View Full Version : Most precedential airplanes of all time?

20th Feb 2010, 22:30
Question: For a magazine article I'm doing, I'm trying to pick the dozen (or so) most important airplanes of all time. I've listed my own candidates below, and welcome suggestions of others. I should point out that what I want to avoid are "inconsequential" firsts, at least inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Like "first turbocharged airplane," "first carrier-landing airplane," etc. Not that those advances are unimportant, but do remember that I am looking for the dozen MOST important advances.

Wright Model A, first practical airplane
Junkers J.1, first all-metal, first cantilever wing
Dayton-Wright RB-1, first retractable gear
Ryan Spirit of St. Louis, first major use of a truly reliable engine
DC-3, first practical and profitable airliner
Ercoupe, first production tricycle gear
Me-262, first true high-performance, combat-worthy jet fighter
Boeing Dash 80, first high-performance jet airliner (sorry, Comet fans...)
Caravelle, first short-haul jet airliner, first rear-mounted engines
Lear 23, first practical, high-performance bizjet
Windecker Eagle, first all-composite airplane
Lockheed SR-71, highest-performance airplane ever
Airbus A320 OR Vought F8 Crusader testbed, first true digital fly-by-wire airplane.

Also, I'd like to avoid choosing inconsequential airplanes that may by chance have been "first"--I'm sure some Dutchman, say, made a single airplane that made one flight in 1909 and had one retractable wheel, but those are curiosities, not trend setters.

Fire away.

India Four Two
21st Feb 2010, 01:27

A very interesting list. I think you should include the Akaflieg Stuttgart fs-24 Phönix (Deutsches Museum: Phönix (http://is.gd/8PGWo)) - the very first glass-fibre glider and therefore the ancestor of all composite aircraft flying today. 40:1 in 1957!

21st Feb 2010, 01:32
Noorduyn Norseman, the first bush plane with a heater that actually worked. :p
DHC-2 Beaver, the standard by which every other bush airplane is judged.
PBY-5A, the first water bomber that could deliver more water on a fire than would peeing on it. Figuratively speaking, of course. ;)

21st Feb 2010, 04:14
Hard to make such a list without at least mentioning the Vickers Vimy. First transatlantic flight, first to Australia, first to the Cape & first complete evacuation of a civilian population in Vernon guise (Kabul, Afganistan - some things never change).

I would also think the first all composite aircraft to have been the Mosquito.

21st Feb 2010, 10:12
Not sure how you can't include the Comet.

The first jet airliner into series production
The first to regularly carry fare paying passengers on schedule services

You might also consider that the work done after the Comet accidents on the fuselages in the water tanks contributed more to knowledge of pressurisation and skinning for high altitude passenger flights than that carried out anywhere else, to the benefit of the whole industry.

By contrast the Dash 80 was a one off prototype which proved a number of concepts leading to the success of the more developed C-135 and B707. Its other claim to fame was the famous roll.

Both aircraft, for different reasons, are worthy of inclusion.

You include the Caravelle for good reasons but, going back to the Comet, look at the amount of work done on the Comet that was included in the Caravelle - complete nose, pressurisation and window changes and Avon engines originally developed for the Comet

Where is Concorde? First airliner genuinely developed and built by more than one nation. First supersonic airliner to carry passengers on regular scheduled service.

Whilst for many reasons supersonic airliner development has ceased, if Concorde isn't included then the SR-71 should be deleted as there is no evidence of its further development, both aircraft downstreaming some technologies into the general industry rather than being launch platforms for development and advance from their starting point.

Your list is a little too US-centric. True, many of the major developments in aviation at all leveols have taken place in the US but, if your article is to stand up to scrutiny and be read by an international audience you need to spread your net wider.

21st Feb 2010, 11:20
Pietenpol, the real begining of the homebuilt movement, others, such as the "Flea" were there but the Piet, by dint of its simplicity and cheap powerplant {model A Ford} really got things going.

tail wheel
21st Feb 2010, 11:56
Richard Pearce's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pearse) powered monoplane which made the first successful controlled flight on 31 March 1903, nine months before the Wright bothers flight on December 17, 1903.

21st Feb 2010, 12:11
"Hard to make such a list without at least mentioning the Vickers Vimy. First transatlantic flight..."

I'm not looking for "firsts," There are a million of those. I'm looking for specific aircraft that had an enormous effect on the future of flight. The Me-262, for example, was far from the first, but it was the one that created the mold out of which came the MiG-15, the F-86 and for some years every other jet fighter of consequence.

Nor was the DC-3 "the first," that arguably would have been the Boeing 247. But the Doug Racer was the one that worked.

21st Feb 2010, 12:32
Well every aircraft listed on your original post is categorised by you as a "first".

Perhaps what you really mean is the type in its class, generation or design having most effect on the development of its particular role or the advancement of aviation in general.

I'd look again at your categorisation of the Spirit of St Louis. If the ability to power an aircraft over long distances is your criterion then the Rolls Royce Eagle VIII which powered the Vickers Vimy beats the Wright J-5C chronologically and in terms of extended operational service.

