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20 Best Airplanes of All Time

Kelley has always been very interested in airplanes and spaceships, about which he has written many articles.

The following is a list of my personal favorite airplanes.

The following is a list of my personal favorite airplanes.

I've always been fascinated with airplanes. Although I've only flown once in my life, I found the experience exhilarating and even spiritual, peering down upon the world at 30,000 feet, skipping among billowy clouds. Just miles away, I saw another jet airliner traveling at around 500 mph at the same altitude but in the opposite direction, and I thought, "Wow, that’s fast!" Ever since that moment, I've been obsessed with the sheer power of these magnificent machines. The list below explores my personal favorite airplanes.

While this list is numbered, no one plane on this list is better than any other. Each airplane was a marvel of its own era and was intended for its own unique purpose. Since it's impossible to say exactly which planes are the "best," this list is based on my own opinions and research. The numbers are only there to help you navigate the article.

Best Airplanes of All Time

  1. Wright Brothers’ Flyer 1
  2. DC-3
  3. SR-71 Blackbird
  4. ME-262
  5. Harrier
  6. B-52 Stratofortress
  7. F-117A Nighthawk
  8. P-51 Mustang
  9. ME-109
  10. X-15
  11. F-14 Tomcat
  12. TU-95 Bear
  13. Concorde
  14. B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber
  15. F-35 Lightning II
  16. B-29 Superfortress
  17. C-130 Hercules
  18. U-2 Dragon Lady
  19. MiG-31 Foxhound
  20. Solar Impulse 2

Before we venture to the stars, we must first fly above the treetops.

— Unknown

1903 Flyer 1 in the National Air and Space Museum

1903 Flyer 1 in the National Air and Space Museum

1. Wright Brothers’ Flyer 1

Manufacturer: Wilbur and Orville Wright

First Flight: December 17, 1903

Top Speed: About 10 mph

Country of Origin: United States

A list such as this must include the very first airplane. Produced and then flown by Wilbur and Orville Wright on December 17, 1903, their gossamer-winged aircraft made possible the first controllable and sustainable, heavier-than-air human flight. In order to accomplish such a feat, the Wright Brothers essentially built the whole contraption from scratch, other than the light-weight, fuel-injected engine, which was built by Charlie Taylor.



2. DC-3

Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company

First Flight: December 17, 1935

Top Speed: 207 mph

Country of Origin: United States

The Douglas-Commerical-3 is perhaps the best transport aircraft ever built. Introduced in 1935, this tough, versatile, reliable, propeller-driven airplane was one of the first used in transcontinental flights across the US. The American military’s version of the DC-3, the C-47, was widely used during World War Two. Because the plane can be landed just about anywhere, many countries throughout the world still use DC-3s for freight transport, aerial spraying, and commercial air traffic. Aviation buffs say, “The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3.” This trusty aircraft may never be retired!

SR-71 Blackbird

SR-71 Blackbird

3. SR-71 Blackbird

Manufacturer: Lockheed, Skunk Works division

First Flight: December 22, 1964

Top Speed: 2,193 mph

Country of Origin: United States

The Blackbird was a Cold War-era reconnaissance jet that could fly so high (85,000 feet) and so fast (over Mach 3) that the Russians or other enemies couldn’t shoot it down with surface-to-air missiles. Other aircraft could travel as fast for short periods, but the SR-71 could fly at top speed for an hour (until its fuel ran out). Considered by many purists to be the finest aircraft ever made, the Blackbird was one of the first airplanes to utilize stealth technology; for instance, the cross-section of the airframe was minimized to reduce radar exposure, and the whole body was painted a very dark blue. The SR-71 carried no armament, just cameras and sensors used for spying and, on occasion, scientific purposes. Hey, isn't it one of the sexiest things you've ever seen?



4. ME-262

Manufacturer: Messerschmitt

First Flight: April 18, 1941

Top Speed: 530 mph

Country of Origin: Germany

Nicknamed the “Swallow,” the ME-262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter, introduced about three months before Britain’s Gloster Meteor, the Allies' only jet fighter to enter service during World War Two. Used by Germany, the Swallow carried four 30 mm cannons, as well as rockets and bombs, giving it enough pop to down B-17s, P-51s, and anything else the allied forces threw against it. Capable of speeds of over 500 mph, the Swallow was faster than anything flying by about 100 mph. The fighter’s major shortcoming was that the engines needed replacement after about 25 hours of flight. Unfortunately for Germany, its use came too late in the war to turn the tide.

