Famous Airplanes: 5 of the Most Important Planes of All Time

117 years ago, the Wright brothers took their prototype airplane for its first flight. But the Wright brothers weren’t alone in their achievements! There are dozens of other famous airplanes worth learning about. Read about five of them below.

1. The Wright Flyer

In 1903, the Wright Flyer was the first heavier-than-air aircraft to take off. It took its first flight on the beaches of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The result of years of planning by Wilbur and Orville Wright, the Wright Flyer was made of spruce wood and hand-made parts (like the engine).

While it’s generally agreed that the Wright Flyer would have been unmanageable by anyone other than the Wright brothers, it was a tremendous achievement in the world of aircraft and remains famous to this day.

2. Concorde

Concorde earned its place in history by being the first supersonic airliner. First flying in 1969, Concorde hauled its passengers all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in under four hours.

It began taking commercial passengers for British Airways and Air France in the mid-70s and continued into the 21st century.

Concorde was retired in 2003, after the tragic crash of Air France Flight 4590 in 2000. After running over debris during takeoff, Flight 4590 experienced significant damages.

The fuel tank, which was unusually full, was ruptured and began to spew fuel with great force, eventually leading to reduced thrust from Engines 1 and 2. Damage to electrical equipment made it impossible to retract the landing gear.

The plane crashed into a hotel just two minutes after taking off. All 109 passengers on the plane were killed.

3. Air Force One

Air Force One is one of the most famous representations of the power wielded by the President of the United States (POTUS).

However, Air Force One is not technically a specific aircraft. Rather, it is an air traffic control call sign that may refer to any plane carrying POTUS.

Today, Air Force One usually refers to two Boeing 747-200B aircraft that are highly customized in order to safely and comfortably carry the President of the United States.

4. The Spirit of St. Louis

The Spirit of St. Louis was a highly-modified Ryan M-2 that would eventually take the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.

The pilot, Charles Lindbergh, was deadset on taking on businessman Raymond Orteig’s 1919 challenge. Orteig offered a cash prize of $25,000 to the first pilot to fly from New York to Paris without stopping.

Ryan Airlines made several adjustments to Lindbergh’s plane, including extra fuel tanks, a longer fuselage and wingspan, and a front-loaded fuel tank. It now remains in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

5. Miracle on the Hudson

A routine trip by Airbus A320 out of New York City quickly became a historic flight due to the heroic actions of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. When a flock of geese took out both engines on the Airbus, the crew had just three minutes of lift to find a place to land.

Unable to make it to an emergency landing site, the pilot deftly maneuvered the airplane toward the Hudson River, where he executed a water ditching and saved all 155 passengers’ lives.

Famous Airplanes

These famous airplanes are just a smattering of a large amount of heroic and historic aircraft, some of which are still flying today. They are certainly not the only planes worth your attention. There are plenty of great resources to look into if you want to know more.