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Survey: Ten Best US-made Aircraft

Steve Pace

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I'm trying to come up with the ten best aircraft made in America - that made a real difference. So far I have the DC-3, B-29, X-1, 367-80 (707 prototype), X-15, and A-12. Your opions please.
 

Stargazer2006

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By "best", do you imply "most produced", "most influential", "best performing", "most enduring", "most popular"? I think there should be separate categories. There should also be separate "pre-war" and "general aviation series", otherwise it would not be fair to them...

My personal list of U.S. major post-war, non-general aviation aircraft (as in "most influential", not necessarily my favorite) would look something like the following (well I couldn't bring it down to ten, but at least they are suggestions you can pick from):

Bell X-1
Bell 47
Bell 204 / 205 / 212 Iroquois / Huey family
Boeing 367-80 / 707 / 717 family
Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet
Boeing Vertol H-47 Chinook
Consolidated PBY Catalina
Convair B-36 Peacemaker
Curtiss Hawk 75 series
Douglas DC-3 series
Fairchild 24 Forwarder / Argus series
Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II
Ford 4-AT / 5-AT Trimotor
General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Grumman F-14 Tomcat
Grumman G-64/G-111 Albatross
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Lockheed F-80 / T-33 Shooting Star series
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
Lockheed A-12 / M-21 / F-12 / SR-71 Blackbird series
Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk
Lockheed U-2 Angel / Dragon Lady series
Lockheed Constellation series
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
North American OV-10 Bronco
North American X-15
North American F-86 Sabre
North American P-51 Mustang
North American F-100 Super Sabre
North American NA-16 / T-6 family
Northrop N-156 / T-38 / F-5 / F-20 series
Northrop B-2 Spirit
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
Republic F-84 Thunderjet / Thunderstreak / Thunderflash series
Sikorsky VS-300 / VS-316 / R-4 / R-6 series
Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk / Seahawk series
Stearman PT-13 / PT-17 Kaydet
Vought F-8 Crusader


So many others... I'll do another list of my favorite some time... and another one of the most appealing designs... and there'll be little in common between all these lists!
 

Steve Pace

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Most influential in the first 100 years of flight (17 December 1903 to 17 December 2003). I forgot to list the 1903 Wright Flyer.
 

Stargazer2006

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"Influential" is in itself quite misleading if you think of it... Take the Hughes H-4 "Hercules"... It was a one-off, but it captured the imagination of millions! Look at the Dyna-Soar... it was never ever built yet it was a major influence on 1960s popular culture! Take the Curtiss H-1 "America"... no-one remembers it, yet it spawned most of the major flying-boat designs in the US, Russia or England for the next two decades! So you see, it's not as evident as it seems, because I'm sure no-one would list these in their Top Ten list.
 

mz

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Influential in aviation:
Wright Flyer
Boeing Monomail
B-47

Successful commercially:
DC-3
Boeing 707
Boeing 737

Important in war / geopolitics:
F6F Hellcat
P-51 Mustang
F-16 Falcon

Special category:
F-117 Nighthawk

Far too short a list.

Scores by manufacturer:
Boeing 4
Douglas 1
NA 1
Grumman 1
Lockheed 1
GD 1
Wright 1
 

SOC

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Let's see...most influential...

Wright Flyer...duh.
X-1...broke the sound barrier.
A-12...ended the Cold War (ask me to explain that some time).
707...enter the jet age for air travel, and a ton of significant military variants, not the least of which is the KC-135.
747...revolutionized air travel.
B-29...hello, strategic bombardment. Oh yeah and some nuke thing.
F-4...vet of countless wars, still serving around the world.

You could come up with a ton of planes for the remaining three spots, but I think you have to include those at the very least.
 

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I do not see the Lockheed P-38 Lightning listed. From what I remember reading, I think in the book Kelly, The first plane to experience compressibility in a dive.
 

Stargazer2006

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An obvious omission. Thanks for reminding us! I think Lockheed alone has contributed more essential and/or significant aircraft (Vega, Electra, Lightning, Constellation, U-2, Blackbird, Nighthawk...) than many of the other companies combined!
 

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The F-86 was a pretty classic design, and also fairly influential - not least in that many items from it were reverse engineered in Russia from Korean war captures (e.g, gunsight) and formed the basis for future developments there. In fact, some of the core Sukhoi engineers had worked on reverse engineering the F-86 for production under V. V. Kondratyev before Stalin's death and the rather roomy, well-engineered cockpits of Sukhoi designs compared to the MiGs owes a fair bit (IMHO) to this experience.
 

