sorry, twin
Mustang fans- not EVEN close.)

2. North American P-51D Mustang. I stand second to no one in my admiration for
the Flying Fortress. However, the foundation of that mark's success is laid on the
back of the Mustang. America on the Wing. Wild, mean, untamed- perfectly
named. Uncle Sam at War in the Sky.

1. Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX. If she were a woman, men would weep at her passing
and faint from her perfume. Superlative grace, aptitude and lethality. Simply the
most beautiful machine ever conceived. The Icon of a people, an island, a war.
Put simply: Sex on the Wing. (And yes, I am IN LOVE with this airplane!)

Great post, Snarkstress!


Anonymous said...

A couple of my faves...P-40 Warhawk...also Pappy Boyington along with the Flying Tigers...and P-39 Airacobra...nice lines, great arms package. Ok, neither one is a top of the line dogfighter, but so what?

Anonymous said...

Wot no Brewsters.

In 1932, Studebaker brought on a fresh new engineering apprentice to work up some aerodynamics for the Presidents they ran at Indy.

Kid went into aviation.

Lightning, Starfighter, U2, Blackbird.

Kelly Johnson: Studebaker designer.

Anonymous said...

Oh and those Merlins. Packard made those.

Anonymous said...

I'll toss in another vote for the P-38 Lightning. After all, name me another fighter that could come home with one prop feathered.

Anonymous said...

Tam, the Sea Furies look good, but not #1. Have to say the R-4360 engined versions are impressive, and one at Reno produced the most spectacular display I've personally witnessed. Think it was Furias, a red and gold paintjob IIRC. Heat race on Thursday?, watching from the pits, heard the pilot announce a Mayday as he came down the front straight. He stood it on its tail, and headed straight up. About 6 or 7 seconds after his call, the forward section of the aircraft appeared to explode. Of the many pieces tumbling away, one reflected light such that we guessed it was the canopy. We watched as the remains of the aircraft arced over in a ballistic trajectory toward the back side of the race course. It was shortly before the plane disappeared from sight that we realized it was still under control. He ended up making the far end of the main runway, and as he taxied back into the pits we finally could see that all the skin forward of the firewall was missing! Pilot had felt a vibration, which prompted the mayday and transfer of speed into altitude. Think this was '84 or '85.
Saw Reno two years in a row, and it seemed that there was a Mayday in nearly every race, and sometimes multiple calls. One p-51 tossed a prop blade, which caused the engine to rip out it's mounts, and was kept from departing the craft by it's safety cables. He was yelling for the fire trucks as he lined up for one of the emergency strips in the center of the race course. He was trailing fire as he dropped out of sight. I don't think the fire crews got there in time to save the plane.

Drat, another long winded post. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

The Bristol F2b. I should have been in the back seat, with twin Lewis guns on a Scarf ring.

Anonymous said...

The Spitfire? Wasn't that just an embryonic Mustang?

Anonymous said...

A Soviet designer once said that fighter design should have stopped with the F-86 and MiG-15, because the aesthetics had become perfect.

It's a powerful argument. Historically, however, it would have precluded The Last Of The Gunfighters.

Old Blind Dog said...

The P6 is cool but cooler still is the Travel Air Model R which killed biplanes for all time.

Anonymous said...

For bi-planes, I think I would vote for the Beech? Staggerwing, w/retractable gear.

Bob Hawkins said...

Kelly Johnson was the greatest artist of the 20th Century.

So, the Blackbird and the Lightning.

Add the A-4 Skyhawk. Still on active duty (in South America) after 50 years, last I heard. The B-52 Stratofortress, ditto. And finally, the A-10 Warthog.

Anonymous said...

Sea Fury? Looks like just a Brit version of the Jug (P-47) to me.

The best looking piston-engined fighter ever built is the A6M Reisen, known to the English-speaking world as the Zero.

The best fighting piston-engined fighter ever built ... ahh, there are as many answers to that as there are people to answer it. But that's not the topic, is it? Favorite airplanes, eh? And I'm only allowed five? Well, let's see...

5. Fairey Swordfish, aka the Stringbag. Earns a place for the sheer absurdity: a slow, ragged old biplane, yet it stayed an effective warplane right through the end of the war.

4. That same Flying Fortress. Hell, it deserves a place on the list just for the name.

3. The only jet on my list: the F-16 Viper.

2. F6F Hellcat, the greatest of Grumman's "Cat" series of fighters.

1. P-38 Lightning, the first "do-anything" fighter in the arsenal.

Honorable mentions to the Warthog, P-47 Thunderbolt, PBY Catalina, B-25 Mitchell, SBD Dauntless, TBF Avenger, Mosquito, Beaufighter, Spitfire, Hurricane, Zero, and FW-190. Among others. Press me hard and I might even admit a sneaking liking for the Stuka.

Tam said...

"Drat, another long winded post. Sorry."

Long-winded posts about cool drama from Reno are never long-winded enough! :)

Anonymous said...

I have a short logbook: C-47, Ford Trimotor, B-17. 2,3,4. No singles. I am a truck driver.

Need I say that I enjoyed them all, although none to their full capabilities.

I will proudly and humbly fly right seat through Hell in a Douglas Commercial, Model 3.

Tam said...

The most magical moment in my brief GA career was sitting in the hangar doors watching some guy get his multi- taildragger type rating in a DC-3 painted up in RAF Dakota colors complete with invasion stripes.

He must've landed and taken off at LZU 10 or 15 times that night and I just sat transfixed, listening to the roar of the Cyclones...

Anonymous said...

