11 Civil Aircraft  Douglas DC-3 


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Few aircraft can claim to have revolutionised air travel, but the Douglas DC-3 is one of them. Indeed, some would argue that it was the most significant aircraft ever to fly.

In the US its range and cruising speed brought down the time of transcontinental travel to as little as 15h in the late 1930s.

Worldwide after the Second World War, the conversion of thousands of surplus C-47 military versions to airliners allowed airlines to replenish their fleets.

A measure of its success was that for three decades after1945, airframe designers and manufacturers around the world struggled to create what became the almost mythical ‘DC-3 replacement’. Some fine designs emerged, but none that could quite match the reliability, ruggedness and economics of the DC-3.

12 Civil Aircraft   Airbus A380


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Europe’s planned successor to the Boeing 747, which has monopolised its segment of the market for the past 35 years.

Perhaps it was inevitable that a project of the A380’s scale would hit squalls on its route through development. The aircraft’s wiring problems, together with the resultant delivery delays and shockwaves created in the Airbus management structure have not been the happiest start to the programme.

First deliveries to customers are now underway and passenger reaction has been good, however. Airbus makes much play of the ‘green’ aspects of its new aircraft, from using marine transport to move major components around Europe to a 17% reduction in fuel compared to competitors.

The A380 rounds out the Airbus family and the company is convinced that a new ultra-large aircraft plying between the world’s major hubs is the way to go.

13 Moment:   Yuri Gagarin – first manned space flight 


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Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin wrote himself into history in the course of 108 minutes on 12 April 1961 when his capsule, Vostok 1, became the first manned object in space.

A carpenter’s son, Gagarin learned to fly at technical high school before entering military flight training in 1955, graduating from the Soviet Air Force’s Orenburg flight academy with high distinction.

Interested in space from childhood, he also had the self-confidence and determination to put himself forward for cosmonaut training in 1960 with just 230 hours’ flight time in his logbook.

Gagarin became a front-runner in the small group of prospective cosmonauts through a combination of technical skill, unfailing determination and equally unfailing good humour, something noted by friends, colleagues and superiors

He was just 27 when he was launched in to space.

Feted worldwide on his return, his simple, affable approach to life won him much admiration. He died in a MiG-15 trainer accident in 1968.

14 Engine:  GE90


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The world’s most powerful aero-engine. Designed for the Boeing 777, the GE90 has a
10-stage high pressure compressor, was the first production engine to feature composite fan blades and develops a pressure ratio of 23:1, an industry record.

It is also the world’s largest engine in physical terms, with the -115B fan diameter measuring 3.25m (128in) – wider than the fuselage of early-model Boeing 737s.

The GE90 was initially certified at 84,700lbs (377kN). The latest GE90-115B produces 513kN of thrust and has been run for an hour under test conditions at 569kN. The engine’s swept, wide-chord fan blades achieve a higher air flow through the engine and produce more power, with lower fuel consumption.

15 Military Aircraft:  Lockheed C-130 Hercules


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Assault transport, psychological warfare aircraft, gunship, tanker, waterbomber…there are not many roles that the C-130 Hercules has not undertaken in its career.

It is now 54 years since the first flight of Lockheed’s tactical transport and the production line continues to roll, 2,300 examples on.

The Hercules’ configuration of high wing and upswept rear fuselage, with a ramp capable of being opened in flight to drop men or supplies, has become the norm for tactical transport aircraft ever since. The first of two prototypes made its maiden flight on 23 August 1954.

The first production aircraft flew on 7 April 1955, and delivery to Tactical Air Command units begin in December 1956. Assembly is carried out at the Lockheed plant in Marietta, Georgia.


16 Military Aircraft:  North American P-51 Mustang


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 Born out of an urgent British requirement for new fighter aircraft in 1940, the P-51 became one of the all-time great fighters.

Approached by the British Air Purchasing Commission to build Curtiss P-40s for the UK, North American’s president, James Kendelberger instead proposed a new design. The commission agreed, so long as a prototype was available in 120 days; the first XP-51 was available in 117.

With its laminar-flow wing and Allison V-1710-39 engine, the early P-51s were highly-rated for low- and medium-level roles such as ground attack and tactical reconnaissance.

When the airframe was matched with a Packard-built Merlin, however, a different beast emerged. This was equally adept at high-level work and became a formidable air-to-air performer.

Indeed, with almost 5,000 enemy aircraft destroyed the Mustang became the deadliest Allied fighter in the European theatre of operations.

17 Military Aircraft:  Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon


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Starting life as a relatively ‘cheap and cheerful’ day fighter designed to be sufficiently affordable to buy in quantity, the F-16 has matured into the West’s pre-eminent fourth-generation multi-role fighter, with more than 4,300 bought by 25 nations.

The F-16 grew out of the Lightweight Fighter programme of the early 1970s, which saw the General Dynamics YF-16 win a fly-off against the Northrop YF-17.

Expansion of the aircraft’s missions and capabilities began almost immediately after service entry and modern Block 50/52 and Block 60 aircraft are very different creatures from early F-16s.

Although due to be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from early in the next decade, Lockheed Martin is confident of several hundred further orders in the next few years.

18  Person:  Clarence L ‘Kelly’ Johnson  


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Determined from the age of 12 to create aircraft, Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson is acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest names in aviation design and management.

Within five years of joining the young Lockheed company in 1933, he had been appointed chief research engineer. A series of promotions after the Second World War saw him take charge in 1958 of Advanced Development Projects – the company’s famous ‘Skunk Works’.

In his career, Johnson was involved in the design of 40 new types, including the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft.

He put his success at maintaining the Skunk Works’ ultra-high levels of security down to minimising the numbers of staff and  reports on a project, as well as handing out small sections of the design to his staff, with only he having access to the overall picture.

19 Moment:  Concorde’s first flight 


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It was a mark of how Concorde had already caught the public’s imagination that her first flight merited a live television broadcast. Equally unusual was the degree of press interest in her maiden flight, with the Toulouse runway surrounded by hundreds of photographers and journalists.

The flight had already been postponed twice because of bad weather and the third planned attempt, on 2 March 1969, was also considered in doubt because of high winds.

At 3.40pm, however, chief test pilot André Turcat and co-pilot Jacques Guignard were able to open the throttles and Concorde 001, F-WTSS, took to the air for a 27-minute flight.

A spontaneous burst of applause from the watching spectators was drowned out by the roar of four Olympus 593s in full afterburner.

Relief could be heard in the voice of UK television commentator Raymond Baxter, himself a former pilot, as he said simply: “She flies.” Oh, how she flew.

20 Person:  Charles Lindbergh


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Charles Augustus Lindbergh became one of the world’s most famous men after he successfully completed the first solo transatlantic flight on 21 May, 1927.

Lindbergh had been consumed by an interest in transport since a child and dropped out of his engineering course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1922 in favour of learning to fly.

A period of barnstorming across the country improved his flying skills and he started to look to the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 challenge to the first person who could fly non-stop between New York and Paris.

Lindbergh undertook his transatlantic attempt in a specially-modified Ryan NYP Monoplane, staying awake for 33 hours before bringing the Spirit of St Louis in to a safe landing at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris.


100 Greatest

Top 10 | 11-20 | 21-50 | 51-100

Top 5s

Civil Aircraft | Military Aircraft | Person | Moment | Engine

Through the decades

Civil Aircraft | Military Aircraft | Person | Moment | Engine

Source: FlightGlobal.com