EAV-8B Harrier II

EAV-8B Harrier II

5. Harrier

Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley

First Flight: December 28th, 1967

Top Speed: 730 mph

Country of Origin: Great Britain

Commonly known as the Harrier Jump Jet, the Harrier (a bird of prey) was the first operational jet fighter capable of vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL). Introduced in 1969 and used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), this subsonic strike fighter, part of the first generation of Harriers, needed no runway for take-off, only a small clearing or the deck of an aircraft carrier. In the 1970s, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) began using Harriers, which were considered to have performance similar to F-4 Phantoms. The second generation of Harriers took flight in the 1980s. Redeveloped by McDonald Douglas, this newer version was named the AV-8B Harrier II. In 2015, the F-35B, capable of vertical takeoff, began replacing the AV-8B Harrier II.



6. B-52 Stratofortress

Manufacturer: Boeing

First Flight: April 15, 1952

Top Speed: 650 mph

Country of Origin: United States

Since it first went into service in 1955, the B-52 has been one of the most reliable and versatile strategic long-range bombers in the US arsenal, fighting in numerous wars and conflicts from one century into the next. Designed to carry conventional as well as nuclear weapons, the aircraft uses eight turbojet engines, can carry monstrous payloads, and has a range of over 12,000 miles. Over the years, the B-52 has had numerous retrofits, including a deployment capability for cruise missiles and drones, which has extended its usefulness into the twenty-first century. Even supersonic bombers such as the B-1 have not replaced this mainstay. It may never be retired!

F-117A Nighthawk

F-117A Nighthawk

7. F-117A Nighthawk

Manufacturer: Lockheed Corporation

First Flight: June 18, 1981

Top Speed: 617 mph

Country of Origin: United States

The F-117A Nighthawk was the first stealth fighter in the arsenal of the USAF. (Strictly speaking, though, the Nighthawk was not a jet fighter; instead, it was used for ground attack.) Developed in the early 1980s, the Nighthawk was virtually invisible to radar and carried laser-guided bombs and other guided munitions or “smart bombs.” The Nighthawk was particularly effective in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, flying over 1,300 sorties, and not a single one was shot down. However, one Nighthawk was shot down in the Kosovo War in 1999, the enemy using particularly long-wavelength radar to spot it. This stealth fighter was retired from service in 2008, superseded by more advanced stealth fighters such as the F-22.

P-51 Mustang

P-51 Mustang

8. P-51 Mustang

Manufacturer: North American Aviation

First Flight: October 26, 1940

Top Speed: 437 mph

Country of Origin: United States

This fast, long-range, powerful fighter-bomber may have won the war in Europe during World War Two. Utilizing its great versatility, P-51s helped the allied forces dominate the air during 1944, setting the stage for the defeat of Nazi Germany. The P-51 was also widely used during the Korean War, even after jet fighters such as the F-86 came on the scene. The U.S. military continued using P-51s until the early 1980s. These days, P-51s can still be seen in air shows and races, and many countries throughout the world use P-51s for civilian applications.



9. ME-109

Manufacturer: Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW)
Messerschmitt AG

First Flight: May 29, 1935

Top Speed: 379 mph

Country of Origin: Germany

The ME-109 could be considered the German counterpart to the Japanese Zero because it was Germany’s best fighter aircraft during World War Two, particularly in the early years; however, it remained formidable throughout the war, being reliable, fast, versatile, though it lacked range. Many different versions of the airplane were created, highlighting differences in armament, power train, or structural characteristics. Perhaps the best was the ME-109F, for which modifications more than doubled the airplane’s range. Interestingly, more ME-109s were produced–nearly 34,000–than any other fighter in history!



10. X-15

Manufacturer: North American Aviation

First Flight: June 8, 1959

Top Speed: 4,520 mph

Country of Origin: United States

Made for NASA, the USAF, and the USN, the X-15 rocket plane flew for experimental purposes from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. This long, sleek craft was designed to fly to the threshold of space, some 50 to 70 miles in altitude, technically making the pilots astronauts. In fact, it was the world's first operational space plane. To attain such heights, the aircraft was launched from the underside of a B-52, and then it fired its rocket, accelerating the craft to Mach 6.7 or about 4,500 mph. The X-15 flew almost 200 flights, and the data obtained helped the American space program. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, flew the X-15 numerous times.