If you're ever in the Las Cruces/El Paso area, drop in to the air museum in Santa Teresa, NM. They have most of the favorites on hand, including the P51 D Mustang, Hawker Sea Fury, F4U Corsair, P40 Warhawk, and an all black P38 Lightning with chromed props.

Anonymous said...

Looks like through everyone else who has already posted I see mnay of my favorites. I can't go with just 5 myself.

All I'm saying is there's nothing like that "pop, bang" as the old piston warbirds crank up.

Gewehr98 said...

There's a place near me that takes old DC-3/C-47s, completely rebuilds and zero-times the airframes, and then puts new turboprops on the old girls.

Me wants.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, can't choose just 5 but I love seeing everybodies choices, I'm seeing no love for the Areo Spacelines Super Guppy?? Its normally parked across the street from where I work and it truly a sight to see coming in or going out. And Tam, if you have never read Fred Saberhagen's short story "Wings Out Of Shadows", find it, you'll love it.

Anonymous said...

Any 4 of yours, with the B-17 an absolute. Replacing the one with an F4-Phantom. Proof that anything can fly, and fly fast, with enough power under the wing. Big, loud, ugly. Dangerous. Air to Air. Air to Ground. This the plane that grunts looked up to see at treetop level, coming in hot, putting the CLOSE in close air support. Nothing like her before or since. We went with nimble and high tech after the Phantom. The Phantom was the pinnacle of old school fighter aircraft and I miss them.

staghounds said...

The boring old DC3. Not fast, not dangerous, it just did so much to save and then open up the world in so many ways. There has to be room for the work horse on anyone's list.

Handsome is as handsome does.

Oh, and the DH2 looks cool as can be. I like pushers generally, and what better nickname for one's cart than Spinning Incinerator?

Anonymous said...

I'll double the recommendation on "Wings out of Shadow". But, then, I've always been of the opinion Saberhagen can write. I don't care for most Berserker stories, per se; but I've never argued they aren't well-written.

Anonymous said...


Cessnas. Spent many an enjoyable hour in one variant or another. Not fast, not sleek, but tough as nails and good short-field performance (although nothing matches a Heliocourier!)

F4U Corsair



"Oh, and the DH2 looks cool as can be. I like pushers generally, and what better nickname for one's cart than Spinning Incinerator?"

Maybe when you are a pilot and two of your greatest fears are

A) Spinning at low altitude

Tam said...

"what better nickname for one's cart than Spinning Incinerator?"

The Corsair was also yclept "Ensign Eliminator" :)

And for those of you recommending "Wings Out Of Shadow", while I don't have it quite memorized yet, I'm almost there. :D

jeff said...

Hmmm, 5 fav's?

The FW-190 D/TA 152

SR-71, an impossibility before she was built, and still unmatched.

The SU-27 Flanker and her later variants, proof that whatever their faults the Russians can build a damned fine airchine.

P-38 Lightning for the same reasons as previously mentioned.

And how about a Pitts S2B, cause biplanes are still cool

Anonymous said...



staghounds said...

Statistically, everyone who flew DH2s was dead or crippled by 1918 anyway. It has always amazed me that crews got into these known deathtraps over and over again.

(I mean at the end of their run- they were good airplanes early on. As were the Brewsters.)

But pilots are crazy. Those luftwaffe fools who flew on 6-6-44, and I'm sure there will be some Iranians who try conclusions with the USAF when SWII breaks out.

I've always liked pushers because I flew hang gliders a bit, and ultralights are pushers.

Anonymous said...

Tam, more unusual happenings of that Reno race meet. Co-worker I accompanied to the race soloed his dad's P-51 at 16 yrs age, on his birthday, I think. The P51 showed up at the meet, but not his dad. A B-1 bomber crashed just before the meet, and his dad was part of the accident investigation team. We got his suite in Circus Circus for the week :-)
On the way out of town after the races, we had breakfast with Art Scholl and a few other pilots. Art died a few days later when his Pitts S2B crashed into the Pacific near Miramar while doing camera work for the movie TOPGUN. He was filming an inverted flat spin for the scene where Maverick and Goose eject over the ocean. They never found him or his plane, so no idea what went wrong. Movie was dedicated to him.
Can't remember if that year or previous year race, we watched Lefty Gardner flying his white P-38, when he declared an emergency. (Although stock, he raced in one of the unlimited classes, in addition to doing a solo aerobatic routine) Anyway, he radioed that an engine had blown, which is not a trivial matter in a twin at low level! He recovered and made it back to the main runway with little visible drama, and when the engine covers were opened there was a hole in the side of the block you could have stuck your head into! Very lucky there was no fire caused by this.
I see that Lefty's son crash landed this plane in a farmer's field, a few years back, due to an engine fire.
Another P-38 was damaged at the meet, when the gear began to retract after a mechanic fired up one engine. Seems the gear control lever was moved to the 'up' position at some point, but no movement until the engine spun up the hydraulic pump. Major WHOOOPS as a main gear leg folded, dropping one wing and prop onto pavement. Wonder if he retained his job after this little boo boo?

José Giganté said...

My dad's list, God rest his soul.

#5 PT17 Stearman
#4 F4 Phantom
#3 F86 Saberjet
#2 P51 Mustang
#1 Piper J3 Cub

He was very wise.

Jeffrey Synk said...

I like the old and new:

1. P-51 (I wish I had one)
2. P-38 (some things just inspire)
3. F-4U
4. F-4 Phantom (loud and rocks!)
5. F-18
6. SR-71 (which way did he go!)

I'll keep on dreaming. For now I'll fly my underpower CRJ200.