The Wright J-5C had built in features regarding lubrication and continuous operation. The J-5 engine series, not the aircraft or the one sub series, should be included as the progenitor of a range of Wright radial engines which powered a vast range of military and civil designs over four decades and which led other manufacturers to follow.

21st Feb 2010, 12:56

21st Feb 2010, 13:16
Yes, you're right, I had the P.1127 on my list, forgot to include it...

And it's hard to explain the concept of "consequential first," if you don't get it, and I guess I'm just not being clear enough about explaining it. For example yes, the Comet was the "first jet airliner," but the Dash 80/707 was arguably the "first jet airliner that established the pattern for jet airliners to come."

Of course the Comet-versus-707 thing could be argued forever, but maybe I should have described the aircraft I listed as "most important" and not "first."

21st Feb 2010, 13:32
I agree regarding the Comet v 707 debate going on forever but history shows that the Comet (and for that matter the Avro Canada C102) were the real airliners that set the pattern for airliners to come.

Both flew in the 1940s when US manufacturers were churning out the DC6, Constellation and Stratocruiser. Both jets had four engines, were pressurised for high altitude flight and were expected to be the initial models of long series production runs.

The fact that the Comet suffered tragedies and the Canadians bottled out doesn't change the facts.

The Dash 80 was initially built by Boeing as a proof of concept for the the bid for what eventually became the C135 and was only adapted to an airliner concept later. It followed the Comet and the Avro C102 in having four engines and being capable of high altitude flight.

It extended the thinking that had come out of the UK and Canada by offering a bigger payload and positioning the engines on pylons but Douglas and Convair, having also decided that passenger jets were the future, followed similar formats and, in fact Boeing widened their fuselage to compete with the DC8.

The fact is that the Dash 80 and Boeing benefitted from the Comet's downfall, learned from its failings and, with money earned from the C135 programme was able to fund the 707 and build them in great numbers quickly and well.

In that, then, it can be seen that the Dash 80 was a milestone along a pathway already trodden by others. Worthy of inclusion but not to the exception of the Comet.

Lightning Mate
21st Feb 2010, 13:42
True, many of the major developments in aviation at all leveols have taken place in the US but, if your article is to stand up to scrutiny and be read by an international audience you need to spread your net wider.

Couldn't agree more.

Does not the humble Lightning (not the P38) stand a chance then?

B Fraser
21st Feb 2010, 13:45
DH 121 Trident - the first full autoland capable airliner. Try selling one without it.

You fail to mention the first jet powered flight which is something of an omission. It changed the world forever. Whether it was the Germans or the Brits, I'll let others fight over that one.

The all moving tail which made the Mig 15 and the F86 possible was courtesy of Miles. How many aircraft use this concept today ?

I'm surprised at the inclusion of the Caravelle which is half a Comet with a French rear end.

If you are more interested in precedents than firsts the the first aircraft to be fitted with wheels is more significant that the Wright model A. Not only could it fly away, it could land, refuel and come back again.

The Boeing 747 brought cheap travel to the masses and could be argued to have made the biggest contribution of all.

Lockheed SR-71, highest-performance airplane ever

A rather spectacular and capable aircraft but not the fastest according to some.

21st Feb 2010, 14:54
Stepwilk....sounds like it will be a fascinating article. I fully appreciate you are not going particularly for "firsts" here, but rather those aircraft that have had the greatest impact on the industry...and no doubt you are limited by space! Anyway some thoughts, for what its worth:

Biz Jet...JetStar or Sabre?. Both preceeded the Learjet and although not produced in such huge quantities, they were produced in significant numbers, and several still survive today. In terms of opening up the biz jet market to the masses, arguably the Cessna Citation should take first place over the Lear?

Airliners....I would have thought that, as someone else has said, the 747 and Concorde must feature, and perhaps the likes of the Airbus A300, the first of the "big twins", which of course has spawned a long line of Airbus models, including todays A330. I wont get in to the Comet/707 argument...suffice to say the 707 proved itself in the world airline market.....however I would say that perhaps you should specify 707 as opposed to the -80?

On the light side, I would be tempted to include the Piper Cub or Cessna 172, if for no other reason than their contribution to private flying, and the numbers produced and length of production runs. The fact that Cubs were still selling in the 1980's speaks for itself!

Finally, on the military side, should the C-130 get a mention...still in production after 55 years!

Lightning Mate
21st Feb 2010, 15:27
Should you include the Hurricane - the real winner of the Battle of Britain.

Out-turned Das Spitfeur. I once had a couple of beers with Adolf Galland, who said that he feared the Hurricane because of its' turning performance. Nice big thick wing, as opposed to the fast, but poor turning performance Spitfeur.

How big is your list going to grow?

John Farley
21st Feb 2010, 15:28

I'm looking for specific aircraft that had an enormous effect on the future of flight

If you really are LITERALLY after these then I would suggest the list will be very short not long.

For example that would rule out the P1127/Harrier, the SR-71, the B-747 and many many others because they did not literally shape the future of flight and nor did the Wright flyer.

It would include the DC-3 because it showed the way for so many piston powered airliners.

It would include the B-47 because it was the aerodynamic prototype for so many jet airliners.

