Thursday, February 2, 2012

Famous Airplanes and their Names

As I reflected upon Sunday's visit to the Air and Space museum, it occurred to me that there are some very famous named aircraft which have made a significant mark upon history.

Often, I think in terms of series of aircraft--like the Boeing 707, the first successful jet passenger plane (the actual first jet passenger plane was the Comet); or a call sign, like Air Force 1; but there are some individual aircraft which were named and their names are a significant part of history and they need to be remembered.



Of course, one of these most famous named aircraft is on display at the museum and that would be the Enola Gay, a B-29. The Enola Gay is remembered for dropping an atomic bomb which caused wide spread devastation in Japan that hastened the end of WW2 in the Pacific and likely saved millions of American AND Japanese lives.

There are other named aircraft that I am familiar with, like the Pride of the Adirondacks, a B-47 bomber which used to grace the main gate at Plattsburgh AFB in northern New York. But that aircraft is not famous for doing anything other than being lucky enough not to be scrapped and being relegated to standing guard over a now closed Strategic Air Command installation.

As I thought about the names of famous aircraft, I was surprised by the relatively short list of less than 10 that I discovered.I wrestled with the number 1 position, but in the end had to succumb to the pressure that it was the aircraft which reliably ushered in the air age over 100 years ago. So here are my top named famous aircraft--in my personal order of precedence.

1. The Wright Flyer - the airplane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright,

2. Enola Gay. Nuff said!

3. Spirit of St Louis - which Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic.

4. Voyager - the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.

5. Memphis Belle - the first B-17F to complete 25 combat missions over Germany during WW2. And it was a good movie, too.

6. Glamorous Glenn III - The Bell Aircraft Company Model X-1 that Charles Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound in 1947.

7. Spruce Goose - the airplane built of wood by Howard Hughes which was the largest aircraft of its time. Sadly, it only flew once, but it is a tribute to the power of thought and achievement. I'm not sure why this aircraft is so famous other that it is a relic to a genius who eventually lost himself.

So there they are--100 years and only seven named famous aircraft. But history, nonetheless.

I guess I have three additional spots--and there are some other's out there but somehow their comparison's pale to those on the list.


-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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