F-14 Tomcat

F-14 Tomcat

11. F-14 Tomcat

Manufacturer: Grumman Aerospace Corporation

First Flight: December 21, 1970

Top Speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph)

Country of Origin: United States

Designed to replace the F-4 Phantom II, then seeing service during the Vietnam War, the F-14 Tomcat, a supersonic, twin-engine, variable-sweep wing jet fighter, was used by the US Navy for 35 years. It was designed as an air superiority fighter and a long-range interceptor aircraft. In the 1980s, the Air Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran used F-14 Tomcats during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), destroying as many as 160 Iraqi aircraft! In the present day, Iran still uses these versatile and dependable jet fighters. Tomcats were also used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. In 2006, F-14 Tomcats were replaced by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Notably, F-14 Tomcats have been featured in several movies and TV shows, perhaps the most popular of which Top Gun (1986), a movie starring Tom Cruise.

TU-95 Bear

TU-95 Bear

12. TU-95 Bear

Manufacturer: Tupolev

First Flight: November 12, 1952

Top Speed: 400 mph

Country of Origin: Russia

Essentially a copy of Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress, the TU-95 Bear, came into use in 1956 and is expected to be utilized until 2040 or beyond. Used as a long-range bomber and cruise missile platform, the TU-95 uses four Kuznetsov NK-12 coupled turboprops, which are more powerful and have a longer range than piston-driven propeller engines (jet engines were considered unsuitable for this plane because they use too much fuel). This bomber is designed to fly from Russia to the US, if needed, having a range of about 7,800 miles. Over the years, the TU-95 has been modified or enhanced, producing variants, the most recent of which in 2020. In November 2016, a TU-95 launched cruise missiles during the Syrian Civil War. Interestingly, the TU-95 Bear is the only propeller-driven strategic bomber still in use.


13. Concorde

Manufacturer: BAC (later BAe and BAE Systems), Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale and Airbus)

First Flight: March 2, 1969

Top Speed: 1,354 mph

Country of Origin: France and Britain

Although the United States and the Soviet Union had planned to build their own supersonic passenger jet airliners, only France and Britain’s Concorde was completed and went into regular service in 1976. The Concorde could cruise at Mach 2, or over 1,300 mph, and could fly nonstop from London to New York, giving it the longest range of any supersonic aircraft. The Concorde continued flying for 27 more years. But various problems ended its career. Always very expensive to operate, the plane’s avionics were analog and needed an upgrade, and a fatal crash in 2000 belied its apparent invincibility. The Concorde flew for the final time in November 2003.

B-2 Stealth Bomber

B-2 Stealth Bomber

14. B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

Manufacturer: Northrop Corporation, Northrop Grumman

First Flight: July 17, 1989

Top Speed: 628 mph

Country of Origin: Unites States

Also known as the flying wing and first projected during the Carter administration in the 1970s, this long-range strategic bomber is the obvious successor to the great B-52. But this bomber came at a much greater cost–over $2 billion for each plane as of 1997! The B-2 can fly at just under Mach one and carry 40,000 pounds of ordinance, conventional or thermonuclear weapons, and can fly for over 6,000 miles before refueling. About 20 of these bombers have been produced to date, and they’ve been used in combat in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Military officials think the B-2 will remain useful until at least 2050.



15. F-35 Lightning II

Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

First Flight: December 15, 2006

Top Speed: 1,726 mph

Country of Origin: Unites States

First produced in 2006, the F-35, a stealth multi-role fighter, is definitely the most expensive jet fighter ever produced by the United States Air Force. Each plane costs between $90 and $120 million, depending on the variant number (the F-35B can accommodate vertical takeoff), and the total cost of production is supposed to be about $1.5 trillion, that is, projecting well into the future–2070, if you can believe the predictions. (This cost doesn’t include the $1 trillion of projected maintenance costs). As for performance, only the F-22 Raptor compares to it, or so the reports say. Of course, this very costly aircraft has its share of critics. The common refrain regarding the plane is that "it’s too big to kill."

16. B-29 Superfortress

Manufacturer: Boeing

First Flight: September 21, 1942

Top Speed: 357 mph

Country of Origin: United States

Perhaps the greatest bomber developed during WWII, if not the most expensive—$3 billion for design and production (the Manhattan Project cost $1.9)—the B-29 Superfortress ended WWII by dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan in August 1945. This long-range, strategic bomber was needed in the Pacific theater of WWII because it could carry 20,000 lbs of bombs over a range of 3,250 miles. It also had a fully pressurized cabin, an analog computer system allowing the remote control of four gun turrets, a tricycle landing gear, and the Silverplate series had fuel injection and reversible props. This bomber stayed in service until the early 1960s and was used in both WWII and the Korean War.