It would include the Concorde because that showed for the first time that faster was not always going to be better for passengers and that slower but cheaper worked.

It would include a helicopter (Could be Hanna Reitsch's Fa61 - in public night after night a year or so before Igor Sikorsky's success but his was to be the definitive configuration for many years)

The Ercoupe may have been the first light civil production aircraft to have a tricycle gear but surely that side of the future of flight was set by the first succesful aircraft to show the advantages of the trike?

Perhaps if you stick literally to my quote from you above then you will actually have a much less contentious task on your hands?

21st Feb 2010, 15:36
The Herc should certainly be there as, from the start, it has been the benchmark for reliable cargo and battlefield equipment delivery by air. It has had many imitators - none of which has matched its record.

You could also make a good case for the B737 series which started out as just another short/medium haul jet yet gave its operators the opportunity to rid themselves of piston engined and turboprop models, giving short haul passengers an experience previously reserved in the main for long haul passengers whilst offering greater capacity and higher profits; opened up new markets for charter carriers previously restricted to second hand airframes and was, in various forms, the start up equipment of choice for budget airlines all over the world.

As more 737s are in the air at any one time than any other type, it has had more effect than any other airliner in history on air travel, the fortunes of airlines and, strangely, on Airbus which just had to produce a rival and came up with an other standard setter.

21st Feb 2010, 17:09
Lear 23, first practical, high-performance bizjet

Actually it was the Lockheed Jetstar (C-140) that was the first business jet to enter production, the first civilian version was delivered in 1961. I flew the Lockheed Jet Star and while the Jetstar did not have the short runway performance* of the Lear 23, it could carry twice the load with twice the range of the Lear 23.

Next was the North American Sabre 40 (T-39), first civilian version was delivered in 1963. Having flown both the Sabre 40 and the Lear 23, the Sabre had much better performance than the Lear 23. Lear just had a better Public Relations program. The Sabre 40 was faster and had a much better range than the Lear 40, not to mention the cabin was much more comfortable than the Lear 23.

The first Lear 23 was delivered in 1964. However, what the Lear 23 had going for it was that it was a cheaper than the Sabre 40 and a whole lot cheaper than the Jetstar.

* The Jetstar loved long runways, the longer the better. I always had the suspicion that Lockheed had a contract with concrete manufactures to make sure all runways would be at 10,000 feet long. :p

Oh, one more thing, I always thought that the Jetstar and the Sabreliner are much nicer flying than the Lear. Not to mention the much larger cockpit in the Sabreliner and a lot larger cockpit in the Jetstar.

21st Feb 2010, 17:18
Early Lears had a reputation of being a bit of a beast to handle. Spectacular take off performance (having been derived from a Swiss fighter design) but the handling at altitude and in turbulence defeated a number of pilots at the cost of their and their passengers' lives.

By late 1973 25 Learjets of all models had been written off out of a total of 67 biz jet airframes (civil and military) written off up to that time.

21st Feb 2010, 17:41
Ju49, first pressurised cabin?

21st Feb 2010, 17:55
Having flown the Sabreliner and flown in the JetStar, I know perfectly well that they pre-dated the Lear, but that's an example of what I meant by "precedential" as opposed to "first." Regardless of their handling qualities or performance numbers, "Lear" became the prototypical business jet while the Sabre and JetStar slowly sank from sight.

It's sort of like saying that Chamberlin's Bellanca was actually a far better airplane than the Ryan SoSL.

21st Feb 2010, 18:11
...not trend setters.

Well, if you're looking for actual trendsetters, you left out one very important design, and in that design, and those that followed, the Brits excelled...
VISCOUNT, the first successful commercial turbopropellor type.

The Brits were very innovative, so give credit where credit is due...Comet versus 707 notwithstanding.:}

Yes, I've flown the Viscount, have to say, not a bad design...at all.
The boss sure liked it...Ray Charles.

21st Feb 2010, 18:22
I was behind you once at LGA,years ago, you were going VFR, short hop down toward DC, and I remember you--or somebody up front--told ground you were "eyeballs to Ball'emer."

21st Feb 2010, 18:42
..."eyeballs to Ball'emer."

That would be...Baltimore.:}

21st Feb 2010, 18:50
It's sort of like saying that Chamberlin's Bellanca was actually a far better airplane than the Ryan SoSL.

Not wanting to be argumentative, but, in my opinion the Jetstar and the Sabre 40 were better aircraft than the Lear 23, much better.

What made the Lear so successful was the price, much like the Cessna Citation 500 that was introduced years later. Also going along with your reasoning, the Lear Jet (irregardless of the series) became synonymous with 'Private Jet' to the public at large. When the general public think 'airliner' the 747 comes first most in their minds and when 'private jet' is mentioned the Lear Jet comes to mind.

So with that reasoning, I stand corrected and admit that the Lear 23 does fit the category you have established. At least a lot better than say the Jet Commander*.

Now on just a personal note. Did you ever fly a Lear 23 with the original fuel control panel? Now talk about mind boggling. Not to mention that to release the parking brake you had to push the anti-skid test button as well, found that out the hard way.

