Airplanes can become famous for a number of reasons, including their design, their purpose, or their popularity, and it isn’t always easy to narrow the list of famous planes down to a manageable size because each plane is so unique. If you love airplanes and want to learn more about the planes considered famous for one reason or another, here’s a top 10 or famous aircraft.
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Ever since the Wright Brothers began their adventures to take flight, people have been fascinated with airplanes, and with good reason. Being able to fly is a basic desire, and few things are as exciting as seeing the clouds up close.
Airplanes come in so many different designs, sizes, and shapes that it’s nearly impossible to study them all, but you can easily narrow down your list and learn about the ones that are famous for this or that reason.
There are many ways to determine what makes an airplane famous, but they all have their own unique characteristics. Whether they’re one of the earliest planes developed or one of the fastest, the list of the most famous planes is always interesting to look at, and you can even learn a lot about these planes that you didn’t know before.
1. The Wright Flyer
Well, you knew this plane had to be on the list of famous airplanes, so here it is. At just 21 feet long and a maximum speed of 30 MPH, this is a biplane aircraft developed by the Wright Brothers and the one they flew that day in 1903 in the outer banks of North Carolina. The engine and most of its parts were made by hand, and the plane itself was made out of spruce wood.
The Wright airplane had a twin propeller that was powered with a sprocket chain drive borrowed from a standard bicycle. On its first flight, Wilbur Wright laid on his stomach on the lower wing so that drag could be reduced, and he steered the plane by pulling on wires.
Today, the Wright Flyer is on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
2. Air Force One
Although famous because it takes the president of the United States where he needs to go, a lot of people don’t realize that Air Force One is not one specific plane.
Today, Air Force One is a Boeing VC-25 with a wingspan of more than 195 feet and the ability to fly at 630 MPH. Technically, any plane that carries the president somewhere can officially be called Air Force One.
Accommodating a crew of 26 people, Air Force One is now a highly customized plane that offers the ultimate in luxury and convenience, and Boeing seems to be the preferred airline for this type of plane.
Currently, former Air Force One airplanes can be seen on display in museums and presidential libraries in places such as Dayton, Ohio, and Tucson, Arizona.
3. Airbus A380
Nicknamed the Superjumbo, the Airbus 380 is one of the world’s most famous planes because of its sheer size and its ability to carry more than 850 passengers to places all over the world.
The plane is designed double-decker style and became part of the commercial airline market in 2007. Interestingly, the plane is so big that new barges, ships, and even roads had to be built to accommodate it.
In addition to the best technological advances and innovative provisions for the passengers, the Airbus 380 is used by airlines all over the world, including Singapore, Korea, France, and Australia, among others.
Currently, there are roughly 70 of these planes in existence, and it is, in fact, the largest passenger airplane in the world.
4. Lockheed Vega 5B
This plane is a six-seater monoplane and was used by Amelia Earhart when she became the first woman to fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic. It is a popular type of airplane for attempting to set records, in part because of its rugged design and its long-range capabilities.
It has a wingspan of more than 40 feet and can fly at speeds of up to 185 MPH, which was significant when Earhart made her journey in 1932.
Nowadays, you can find this Lockheed Vega 5B on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It has one Pratt & Whitney Wasp R1340C engine and is roughly 28 feet long. It is most certainly a very important fixture in the United States’ history of flight.
5. Cessna Citation Excel
This plane is a fairly new plane, having made its maiden flight in early 1996. For years, it has been a popular seller in the private jet market, and it is a very cost-effective competitor of the twin turboprop airplanes. The Cessna Citation XL is popular with private flyers mainly because of its speed, low operating cost, and its ability to carry a lot of passengers.
Before it was superseded by the Citation XLS, the Citation XL numbered over 300 planes, and today they are mostly used by private owners, private jet hire operators, and fractional ownership companies. This plane has a maximum speed of 506 MPH and a wingspan of more than 55 feet.
6. The Concorde
Everyone knows the name, but not everyone knows a lot about this plane. The Concorde had a maximum speed of 1,350 MPH and a wingspan of more than 82 feet, and in 1996 it flew from London to New York City in just under 2 hours and 53 minutes.
It regularly broke records thanks to its ability to transport passengers from location to location in record time, making it one of the most famous planes in the world.
The Concorde flew on four Rolls Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 engines and was first flown in March of 1969. Although retired, it can be viewed in various places around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, Barbados, and in cities such as Seattle and New York City in the United States.
7. Supermarine Spitfire
With a semi-elliptical wing design and a 36-foot wingspan, the Supermarine Spitfire is a significant plane in British history thanks to its important role in the Battle of Britain during World War II. Thanks to this feat, the Spitfire is greatly loved by both the British citizens and the many pilots who have flown it over the years.
The Supermarine Spitfire has a maximum flying speed of more than 375 MPH and is one of the most respected aircraft in the world. A total of 44 of these airplanes were manufactured, and today they can be found in various air shows, ceremonies, and displays.
8. Spirit of St. Louis
Any list of famous airplanes must have the Spirit of St. Louis plane on it. The plane is a single-seat monoplane that Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927. At the time, the plane boasted superior fuel efficiency and top-notch design. It was named to honor financial supporters from St. Louis, Missouri, where Lindbergh’s lived prior to his historic flight.
This airplane had fuel tanks that were located at the front so that balance and safety were improved, and it required a periscope to see things in front of the plane. It was nearly 28 feet long and could fly as fast as 133 MPH. The New York to Paris trip took Lindbergh more than 33 hours, but he was awarded $25,000 for the feat. The plane is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
9. Gulfstream G IV
With a sleek and modern design and the ability to transfer business passengers anywhere they needed to go, the Gulfstream G IV was the very first global business jet. It launched in 1987 and since then, it has become a favorite among business jet passengers.
It can fly at speeds of more than 580 MPH and is more than 97 feet long. It ceased production in 2003 and was replaced by other business-type jets.
The GIV was upgraded to the Gulfstream G650 around 2003, and there are many of these planes still in existence today. Gulfstream jets can be found all over the world in private owner collections, private jet charter operators, and fractional ownership companies.
10. Space Ship Two
It isn’t difficult to figure out why the Space Ship Two is one of the most famous planes in the world. Manufactured by Virgin Galactic, the Space Ship Two’s main purpose is to practice flying passengers into space because it is a suborbital spacecraft made specifically to carry space tourists.
In fact, for a down payment of only $20,000 – and a total price of $200,000 – you, too, can travel into space one day on this unique aircraft.
With the idea of the spacecraft being developed by Richard Branson, it will be interesting to discover how this airplane does and what it will accomplish in the next few years and decades.
The Space Ship Two intends to fly all types of passengers into space from its headquarters in New Mexico, and its intention is to accomplish this goal as soon as possible!
11. Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is probably the most iconic passenger plane roaming the skies. It is one of the biggest commercial airliners ever made, and it wasn’t even made for this purpose originally.
The airframe was originally a proposal for the US military strategic transport plane, or CX-Heavy Logistics System (CX-HLS). Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Boeing the contract was handed to Lockheed Martin and the C-5 Galaxy.
Right around the same time Boeing was asked by Pan Am Airlines to develop a passenger aircraft twice the size of the 707. Not being able to use the research and plans for the government contract, Boeing went back to the drawing board and turned the blueprints into the passenger and cargo aircraft we know today as the famous 747.
As of 2020, there has been a total of 1,558 Boeing 747’s built. The 747 has been operational since 1970 and continues to be today, although the iconic aircraft is being phased out by most large airlines.