Deserving honorable mention, the B-17 Flying Fortress was America’s principal long-range, strategic bomber during the European theater of WWII. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft during WWII and had the reputation of possessing great toughness in battle.

C-130 Hercules

C-130 Hercules

17. C-130 Hercules

Manufacturer: Lockheed Corporation, Lockheed Martin

First Flight: August 23, 1954

Top Speed: 368 mph

Country of Origin: Unites States

In production since the early 1950s, the C-130 Hercules is another very impressive workhorse of the sky. A four-engine, turbo-prop plane with a cargo ramp in the back, the C-130 Hercules has some 40 different variants and may be the most versatile aircraft ever built, having usage for troop transport, medevac, cargo transport, airborne assault, military training, search and rescue, firefighting, aerial refueling and maritime patrol. Used primarily by the United States Air Force, although greatly used by many foreign air forces, the C-130 was designed to be adequate for the needs of modern warfare. Its usage will probably continue until at least the 2030s.



18. U-2 Dragon Lady

Manufacturer: Lockheed Skunk Works

First Flight: August 1, 1955

Top Speed: 500 mph

Country of Origin: Unites States

The U-2 spy plane, that is, its various updated models, has been flying since 1955. In addition to being used in reconnaissance (or spying), the U-2 is used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, and scientific and communication purposes. It can fly as high as 70,000 feet, a point at which the curvature of the earth is quite evident. Originally operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U-2 was used to photograph military installations in the Soviet Union. Infamously, two U-2 spy planes were shot down by Russian surface-to-air missiles, one in 1960 and the other in 1962. Interestingly, as recently as August 2018, the U-2 was used for mapping the Mendocino Complex Fire in California, and it could remain a viable multi-use aircraft until 2050.



19. MiG-31 Foxhound

Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich/Mikoyan

First Flight: September 16, 1975

Top Speed: 1,864 mph

Country of Origin: Russia

Developed by the Soviet Air Forces, the MiG-31 replaces the MiG-25 “Foxbat" and may be the fastest combat jet or interceptor in the world. Introduced in 1981, the MiG-31 is designed to intercept cruise missiles, drones, helicopters, and strategic bombers. Flying at Mach 3 or more, it has many other impressive attributes: it’s the first aircraft to use phased array radar; it’s the first operational fighter to use a passive electronically scanned array; it can track 24 airborne targets simultaneously; it can track objects, as small as five square meters, as far away as 282 kilometers; and it can carry conventional and nuclear warheads. Updated many times over the years, the MiG-31 could remain in service until 2030.

Solar Impulse 2

Solar Impulse 2

20. Solar Impulse 2

Manufacturer: Solar Impulse

First Flight: June 2, 2014

Top Speed: 87 mph

Country of Origin: Switzerland

This aircraft uses no fuel; it is powered only by photovoltaic solar cells. First flown as the Solar Impulse 1 in 2009, this airplane can take-off under its own power and fly hundreds, if not thousands of miles, for up to 36 hours. But it does have limitations: it can only carry one person and virtually no payload; it can only fly in clear weather conditions and needs scores of engineers and technical and logistical personnel. Nevertheless, in 2016, the Solar Impulse 2 flew over 26,000 miles on a protracted, 16-month trip–the first such aircraft to circumnavigate the earth using only solar power. The plane’s designers envision a time when all commercial and private aircraft will fly using only solar power.

Who Made the First Airplane?

Wilbur and Orville Wright completed the first airplane on December 17, 1903. Wilbur and Orville Wright's first plane made four brief but important flights at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.

Why Did They Invent the Airplane?

While the invention of the airplane was largely inspired by the desire to have a new form of transportation, the airplane has since been used for numerous other reasons, including military defense and sport.

History of Flight Timeline

Year and EventExplanation

1000 BCE—First kites

Kites are invented in China.

1485–1500—Da Vinci designs planes

Leonardo da Vinci designs flying machines.

1709—Model glider design

Bartolomeu Laurenço de Gusmao designs a model glider.

1783—Hot air balloon flight

The first untethered manned hot air balloon flight was on 21 November 21 1783, in Paris, France in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers.

1843—Biplane design created

George Cayley’s biplane design is published.

1895—Biplane gliders created

Otto Lilienthal flies biplane gliders.

1903—First powered flight

Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first recorded powered, sustained and controlled flight in a heavier-than-air flying machine.

1927—First trans-Atlantic flight

Charles Lindbergh completes the first solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.

1930—Jet engine invented

British inventor Frank Whittle invents the jet engine.