* Technically the latest version of the original Jet Commander is still in production as the G-200 (or whatever it is called now) by Gulfstream. They have the same fuselage as the original Jet Commander, just a bit longer now.

21st Feb 2010, 19:05
"That would be...Baltimore."

Uh, yeah, I know.

And my point about Chamberlin's Bellanca was that perhaps it _was_ a better airplane than the Ryan. But who other than aviation historians remembers it?

21st Feb 2010, 19:49
In fairness, you've an almost impossible task - large volumes have been published trying to cover the topic - and very few have had success in getting people to agree with the choices.

With regard to Ray Charles' Viscount, N22RC I believe, I saw and photographed it at Long Beach at Christmas 1984

21st Feb 2010, 20:31
How about the Boeing B-52?

Not many other bombers can carry 30 tonnes of bombs and have been in service over 50 years.

Flying Lawyer
21st Feb 2010, 21:24
I’m surprised you don’t include rotary flight.

Applying your criterion of 'specific aircraft that had an enormous effect on the future of flight' to helicopters:

The first fully controllable helicopter was the experimental Focke-Wulf Fw 61 (aka Fa61) but, as John Farley says, the Sikorsky VS-300 set the definitive configuration for many years - single main rotor with anti-torque tail rotor.

The Bell 47 was not only the first certified civil helicopter, but the first large volume production helicopter. More than 5600 were produced - civil and military models.

The Bell XV-3 wasn’t the first tilt-rotor to fly, but it was the aircraft that proved the tilt-rotor concept and gathered data needed for future designs, leading eventually to the first production tilt-rotor, the V-22 Osprey.

The Kaman K-225 was the first turbine powered helicopter, but the Alouette II was the first production turbine helicopter.

I think the Kaman QH-43 was the first UAV helicopter.

21st Feb 2010, 21:41
You're absolutely right, and it was my misteak to not include the Focke-Wulf, which was indeed on my list. (I was copying from an older list when I put down the selection at the beginning of this post.)

As a sometime helo pilot, I never intended to neglect the little dears.

21st Feb 2010, 21:50

to help with the selection, focus instead upon on the most significant technical steps forward, those that have driven forward the state of the aviation art. Then, identify which aircraft best exemplify those advances.
Often this will not be the earliest implementation. For example the C5A introduced a step change in airframe size together with the high BPR turbofan but it is the in the 747 that these same technical advances become significant.

Senior Pilot
21st Feb 2010, 22:04
Further to the lack of rotary recognition: the UH1 surely set the precedent of helicopter use in the battlefield?

21st Feb 2010, 22:08
Actually, that's what I tried to do--identify the advances and then pick the aircraft that drove them. And remember, space limits me to considering only the broadest, most important advances.

Here are the ones I thought I'd identified initially:

The "practical" airplane
All-metal airplane
Cantilever wing
Retractable landing gear
Truly reliable engine
Practical and profitable airliner
Tricycle gear
Jet fighter
Jet airliner
Short-haul jet airliner (maybe a criterion that deserves elimination)
Business jet
Composite airframe
VTOL airplane
Digital fly-by-wire
Highest performance ever (just for the fun of it--could also be eliminated)

That's 14 categories even if I cut the two I've marked for possible elimination, and I need to do about a dozen airplanes, given that Aviation History magazine has only so many pages to devote per article. When we start getting into "the prototypical homebuilt" and "the airplane that started general aviation," I have to get out the scissors.

21st Feb 2010, 22:24
Gossamer Condor or Gossamer Albatross, for proving that man CAN fly.

21st Feb 2010, 22:30
All metal aircraft? You might want to have a look at this article from Flight: hugo junkers | 1942 | 1489 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1942/1942%20-%201489.html?search=metal%20construction)

It questions the significance of the Junkers against the Short Silver Streak which was stressed skin construction, rather than simply clad in metal.

21st Feb 2010, 23:02
The best curiosities might be worth including as a brief side panel.

If the definition of "airplane" was blurred to "heavier than air, man carrying craft, capable of getting airborne" then the Saturn V would surely win the highest performance ever category.

The SR-71 definitely gets my vote and, despite my love of high performance piston fighters, still stands head and shoulders above everything else as the most awesome aeroplane ever - and it's coming up to 50 years old now. Still remember the first time I saw one for real nearly 30 years ago...

I seem to recall a similar thread several years ago - might be worth a search to see how the arguments panned out then.

21st Feb 2010, 23:06
"All metal aircraft? You might want to have a look at this article from Flight: hugo junkers | 1942 | 1489 | Flight Archive

It questions the significance of the Junkers against the Short Silver Streak which was stressed skin construction, rather than simply clad in metal."

_That_ is interesting. Thank you!

21st Feb 2010, 23:13
"If the definition of "airplane" was blurred to "heavier than air, man carrying craft" then the Saturn V would surely win the highest performance ever category."

Nah, there are two words we're working with here--"air" and "plane"--that make it impossible to include space vehicles. It's sort of like saying, "If you'd blur the definition of 'automobile' to include 'wheeled vehicles moving under their own power,' a General Electric diesel freight locomotive is far more powerful than a Ferrari Enzo."