Steve Pace

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I appreciate your inputs. I've finalized my list:

1903 Wright Flyer
Douglas DC-3
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Bell X-1
Boeing Model 367-80
North American X-15
Lockheed A-12
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
Boeing 747
Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey
 

Steve Pace

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A magazine article for Flight Journal magazine to which I'm a contributing editor.
 

Stargazer2006

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Good list, but I find the C-5 Galaxy's being there quite disputable, especially considering that the F-117 had a much greater impact! Also the XV-15 would have been more logical a choice than the V-22, and it also spawned other tilt-rotor designs such as the Bell-Agusta 609.
 

mz

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I think the B-47 is underappreciated. It looked completely different from everything before then with swept wings and podded engines, yet almost everything in aviation that humans nowadays have personal touch with - every airliner - is almost exactly like it. Dash eight was only a small refinement from there on.
 

Abraham Gubler

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XB-70 Guy said:
I appreciate your inputs. I've finalized my list:

1903 Wright Flyer
Douglas DC-3
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Bell X-1
Boeing Model 367-80
North American X-15
Lockheed A-12
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
Boeing 747
Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey

I think this list is typically written from the perspective of the later part of the 20th century and high performance aircraft. I mean the Osprey? What the hell has it ever done… Yet the aircraft that transformed aviation from a hobbyist pursuit to a mass industry between the wars, had mass effect and some of those that made real history turning points aren’t even represented.

I would cut the V-22, C-5, X-1, X-15 and DC-3 from that list (the DC-3 is just a jazzed up DC-2 and it trwas just a copy of the Boeing 247). And add:

Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” that trained pretty much the entire first mass crop of American aircraft pilots turning aviation from a rarity into an industry.

Boeing 247 the first aircraft with all-metal semi-monocoque construction, fully cantilevered wing, retractable landing gear, control surface trim tabs, autopilot and de-icing boots for the wings and tailplane. Pretty much every aircraft since has been based on it.

Douglas SBD Dauntless because it defeated the Japanese carrier force in the Pacific destroying their offensive capability enabling the allies to win that war.

Bell UH-1 Huey: VietNam (‘nuff said).

And finally the Cessna 172 which at 43,000 built has made flying as a civil activity – rather than a service – accessible to more Americans than any other plane.

My Top 10 being:

Wright Flyer
Curtiss Jenny
Boeing 247
Douglas Dauntless
Boeing B-29
Boeing 707
Cessna 172
Bell Huey
Boeing 747
 

Stargazer2006

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Nice list! The Cessna 172 is the very reason why I said there ought to be a separate list for general aviation, because in my opinion, aircraft like the Beechcraft Bonanza, Cessna 150/172, Aeronca Champion or Piper Cub have contributed a major part to U.S. aviation history. A few comments on Mr. Gubler's list:

- I pretty much agree with your assessment of the V-22. What has it done, indeed? That's why I thought the Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk (H-60) was a more representative rotorcraft which has been the backbone of rotorcraft in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The Huey was also in my list, a milestone if ever there was one, and a type that spans five decades in all its versions!

- The Jenny is an excellent addition, and the Curtiss buff in me hates himself for overlooking it! Both as a war aircraft and as a barnstormer, it probably captured the imagination of the post-WW1 generation more than any other airplane.

- I am surprised, however, that you should not consider the Bell X-1 as a major milestone, but well, it's your choice! Perhaps you'd see the Airacomet, Shooting Star or Sabre as more important in taking the US into the jet age?

- Why the B-29 and not the B-17? (or the XB-15 for that matter, the initial "Flying Fortress" that set the pace for all large bombers to come).

- The SBD was a potent aircraft, so was the Helldiver... but certainly the P-40 or the P-51 were greater milestones of WW2.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Stargazer2006 said:
- I am surprised, however, that you should not consider the Bell X-1 as a major milestone, but well, it's your choice! Perhaps you'd see the Airacomet, Shooting Star or Sabre as more important in taking the US into the jet age?

Sure it was a major milestone but was it that influential? The X-1 was rocket powered, not many rocket powered aircraft flying these days or back then. It may have been the first supersonic aircraft but it didn’t achieve it via anything other than thrust to weight ratio. Which is also why I didn’t think the X-15 merited top 10 status. Both were impressive achievements and provided important data about supersonic conditions but neither resulted in major trends in aviation.

Stargazer2006 said:
- - Why the B-29 and not the B-17? (or the XB-15 for that matter, the initial "Flying Fortress" that set the pace for all large bombers to come).