1939—First jet-propelled aircraft

Germany’s Heinkel 178 is the first fully jet-propelled aircraft to fly.

1947—Aircraft exceeds speed of sound

Chuck Yaeger pilots the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

1969—First supersonic transport flight

First flights of supersonic transport–Soviet TU-144 and Anglo-French Concorde.

1969—Mankind goes to the moon

NASA lands the first spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

1970—First Boeing 747 commercial flight

Boeing 747 makes the first commercial flight.

2016—Solar flight around the world

Solar Impulse 2 is the first plane powered by a renewable energy source to tour the globe.

Fastest Planes Ever Made


North American X-15

Mach 6.7

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Mach 3.4

Lockheed YF-12.

Mach 3.3

Mikoyan MiG-25 Foxbat.

Mach 3.2

Bell X-2 Starbuster.

Mach 3.1

XB-70 Valkyrie.

Mach 3

Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxbat

Mach 2.8

How Does an Aircraft Fly?

Four major forces act on a plane that's in flight. A plane's engines are designed to move it forward at a high speed. This makes the air flow rapidly over its wings, which then throw the air down toward the ground, generating an upward force called lift. This overcomes the plane's weight and holds it in the air.

Can a Plane Fly Vertically?

Yes. Planes have a truly enormous amount of thrust that counteracts the force of their weight. So long as there is enough available thrust to stay upright, planes can fly vertically.

Why Do Planes Have a Tail?

A plane's tail is called the horizontal stabilizer or rear wing. This helps keep the airplane in level flight, meaning that it prevents the nose from tilting up or down, thus, keeping the center of lift over the center of gravity. Put simply, this means that the nose tilts down because it's heavier than the tail, which makes the airplane unbalanced. Even the fastest planes in the world use this basic design.

Most Expensive Planes Ever Made


B-2 Spirit

$737 million

Air Force One

$660 million

Airbus A340-300

$600 million

Airbus A380 Superjumbo Jet

$500 million

Boeing 747

$153 million

Trump’s Boeing 757

$100 million

BD-700 Global Express

$47.7 million

How Do Airplanes Land?

When a fixed-wing aircraft approaches the ground, the pilot moves the control column backwards to execute a flare or round-out. When flying the airplane onto the runway, the pilot adjusts the airspeed and attitude to prepare for landing.

Why Do Planes Fly So High?

Planes fly high to lessen the air resistance, which creates better fuel efficiency. Due to lower resistance at higher altitudes, commercial airplanes can keep going with minimal fuel expenditure. That's why heights of 35,000+ feet are often referred to as "cruising altitude."

Largest Planes Ever Built


Boeing 747-8

220,128 kilograms

Antonov An-225 Mriya

285,000 kilograms


226,796 kilograms

Airbus A380-800

277,000 kilograms

Antonov An-124

175,000 kilograms

Lockheed C-5 Galaxy

172,371 kilograms

Hughes H-4 Hercules ("Spruce Goose")

113,399 kilograms


© 2009 Kelley Marks


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 15, 2020:

Thanks for the comment, MG Singh. I'm glad you enjoyed my list. I've been thinking about adding another airplane to it, perhaps a WW II bomber. Which one would you pick? I'll also check out the Tu-95 Bear.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on June 13, 2020:

Very nice article, though I would have included the Tu-95 Bear and the MIG 21 as well, your selection cannot be faulted

Mike Smith on March 24, 2020:

You got my personnel top 5 on the list

John L. on June 21, 2019:

I think you needed to make it the best 20 list. That way, possibly, my favorite, the A1E Skyraider might have made the list.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 17, 2019:

Okay, Nemanja, I'll check out the SU-27 and see if it's good enough to add to this list. Later!...

Nemanja on June 16, 2019:

This list is nit comete without su-27.

I don't understand why it's not on the list.

It done some much for development of jets. Both US and Russian.

Kelley Marks on May 25, 2019:

The Wright Brothers Flyer 1 was the first powered aircraft; it had a propeller and an engine and was not a kite or glider, although they did build a glider the year before in 1902.

Leo on May 24, 2019:

The Wright's flyer was a kite, not an airplane. The first airplane in history was Santos Dumont's and 14bis.

Joe Sesto on May 16, 2019:

The list includes a lot of great aircraft, some of which were of little consequence in prosecution war or ending it. Most military aircraft in the list saw action in Europe. However, the B-17 was not mentioned, which leveled the German infrastructure, nor the B-24 that helped do that and also led to the demise of the Nazi Wolf Packs. And in the Pacific theater, how long would it have taken and how many Allied troops would have died invading Japan if LeMay and the B-29 had not first eliminated the need?