22nd Feb 2010, 01:43
There must be a better title than 'Precedential Airplanes', or the like. Maybe 'Keynote Designs' or 'Prototypes that Prospered' or 'Benchmark Breakthroughs' or 'These Showed the Way' or 'Mileposts of Aircraft Design'.

22nd Feb 2010, 02:14
I'll worry about the title later. Way later. In any case, a magazine article's title, blurb, photos and captions have absolutely nothing to do with the writer. They are created by the magazine's editors. I could perfectly well title the article "Here's the Article You Commissioned."

22nd Feb 2010, 05:05
http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/6312/70904365.jpg (http://img534.imageshack.us/i/70904365.jpg/)

Since the panel above convened to deliberate on the the 12 "most significant" aircraft in 1961, Plane and Pilot added another five in 1981 making 17...(Reasons for each choice were discussed in the article).

The "Kitty Hawk flyer."
Bleriot X1 Monoplane.
Curtiss Hydroaeroplane.
Junkers Ju-13
Verille-Sperry Racer.
"Spirit of St Louis."
Taylor-Piper Cub.
Douglas DC-3.
Sikorsky XR-4
Bell X-1.
De Havilland Comet.
Boeing 707.
North American X-15.
Lockheed SR-71.
Concorde SST.
Gossamer Condor.
Space Shuttle.

22nd Feb 2010, 06:39
Wittman Tailwind - "the Tailwind became the first aircraft covered under the FAA's Experimental category to be certified to carry a passenger"
Wittman Tailwind - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittman_Tailwind)

The Pietenpol Air Camper might be up there as well as this kicked off the home building scene in the US during the 1920s making access to aviation available to the layperson.
Pietenpol Air Camper and Sky Scout Technical Information (http://www.pressenter.com/~apietenp/Information.html)

22nd Feb 2010, 07:16
The trouble is I suppose that aircraft progress has been driven by factors external to the aircraft themselves. eg It could be said that military aircraft since 1945 have been shaped as much by guided missiles and radar as by jet engines and aerodynamics.

Considering Novade's list, what could be added from the last 29 years? Perhaps the A380 / 787 after which no design can be competitive without depending upon carbon composites.

The Global Hawk or Reaper? The biggest step since a man first flew, flying without him. Fly-by-software is the most important innovation since the Wright Brothers combined lift, control and power: artificial stability, envelope limitation, engine management etc have already got the art to the point that, (working together with G.P.S.), unmanned aircraft can fly an entire mission autonomously.
Manned flight to unmanned flight in 100 years!

22nd Feb 2010, 11:35
Manned flight to unmanned flight in 100 years!

And even hobbyists built an unmanned aircraft which flew across the Atlantic.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Model plane goes transatlantic (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3145577.stm)

22nd Feb 2010, 13:26
Nor was the DC-3 "the first," that arguably would have been the Boeing 247. But the Doug Racer was the one that worked.

In the same vein as the 367-80 preceding the 707/DC-8/etc., I'll agree with the Boeing 247. It had all the elements of success of the later birds, with the exception of economy of scale.

22nd Feb 2010, 13:32
It had all the elements of success of the later birds, with the exception of economy of scale. Does that also apply to the DC-2? Weren't more DC-2s built that Boeing 247s?

22nd Feb 2010, 13:42
In round numbers:

B-247 certified 1933 75 built

DC-2 certified 1934 200 built

Lockheed 10 certified 1934 140 built

DC-3 certified 1936 800 ordered commercially pre-Pearl Harbor

22nd Feb 2010, 18:02
@Stepwilk This might seem harsh, but I don't think you have a clear concept, which is why you have had to make up a word. If the question were "Which aircraft have most influenced subsequent designers?" then, in principle, you could find out by asking/reading, though I doubt if a lot of the information is available. But you might get ideas by looking at dates, though then you end up with the Boeing 247, not the DC3. The other problem with this is that in a lot of cases it looks as though the available technology and knowledge drove designs, and who came first could be a bit of a lottery (monoplane fighters with heavier armament than 2 rifle calibre machine guns and an engine of c. 1,000 HP? Twin engined monoplane fast bombers with the same engines? The world was full of them, in the '30s.) If it were "Which aircraft was the first with feature X?" you could find out, though (as you say) you end up with a lot of truly obscure aeroplanes. You'd also have to decide which features you thought important (is tricycle undercarriage in light aircraft all that important, except to the people who fly them?) If it were "Which aircraft has had the most impact on the world?", you'd have to define impact, but you could see some likely examples, from M. Bleriot's monoplane to the B747; but neither of those, AFAIK, has had a great impact on subsequent aeroplane designs. The Spirit of St Louis had a huge impact on the popular mind in the US, but maybe it was more of an adventure than a major aeronautical advance? I realise you don't just want to write another set of "My Greatest Aeroplanes" articles, but I'm not sure you know yet how you want it to be different, because your idea of "precedential" seems to mean different things in different cases. Good luck.

22nd Feb 2010, 18:21
That's okay, that's why I put my name on the articles I write. Then people can take issue with me. Or not. I'm perfectly happy with my various criteria and will have no problem supporting them. (I'm not sure, by the way, what you mean by my having to "make up a word." Precedential? Perfectly good word, and no, I didn't make it up.)