The B-29 dropped the A-Bomb (pretty damn significant by itself) and was the first aircraft to really destroy a nation (fire bombing of Japan) it also advanced the aviation state of art particularly in cabin pressurisation and mass endurance flying (without which no modern airliners). The B-17 may have dropped a lot of bombs but it didn’t win any campaigns or inflict any turning points on the enemy. As an aircraft it wasn’t a first but rather an evolution form previous bombers and airliners.

Stargazer2006 said:
- - The SBD was a potent aircraft, so was the Helldiver... but certainly the P-40 or the P-51 were greater milestones of WW2.

Unlike the Helldiver, P-40 or P-51 the Dauntless was aircraft that dropped the bombs that destroyed the Japanese carrier force that had previously being defeating everyone else. If the US Navy did not have the Dauntless – say just an RN type air wing of fighters and torpedo bombers – then the Japanese would have won the battles of Coral Sea and Midway and maintained naval supremacy until at least 1944. This would have been hugely significant for the outcome of WW2.

While the P-40 was the fighter at the crucial time that could hold its own against the Zero it didn’t win any significant victories or turn any campaigns. Its most crucial use was by the RAAF over Port Moresby and Milne Bay in 1942. Arguably those fights wouldn’t have resulted in different outcomes if the P-40 wasn’t available and a less effective fighter had to be used (Buffalo or Wirraway).

The Helldiver and P-51 (and many other contemporary famous aircraft) were not significant to the outcome of WW2. They just showed up after the Germans and Japanese were defeated and grabbed all the glory as their defensive forces were rolled back and destroyed.
 

SOC

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XB-70 Guy said:
I appreciate your inputs. I've finalized my list:

1903 Wright Flyer
Douglas DC-3
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Bell X-1
Boeing Model 367-80
North American X-15
Lockheed A-12
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
Boeing 747
Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey

I don't get the C-5 or CV-22. The Osprey didn't really become truly viable until after 2003 anyway. The C-5? You could make a better argument for the C-141 or C-130. The X-15 I get, it paved the way for a lot of research into what eventually led to the Space Shuttle. If it was me, and I know this is all subjective anyway, I'd drop the C-5 for the F-4 (perhaps the first real multi-role fighter, a BVR shooter that could fling PGMs at you and then mix it up in a knife fight), but nothing to replace the Osprey instantly springs to mind. I know it was a custom job, but what about Lindbergh's plane? Proved the viability of transoceanic air travel.
 

Triton

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It's really tough to pick only ten aircraft from the first 100 years of aviation.

My Top Ten

Curtiss Jenny
Boeing 314 Clipper
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Boeing B-29
Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw/S-55
North American F-86 Sabre
Boeing 707
Cessna 172
Bell UH-1 Iroquois
Boeing 747
 

Abraham Gubler

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SOC said:
If it was me, and I know this is all subjective anyway, I'd drop the C-5 for the F-4 (perhaps the first real multi-role fighter, a BVR shooter that could fling PGMs at you and then mix it up in a knife fight),

That’s a very good point. Since my version of the list only had nine aircraft I’ll add the F-4. The first real multi-role, systems based strike fighter. It also had pretty significant effect on world events in its actions.

SOC said:
If The X-15 I get, it paved the way for a lot of research into what eventually led to the Space Shuttle.

Which indicates to me that the X-15 is really more space craft than airplane so perhaps not for this list?
 

Steve Pace

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Triton said:
It's really tough to pick only ten aircraft from the first 100 years of aviation.

My Top Ten

Curtiss Jenny
Boeing 314 Clipper
Douglas SPD Dauntless
Boeing B-29
Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw/S-55
North American F-86 Sabre
Boeing 707
Cessna 172
Bell UH-1 Iroquois
Boeing 747
typo: SBD Dauntless - great inputs guys!
 

Abraham Gubler

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Triton said:
It's really tough to pick only ten aircraft from the first 100 years of aviation.

My Top Ten

Triton how can you have a top ten most influential American aircraft without the very first aircraft! Its like listing a top ten monotheistic religious figures without mentioning ‘god’.
 

Triton

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Abraham Gubler said:
Triton how can you have a top ten most influential American aircraft without the very first aircraft! Its like listing a top ten monotheistic religious figures without mentioning ‘god’.

I excluded research aircraft from my list of "Ten Best US-made Aircraft" and instead wanted to focus on aircraft that offered utility. If it is a list of the ten most influential American aircraft, then surely the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 should be included.

What do you think about the Boeing 314 Clipper and/or the Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw/S-55 being on my top ten list?
 