Robert Sacchi on April 29, 2019:

The Dr. Strangelove scenario.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 29, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Robert Sacchi. You're right about strategic bombers - they're like fireworks, once you use them, they're completely useless!...Ha-ha-ha!...

Robert Sacchi on April 28, 2019:

Keep in mind the B-58 was designed for the maned bomber leg of the nuclear triad. There was an old joke about SAC bombers. "They are like wrapping paper. They come with a ribbon around them and they are meant to be used only once."

The Avro Vulcan XH558 was an RAF strategic bomber it was a different plane from the B-58 Hustler. The Vulcan did fly in combat once during The Falklands conflict. It did have a long career with the RAF.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 28, 2019:

The B-58 was mostly a failure. It needed more stealth than speed, so it could avoid Soviet missiles. Therefore, it was never used in combat.

Robert Sacchi on April 24, 2019:

You're welcome, When people evaluate a weapon system the operating environment needs to be considered.

Kelley Marks on April 24, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Robert Sacchi! We seem to be in agreement about how good the ME-262 was. No jet fighter during WWII could match it for performance and deadliness. Later!...

Hector A on April 24, 2019:

What about the Vulcan xh558?

Robert Sacchi on April 23, 2019:

The Gloster Meteor was relegated to flying against V-1s. It flew some ground attack missions late in the war. Gloster Meteors only had one encounter with piloted aircraft, FW 190s. The combat was inconclusive. The Me 262 test and training units were flying combat missions and facing piloted enemy aircraft and ground fire.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 23, 2019:

Everybody's entitled to their own opinion about these fighter planes. According to my research, the ME-262 was quite deadly during the war, when they could keep them in the air, which was a difficult thing to do. As for the P-51s, they helped win the war and were still good many years later.

Mike Burton on April 23, 2019:

The Gloster Meteor actually achieved front line squadron status before the ME 262. The German plane experienced lots of teething troubles and was still assigned to test and training units when the Meteor went oprational. FWIW, I think the ME 262 and the P51 are amongst the most overrated of planes (just my opinion).

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 03, 2019:

Hey, Aleks, the F-117 belongs here, because it was the first operational jet fighter built with stealth technology. And you're right - one of them was shot down with a surface-to-air missile during the Balkans Conflict in the 1990s, but at least it was used during combat conditions. How many times have the MIGs been used in such rigorous conditions? (At any rate, I'll check out the MIGS and maybe I'll add one to this list. Later!...

Jim on February 24, 2019:

How about the Horten ho 229? Not many people know about it because it never entered service but it was an amazing aircraft all the same. It was the first flying wing jet bomber created and the design helped to later on create the B-2 which the military uses to this day and will likely continue to use as you said.

Sean on February 01, 2019:

How about the supermarine spitfire, America would not have been able to exert superiority if britian fell. Anyway the spitfire and p51 were equally great, the 109 was better, look up eric hartman plane kill numbers.

StarPilot on January 17, 2019:

Where is the F14 and F15?

Joe Kack on April 07, 2018:

How about the Boeing 707 or the P-3 Orion or the F-4 Phantom or the F-4U Corsair or the F-6 Hellcat, or the Boeing 727 or the DC-9. BTW: The ME-262 was pretty much a failure.

Robert Sacchi on April 03, 2018:

I enjoyed reading this article. It is a good list of innovative aircraft. Keep in mind with the Me 262 that the Me 163 was about 50 mph faster.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 19, 2018:

According to Wikipedia, the ME-262 was introduced about three months before the Gloster Meteor and was also a better fighter.

Kosmo Kelley on January 19, 2018:

Hey, Mike Burton, according to various sources, the P51 Mustang, also updated regularly, was the best prop-driven fighter developed during WWII. Also, I'll check to see if the Meteor was operational before the ME262. Thanks for the comment!

Mike Burton on January 19, 2018:

I know this list is just personal opinion but no Spitfire! Honestly? It did so much more than just win the Battle of Britain. It was constantly updated and was always faster than the equivalent P51. It was one of the best dog fighters as well as being the best looking aircraft of all time (sorry for that last bit - personal bias showing through)

Also, the ME262 wasn't the first operational jet fighter. The Meteor beat it to squadron service by 4 weeks. FWIW , the Meteor broke the world speed record in Nov. 1945 with a speed of 606mph.