It's not simply a matter of dates or numbers, or of aero engineer B saying, "Oh, I'll do what aero engineer A did last week but will improve on it." There are many ways a technological advance can influence what comes after it, whether directly or indirectly.

Obviously, this is a subject upon which no two pilots in the world would agree, would both come up with exactly the same lists.

I'm delighted with many of the suggestions that this extremely knowledgeable audience has come up with, by the way.

22nd Feb 2010, 20:43
If precedential means "new start ", then there are four:

Wright Brother's offering

English Electric Lightning



Everything else was merely a development of existing (SR71 and Concorde are awaiting their successors).

Perhaps a more important question is: which aeroplanes represent the greatest leap forward over what was?

22nd Feb 2010, 21:53
Both the Boeing 247 and the DC 3 should feature, as should the Comet and 707 (NOT Dash 80!)

It was the 247 that set the pattern and prove it workd for others such as Douglas to follow, and thats why it should appear, but the DC 3's place on the list comes from after the war, not before it, as this was the plane, avaialble cheaply in large numbers, that facilitated the growth in post war commercial aviation far more than any of the bright new designs ever could have. So they both have their place.

I also disagree that the Me 262 set the pattern for future fighters. It was every bit as much a dead end as the rival Meteor was. It was the unflown P1101 and Ta 183 that were to inform the next generation of fighters with their wings swept back for higher performance, whereas the 262's were angled slightly back to fix a cg problem, hardly earth shattering.

22nd Feb 2010, 22:37
I wouldn't relegate the DC-3 to postwar accomplishments. Its prewar success shows in the order book pre-war -- 800 civil orders. This figure was not surpassed until the B-727 - sometime in the 70s.

The postwar DC-3 is the quintessential story of peacetime re-use of a surplus military machine. C-47's & C-53's were re-sold for pennies on the dollar. Spare parts were plentiful and cheap. One could argue that its very omnipresence undercut and killed off many postwar, more efficient aircraft.

22nd Feb 2010, 23:04
But, I would argue that the DC-3's most important contribution to the future of aviation was in exactly that post war availability (coupled with its proven capability and reliability). This was something no other aircraft on earth could provide, it was still the worlds most populous airliner as late as 1965. I'm not saying it was only a success after the war.

If its inclusion is based on it being a modern multi engined cantilever monoplane with retractable undercarriage and decent size capacity(for its time) then the Boeing 247 had already got there first. Its true the DC-3 eclipsed its success but can we be sure there would have been a DC-3 without the 247 before it? I'd say 'maybe' but that isn't really good enough, is it?

All IMHO of course chaps

23rd Feb 2010, 06:39
Then of course there is the Focke Wulf Condor v C-54 v Constellation discussion regarding the aircraft that started/was most influential in the development of long range, commercial aviation :)

23rd Feb 2010, 07:45
FW 200 Condor, first modern long range transport aircraft
First turbo prop long range Aircraft, Lockheed Electra ? Tu 95 ? IL-18 ? Bristol Brittania ?
Tu 114, fastest (and loudest) propeller driven passenger aircraft
Horten IV, first practical high performance all flying wing
fs-24 Phoenix, first composite aircraft (10 years before the Eagle...)
Vampyr, first aircraft with a single spar and torsion box high aspect ratio wing (in 1921)
SB-10, first Aircraft using carbon fibre in the primary structure (Wing)
Grob Stratos, first full composite Aircraft exceeding 50m Wingspan, several altitude records for piston driven aircraft
Piper L4 / J3 the Standard for GA aircraft for some decades. Did more pilots learn to fly on any other type ???

Which was the first aircraft that had real three axis control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator) and did not "flex" the wings to roll or rely on a rigid fin to stabilize it ???

23rd Feb 2010, 10:27
Which was the first aircraft that had real three axis control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator) and did not "flex" the wings to roll or rely on a rigid fin to stabilize it ???

Could that have been the Antoinette VII?

23rd Feb 2010, 13:10
I still have a fixation on the DC-2 over the B-247. While the 247 was certificated slightly earlier, didn't it have to be rapidly updated to the 247D model to incorporate variable-pitch props and perhaps deicing boots AFTER the DC-2 was introduced with these features? The 247 never got rid of the main spar through the passenger cabin.

The DC-2 spawned a major descendant, the 247 did not.

I stand to be corrected.

23rd Feb 2010, 21:28
Seacue, correct on all counts.

In a way, though, the B-247 spawned the B-307 - I've never been in a 307 but the main spar (same as the B-17) must pass right thru a la the 247 and the Lockheed twins.

Which brings us to the 307 Stratoliner. First pressurized pax transport. Surely a milestone?

23rd Feb 2010, 21:53
TURBULENT Best small proper aeroplane ever made

COMPER SWFT Most efficient folding wing aeroplane ever made,
(10 SECONDS TO rig)
With probably the most efficient engine /prop /thrust ratio ever, in a proper aeroplane.

End of discussion

23rd Feb 2010, 21:57
"Surely a milestone?"

