The way I understand it, this particular meme was pretty spontaneous. The esteemed Kim du Toit called for favorite automobiles but NRAhab modified it to be airplanes instead.
Kim's original criteria was "Most Beautiful Cars," and he specifically asked that entrants NOT give reasons why a particular marque or model was chosen. Very good, and I think Kim started a worthy project. With Ahab's changeover to airplanes, though, bloggers and commenters alike make free to give their reasons. I kinda like that. Anyhow, I've seen posts from several other bloggers, most specifically Tamara and Matt and I am shamelessly following their lead.
Top five only? These are difficult choices, including ALL types of aircraft - - ALL the warbirds, bombers, fighters, transports, trainers, and then some really beautiful commercial aviation and private planes - - Like Matt's choices, mine are subject to change, according to what I've been reading or viewing lately.
5. Douglas A-26/B-26 Invader.
This beautiful and deadly attack aircraft was the cause of some minor confusion. First flown in 1942 as a light attack bomber, while the Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber was still in service. By 1948, when the USAF renamed the Invader as B26, the Martins were long out of service. This aircraft served through WWII, Korea, and in Vietnam. It was also a would-be feature player in the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The majority of the later versions had the solid "gun nose" replaced with a Plexiglas enclosure and a bombardier position.
4. F-86 Sabre.
The Sabre was America's entry into the true jet fighter field. Preceded by a couple of others, this plane had speed, maneuverability, endurance, and handling to cope with the MiG 15 over Korea. It had clean lines, the graceful swept wing, and with external drop tanks, and the range to take the fight to the enemy.
3.. Douglas DC-3.
The DC-3, aka C-47 Skytrain, R4D, Dakota, etc. THE definitive airliner from roll out in 1935 through the 1940s. Even with the advent of the four engined Douglas airliners, it served smaller carriers well into the 1960s. There are some who say that the allies could not have won World War II without this aircraft. Perhaps the C-47's single most famous role was dropping paratroopers into Normandy on the night of 5--6 June 1944.
2. Supermarine Spitfire.
All of 'em are beautiful, but I'd probably choose the MK II or MK IX version. Let's be honest: The Hawker Hurricane made a more substantial contribution to winning the Battle Of Britain in 1940 than the Spitfire. And there were later, better fighters in WWII, but none to equal the sheer beauty of that elliptical wing. Oh, yes, speed and roll rate were improved with the later, clipped-wingtip marks, but they lost something . . . .
1. North American P51 Mustang.
Working to fill orders for Britain, the engineering and drafting staffs at North American Aviation outdid themselves. The first prototype Mustang flew in less than six months after the initial order was placed. The original Allison-powered design, while much faster than the Spitfire, was disappointing above 15,000 feet. An inspired scheme hatched by the Royal Air Force led to installation of a Rolls Royce Merlin 61 engine. The initial prototypes of this hybrid flew at 433 mph at 22,000 ft, and could reach 40,000 ft. This performance, coupled with the relatively lightweight airframe, allowed the "Little Friends" to escort the US heavy bombers deep into Germany, hastening the end of the European War.
Well, those are my choices, and I'll stick with 'em. At least for today. I'd like to read about yours.