Mike on December 31, 2017:

My vote is the U2. Maybe this aircraft has prevented WWIII, at least so far. Because of the overflights of the Soviet Union and the recon of Cuba in 1962 we removed some fog of war and that power saved us AND Russia (and maybe everyone else). The Cold War is still with us and so is the U2.

Jake on August 21, 2017:

Where is the spitfire!!!!

Dave on August 04, 2017:

Cant.believe the C130 is not included.

Hellsvien on February 08, 2017:

Where is the 747? The biggest and the best airliner for many years? What about the 777?

Aakabkan on December 03, 2016:

I would have included Junkers F13, the world's first all-metal transport Aircraft.

Paul on April 04, 2016:

How can Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Harrier not be on this list!?!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 12, 2014:

Hey, islandangler, thanks for the comment. The Spitfire has gotten some votes for this list; after all, it helped win the Battle of Britain, but I've got enough WWII-era fighters on this list. Later!

Simon John Attard from Malta on December 11, 2014:

Determinately got to add a Spitfire to that list :) Nice hub!

judson951 on December 01, 2013:

not even a mention of the superb spitfire?

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 06, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, Coolpapa. I'll have to check out your hub about this 707, a plane designed to be incapable of stalling. Later!

Coolpapa from Florida on September 05, 2013:

Great Hub but everyone gets off on all the big military machines and forgets the pioneers who designed and built the little planes. The Ercoupe is a good example, the only airplane designed to be incapable of stalling. This little two-seater was actually used to train the first 707 pilots who had to learn to land without lowering a wing. It was truly a landmark machine in the timeline of aviation. for anyone interested, I have a hub on this little beauty.....

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 19, 2013:

You're right, Wiskees, the C-130 would be a good choice for this list, but I like my picks just fine. Later!

Wiskees on January 19, 2013:

How in the world could you have missed the C-130. I might have even given it the #1 spot.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 11, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Randy Godwin. I really enjoy hearing from someone who has flown in a P-51! Of course, the Mustang could have been put on this list. It won the war, didn't it? Well, a lot did. My metal shop teacher said steel won it. Also, you gotta love the DC-3. Later!

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on January 11, 2012:

Having flown in a P-51 two seater model piloted by a WWII fighter and test pilot I can attest to the superiority above any other prop driven airplane. I also flew with the same pilot on a DC-3 and had the honor of being allowed to take the controls on both.

But my biggest thrill was flying in a former Russian Yak with my cousin and going through the complete list of aerobatic maneuvers. I wrote a hub about this last aircraft called: Why Do They Call It A Yak? LOL!

Enjoyed the read!


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 11, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, RT. You have some quality information to offer. You're right about the Me 262; its engines only lasted about 25 hours, and that's when the pilots were nice to them! Apparently the British design was better. Nevertheless, it was the first operation jet. Hey, wouldn't you like to own one? As for the Me 109, the engineers were constantly improving it. Later!

RT on January 10, 2012:


The B-52H would qualify in the combat arena somewhere, but more as an airframe than a single actual production aircraft. It has received more money in development and redevelopment than any other.

The Me 262, aka the messofshit. Remarkable aircraft, pure garbage for engines. (They ate themselves)

SR 71. Not an aircraft. A Kelly based contrivance that rewrote avionics as understood today. It wasn't a true aircraft but a gigantic multi-operation involving world wide alerts each time it went airborne. Flight distance to losses ratio is unrivaled.

F-117A Most unstable aircraft ever made. Cannot remain airborne without unprecedented amount of computer assistance. Described as a museum piece waiting to happen.

ME 109. Well made aircraft but way over-hyped. It achieved it's combat achievement records due to the fact there were so many built (over 33,000) and at the time Germany had exceptionally well trained pilots.

X-15 X, not a production aircraft. Separate category.

RT on January 10, 2012:

The criteria is missing. Best performance, longevity, reliability etc. The best airplane taking all factors into account was the DC-3, without any close rivals. This is based on the criteria of longevity which takes into account more factors than specifics such as speed or performance. The DC-3's airframe was so solid and reliable it is being rebuilt and re-certified today. a feat no other aircraft can claim.

Second to the DC-3 is the 747 for similar criteria. It's service mileage is second to none. However, it's airframe must be scrapped as it cannot be feasibly rebuilt and returned to service.

The best combat related planes are, in no particular order, the Spitfire -20,000+ produced, the P-51 - 10,000+ and the Zero, based upon reliability and performance.