Absolutely. Trouble is, I'm limited to 12 or 13 milestones. If I could do 50, we'd all be happy. There'd even be room for the Vickers Vimy...

23rd Feb 2010, 22:04
Hello Pobjoy, speaking of which, how is she coming along?



Union Jack
23rd Feb 2010, 22:15
I can't believe that Air Force One hasn't been suggested!:)


23rd Feb 2010, 22:40
A lot better now we have found the rudder!!!!

gassed budgie
24th Feb 2010, 01:42
I'm suprised that Cesnna's ubiquitous 172 hasn't got a mention. Not the sexiest looking aeroplane out there, doesn't fly the nicest, nor is it the quickest, but for what it was originally designed to do it does it extraordinary well. Duanne Wallace got it pretty much correct right out of the box. Just like they did with the DC3 and the 747.
Those three aircraft would definitely make it onto the 'all time greatest' list.

24th Feb 2010, 19:40
As long as we're talking precedents evolving -

A personal favorite is Benny Howard's DGA-6 Mister Mulligan of 1934. It was designed specifically for high-altitude long-range racing, but was good enough to win the unlimited closed-course Thompson race too - (with a little luck when Roscoe Turner blew a engine in 1935).

And it was the only racing design to evolve into a successful line of private aircraft DGA-8 through DGA-15.

26th Feb 2010, 22:42
As I always understood it, the 747 suffered from being underpowered in its youth, and its sheer size with the market the way it was at the time meant that the DC-10 looked like the more sensible choice for airlines for quite a few years. However the 747 slowly worked it's kinks out, and the DC-10 suffered some high-profile negative publicity towards the end of the '70s. The result was that the 747 became something of a sleeper success.

I also think the A300 deserves an honourable mention for being the first high-capacity twinjet. While it didn't corner the market on its own, it became the rough blueprint for later workhorses like the 767 and 777 and the birth of ETOPS.

15th Dec 2014, 15:07
Found this thread now - I am missing Me 162 in the list - the first rocket propelled fighter which seen the action. I've read a book dedicated to this airplane and it was one of the most fascinating stories about aviation ever.

joy ride
15th Dec 2014, 19:32
If you include lighter-than-air craft in your list (you should!) then the Montgolfier Brothers and their flight take and set precedence over everyone and everything! 1783.

If you are only interested in heavier-than-air machines then Sir George Cayley's Gliders were the first to carry a human aloft, first a boy then a man. He also laid down the basic principals of aerodynamics, setting a VERY important precedent! How can you exclude the first heavier than air flying machines?! 1843-1853 approx.

If you are only interested in powered heavier-than-air machines there is substantial evidence that some powered but not necessarily "sustained" or "controlled" flights DID occur before the Wrights, Ader being a good candidate.

Why the Me 262 rather than the Heinkel He 178 which is generally accepted as the first jet to fly? If you list it because it was the first jet fighter into service, then surely you should include the first jet bomber into service, the first jet helicopter and the first jet airliner into service, and I am incredulous that you have not included the Comet! Yes it had problems but it was still the first into service. The DC10 had problems, does that mean it's not a wide body?!

Moreover, the Comet had Reduxed windows and without this process (invented by Norman de Bruyn at Duxford) then jet airliners would have been incomplete and little use!

15th Dec 2014, 23:10

the vickers vimy was not the first plane to cross the atlantic. The NC4 was the first plane to cross the atlantic, thank you.

to the orginal poster, I think you should include the X15. And the B47.

16th Dec 2014, 02:37
Which Air Force One?

The Convair 240 or the series of Boeings? Any USAF 'plane with the President aboard is Air Force One.

16th Dec 2014, 06:53
Which Air Force One?

The Convair 240 or the series of Boeings? Any USAF 'plane with the President aboard is Air Force One.

The reference to AF1 was intended as a joke, based on the unfortunate title of the thread. :O

16th Dec 2014, 09:56

16th Dec 2014, 10:06
I note earlier in the thread someone cited a glass fibre glider as the pioneer of the present day composite structure and another cited the Mosquito.

You need to go much further back to 1919 to the Loughhead S-1. The procedure and technique was further developed for use in the Lockheed Vega series which began in 1926. The 1937 Clark/Fairchild Duramold process was a further refinement as was the similar Vidal process used for the fuselage of the wartime Canadian-built Anson Mk.V.

Not sure when this type of construction was first used for the mainplane.


joy ride
16th Dec 2014, 11:02
Glendalegoon, the NC4 did cross the Atlantic in a series of flights, a few months later Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy was the first non-stop flight across the North Atlantic.

16th Dec 2014, 12:05
joy ride, glad you agree that the NC4 was the first plane to cross the atlantic. there is even a book about it called: FIRST ACROSS.

Subsequent flights were just that. IF memory serves, the vimy landed in a bog and could be considered a crash landing.

The NC4 is on display at the Pensacola (US NAVY) museum. It included a crew of US Navy and US coast guard personnel.

First is first. Nonstop was not the criteria.