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While I'm not going to attempt a complete list of ten, I'd like to add my vote to Stargazer2006's for the North American NA-16 / T-6 Family. I seem to recall reading a comment somewhere that it taught the Free World how to fly. Exaggeration? Maybe, but look at how many nations used it and how long it was in service with them.

And they still make an impression to this day. Members of this family can still command attention when they make low passes over Creve Coeur Airport.

Mike
 

Abraham Gubler

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The Artist said:
North American NA-16 / T-6 Family

It was also the basis of the Swedish and Australian aerospace industries. Have a guess which country made the most out of it...
 

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XB-70 Guy said:
Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey

It's hard for me to say at this point if the V-22 will be influential. It may be years before the historians can authoritatively say whether its operational advantages outweigh its maintenance difficulties and perceived safety problems. Aside from Bell-Boeing and Agusta-Westland, it doesn't seem like the tiltrotor concept is catching on with any vendors.
 

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In terms of historical impact, my top ten would include:

Wright Flyer (for obvious reasons)
Spirit of St. Louis (obvious reasons)
DC-3 (made air travel commercially viable; also enabled WWII airlift and troop drops)
B-17 (first four-engine bomber, opened the door for bigger and heavier long-range bombers)
P-51 (established air superiority over ETO, and set the stage for American dominance of the fighter market)
B367-80 (prototype for first commercially-successful jetliner; I'm tempted to nominate B-47 instead since most of 367-80's innovations were pioneered on the Stratojet)
P-80 (first US jet fighter)
B-52 (icon of the cold war and soldiering on into Operation Desert Storm & beyond)
F-4 (marked new trend of increasing complexity in fighter aircraft & avionics design)
C-141 (first jet aircraft designed specifically for large cargoes, and paved the way for C-5 and C-17. Enabled strategic airlift that was utilized in Vietnam and all subsequent conflicts.)
 

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CFE said:
P-80 (first US jet fighter)
You should have added "operational" to this description... Quite obviously, the first US jet fighter was the Bell Airacomet, and let's not forget that Lockheed got the P-80 contract originally as a development of the Bell XP-59B project, so the Bell was more influential.

All of this very interesting (if sometimes frustrating thread) goes to show that it is virtually impossible to agree on 10 aircraft since the criteria will change depending on who elects them and on what basis. "10 Best" is as vague as can be...
 

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Did you forget the A-10 ? :eek: :eek: :eek: ??? :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:

Still on the deck !

the "things"

Was the only US military program with no extra cost ?
 

Steve Pace

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"More's the pity." It's difficult in the truest sense of that word!
 

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How about the Spirit of Saint Louis? First non-stop Transatlantic flight

Edit after posting - Sorry CFE didn't notice that you submit it.
 

Steve Pace

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I think I'll shoot for 25 instead of ten. A broader brush so to speak.
 

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Instead of 25, maybe it'd be easier to do two top 10s, one civil and one military? Or one pre-1950 and one jet age?
 

Abraham Gubler

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XB-70 Guy said:
I think I'll shoot for 25 instead of ten. A broader brush so to speak.

Perhaps the best result of asking for input - top 10 should be top 25!

But perhaps as SOC suggests the 'top' category should be split. But I would suggest rather than a military-civil or timeline split a split along the lines of technology and effect. So a top 10 American aircraft that pioneered technology and design, ie advanced the state of aircrafft art, and a top 10 American aircraft for their effect on society, world events, etc.

That way you can even string out a series of articles over a couple of editions. Even have a Top 10 best looking American aircraft, Top 10 less known but important American aircraft, Top 10 international Aircraft that had effect on American aviation and of course Top 10 American aircraft that never entered production...

People love lists...
 

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"top 10 American aircraft that pioneered technology and design"

Also known as Lockheed's resume ;D
 

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SOC said:
"top 10 American aircraft that pioneered technology and design"

Also known as Lockheed's resume ;D

North American / Rockwell wasn't too shabby either.

X-15
XB-70
XF-108
B-1
Space Shuttle
 

SOC

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XF-108 and B-1 didn't really pioneer anything.

Lockheed wins, hands down. Their marketing slogan should be: "Lockheed Martin. Because our resume makes you cry."
 

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Gannet said:
How about the Spirit of Saint Louis? First non-stop Transatlantic flight

Edit after posting - Sorry CFE didn't notice that you submit it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Vimy
 

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mz said:
Gannet said:
How about the Spirit of Saint Louis? First non-stop Transatlantic flight

Edit after posting - Sorry CFE didn't notice that you submit it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Vimy

True that Alcock & Brown did it first, but the list is limited to American aircraft. Once we open the debate up to the top ten airplanes around the world, we'll be in for a major slugfest :)
 
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