Always keep in mind when espousing a plane, the objectivity of those who promoted said aircraft. Political noise and personal preferences should never be allowed in judgment criteria.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 28, 2011:

Thanks for the comment, TheodoreOctavian, the DC-3 is perhaps the greatest commercial airplane of all time. I'd like to own one. Wouldn't you? Later!

TheodoreOctavian on December 28, 2011:

informative hub kosmo...the DC - 3 was the workhorse of it's time...truly revolutionized commercial air travel

Reinaldo Barros on December 25, 2011:

lol! Are you kidding friend?

Learn with me:

PA-11 CUB SPECIAL- The Ultimate Flying Machine!

John on October 06, 2011:

this site is helping me on my reasherch paper. THAKE YOU!!!!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 21, 2011:

No problem, Johnny boy, lists are made for having fun and generating lively debate. Later!

Johnny boy on May 21, 2011:

First of all, I heartily apologize if I offended you. You know, you can always ammend the list. Or, even gooder, concoct "the other ten." Anyway, you're cool.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 13, 2011:

Right, Johnny boy, the C-130 is another great plane. Put it on your list. Cool? Later!

Johnny boy on May 13, 2011:

Just a second here. Why is the C-130 Hercules mysteriously absent here? As far as successful airplanes go, I'd have ta rank it at #1. Flown by over 60 countries worldwide, In production for more than 50 yrs, and still produced. What's wrong with you people?

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 22, 2011:

Hey, I'll admit I'm not exactly an expert on aircraft; I'm more of an enthusiast, you know? Anyway, this list was fun to make and not meant to be comprehensive in any way. But if you don't say best or greatest this or that, many people won't read the list. Nevertheless, most of these planes have their numerous fans, especially the DC-3 and the Blackbird. Later!

Peter on April 22, 2011:

I'm surprised that the Spitfire did not get in here with the German fighters it was up against. Both the ME-109 and ME-262 got a mention but not the legendary Spitfire, or any British fighter of WW2 for that matter. Not plugging for the British here, just thinking the list is unbalanced. And while the wonderful DC-3 Dakota is listed, others like the Concorde and X-15 could have been dumped in favour of other contenders if the list was going to be limited to just 10 aircraft. There's a difference between "greatest" - the best known, fastest, most successful, most useful, most life saving and most legendary, and the "most revolutionary" such as Concorde and the "most experimental", such as the X-15. I could name enough "best airplanes" to delete at least half the list here - Sopwith Camel, Catalina and Meteor just to name a few. But your enthusiasm and effort is appreciated just the same.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 28, 2010:

Yeah, Mike, the Spitfire helped win the Battle of Britain, so it was a very good fighter. Of course, there were many others during WWII. Thanks for the comment. Later!

Mike on November 28, 2010:

During WW2, The sound of a merlin engine in the legendary Supermarine Spitfire struck fear into the German frontline, Powerful and fast, It is loved by the British(Myself included) and other alled countries, It gets my vote every time.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 18, 2010:

Thanks for your comments, Kurt. Keep in mind, of course the P51 was better than the Zero or the ME109, but it was produced years after those two. Get it? After. Moreover, a rocket plane is still an airplane. Hey, maybe I should just forget this whole list and show the F22 Raptor?!... I almost did. I also indicated that the list was in no particular order. Later!

kurt on September 18, 2010:

Here are a few you forgot and some that shud be lost...747 which changed the way we all fly...same could be said for it's earlier brother the 707. What about the F15? Deadliest air superiority fighter to date in real combat. The X15 is more rocket than airplane....the Zero and BF109 both were inferior compared to the P51, Spitfire, F6F, and Corsair. Overall not a bad list though as I have the SR71#1, the DC3#2, the 747#3, the F15#4 and the P51#5 with the B52 a close 6th. Longevity means something!

Manpreet Prince Singh from Sacramento, CA on November 29, 2009:

Nice job here Kosmo. Here check out my comparison between Globemaster (C-17) and Galaxy C-5. I am sure you would love it:

Duchess OBlunt on August 28, 2009:

I would just like to put in a plug here for Canada. The Avro Arrow was for Canada a benchmark in aerospace achievement.

She was the fastest interceptor and most maneuverable plane of her time, with a maximum speed of mach 2. (1953-1960).

Canada could have been one of the front runners in the world in military aviation development, but they destroyed them all and all the plans. I still have not found a reasonable explanation for that. It remains a mystery.

tony0724 from san diego calif on August 18, 2009:

Kosmo thank you for a truly educational hub . I love those stealth fighters In particular . And we always gotta give a shout out to Wilbur and Orville ! Good job