16th Dec 2014, 12:05
Please read:Curtiss NC-4 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtiss_NC-4)

16th Dec 2014, 16:21
Stepwilk in #8:
IMO is the Wright Flyer only(!) a first, where the oncoming worldwide developments made the aircraft useable. As example: The Danish flightpioneer Ellehammer is reported to be the first to use tilting in turns (during a flight event in Kiel, Germany) and in such small steps fuld the airplane develop until short before WW1 where huge steps was done!
The ME262 did NOT introduce the swept wing! It's wings rear edge is straight-lined and only the leading edge is slightly backswept!
The ME262 is NOT a fighter! It's a bomber-destroyer! It's four slow firing 30mm cannons weren't ideal for dogfights, as not the speed itself !
IMO isn't the 262 more innovative than other of the simultaneous jets :-|
The Junkers JU52 and the DC3 is much equivalent in structure and use and the Atlantic is the mainly difference between this two - Except from the remarkable American radials wich delivered +50% power and made it possible to build the DC3 with one lesser engine than the tri-motored Junkers.
Beside the DC3, PBY5 Catalina, Lockheed C130 Hercules, F15 and F-16 deserves mention for long servicetime!

16th Dec 2014, 16:42
I think as Stephan first asked this question very nearly four years ago, his article is likely done and published by now! :ok:

However, how is Pobjoy's Comper Swift progressing back towards flight?

16th Dec 2014, 16:49

Any USAF 'plane with the President aboard is Air Force One...and if he's in an RAF Comet - does this become "Ascot One"


16th Dec 2014, 18:15
F-104 delivered loads of records of wich many lastes for decades and few still are kept AFAIK. That alone should be wort a place on the list.

The Sopwith Cuckoo was the first torpedo-delivering aircraft! Though neglected by British government/military/economy in the time short after the end of the first war, it became instead the base of some of the first homebuilt Japanese airplanes, capable of carrier-use - As the first imperial japanese carrier torpedo-bombers the Cuckoo-offspinn certainly have done it's impact on naval aviation!

29th Jul 2015, 22:59
?..I am missing Me 162 in the list - the first rocket propelled fighter which seen the action.

. . . . . . And the last IIRC, wich actually makes the rocket fighter to a simple footnote in the fighter-story IMO!

30th Jul 2015, 08:04
Helicopter-wise, the first one to place the engines on top, thus freeing up the cabin space should be in there. I'm tempted to say the Huey, although there is bound to be a predecessor.

The CH-47 Chinook would also be here, if it were not the victim of its own success (1200+ built and still in production). No other manufacturer has broken into military weight lifter market with this layout (twin rotor, rear loading ramp) since the Chinook's first flight in 1961.

The first single rotor helicopter with a rear ramp (Mil Mi-6?) could be also be considered to have set a precedent.

30th Jul 2015, 08:38
Wouldn't the Fokker F-VIIb/3m not qualify? The first airliner where your granny and todler could safely fly without leather coats and eye-goggles. Also, most airlines were started with this aircraft (eg Panam)

Mr Oleo Strut
30th Jul 2015, 14:50
I wish to enter a claim, Your Honours, for the inclusion on the list of the original De Havilland Comet, the worlds first jet airliner. Head and shoulders above the opposition it suffered the fate of so many who lead from the front, but the achievement of its brilliant creation and pointers to the future must be recognised. I rest my case, M'Lud.

Dan Winterland
31st Jul 2015, 04:48
The DC2 was significant in that it was the first twin where safe flight on one engine was a design consideration.

31st Jul 2015, 05:48
Found this thread now - I am missing Me 162 in the list - the first rocket propelled fighter which seen the action. I've read a book dedicated to this airplane and it was one of the most fascinating stories about aviation ever.

Was that similar to the Me 163 Komet?

31st Jul 2015, 05:52
As I always understood it, the 747 suffered from being underpowered in its youth,

I was the radar monitor on Sector 6 at the LATCC radar unit at Heathrow for the first '747 departure from Heathrow in 1970, a demo flight out to Brecon with not much fuel.
His first words to radar after departure were 'London, Clipper XXX, I'm not gonna make 4,000 by Woodley'.

India Four Two
31st Jul 2015, 21:21
'London, Clipper XXX, I'm not gonna make 4,000 by Woodley'.


So did he blunder through the White Waltham circuit? ;)

1st Aug 2015, 07:41
So did he blunder through the White Waltham circuit?
Funnily enough there was an instructor and student in a U.L.A.S. Chipmunk who came very close to calling an airmiss with a 747 out of Heathrow in the very early days.
As the instructor ( H**h S*****r IIRC) explained later, both of them initially thought it was B 707.

1st Aug 2015, 07:55

So did he blunder through the White Waltham circuit? ;)

I wasn't looking at a radar screen, my job was to monitor what was said on the radio and write it on a CCTV screen as an aid memoire for the radar controller. I think it made just over 3,000 by Woodley. In any case, the radar at that time did not display altitude readouts.
Certainly for a long time this poor rate of climb would have been noticeable from White Waltham when Heathrow were departing on westerlies as Haraka mentions.

1st Aug 2015, 10:26

How did this list eventually pan out? I'd be thrilled if you could point to the article you wrote too!

(Seeing as this thread is five years old, I sadly won't display my own list of notable aircraft...)