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The most famous planes in history

Every now and again an aircraft goes down in history. We’re not talking types here like Concorde or the Jumbo Jet, we’re talking iconic planes such as Enola Gay or the Spruce Goose, planes that everyone knows just by the mere mention of their name.

Here’s our top 5 most famous and iconic planes.

Enola Gay

Enola Gay Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Dropping the first atomic bomb in history is always going to get you a place in the history books and that’s exactly what happened for Colonel Paul Tibbets and his crew onboard the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay”.

Enola Gay carried out her duty on the 6th August 1945 when Tibbets and his crew dropped the atomic bomb “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima Japan, it also took part in the 2nd atomic raid on Nagasaki flown by another crew.

Built in May 1945 the name Enola Gay came from Col. Tibbets as it was his mothers name. Tibbets selected the aircraft whilst it was still on final assembly.

Since 2003, the entire restored B-29 has been on display at NASM’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

Powered by 8 3,000hp Engines it was built as a strategic flying boat for transatlantic flights during World War II however it only flew once in 1947. The flight lasted for around 1 mile and never got above 70ft.

Perhaps hopeful of a second flight, Hughes retained a full crew for the Spruce Goose right up until his death in 1976. The aircraft is now preserved at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.

Spirit of St. Louis

Spirit of St Louis

Crossing the Atlantic these days is an everyday occurrence these days but back in the 1920’s it was a hazardous affair so when Charles Lindbergh announced he was going to cross the Atlantic, on his own, people must have thought him mad!

Lindberg did achieve this though in 1927, in his custom built monoplane name The Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh left New York on the 20th May 1927 and landed in Paris 33hrs later.

Spirit of St Louis was a single engined monoplane and one of its most distinctive features is that it had no front windscreen, something Lindbergh was used to flying mailbags!

Spirit of St Louis is now preserved in the Smithsonian’s Milestones of Flight centre.


Memphis Belle

Memphis Belle

Memphis Belle is a household name, largely thanks to the film of the same name. Whilst not famous for one particular thing it was one of the first B17 Flying Fortress aircraft to survive 25 combat missions with its crew intact.

The aircraft was the namesake of pilot Robert K. Morgan’s sweetheart, Margaret Polk, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. Morgan originally intended to call the B-17, Little One, after his pet name for her, but after Morgan saw the movie Lady for a Night, in which features a riverboat named the Memphis Belle, he proposed that name to his crew

The aircraft now resides at the National Museum of the United States Air Forces.

Wright Flyer

The Wright Flyer 1903

Arguably without the Wright Flyer we wouldn’t be flying making it probably the most famous plane ever.

Built by two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, the Wright Flyer flew for the first time in 1903. The flight was the first powered flight by an heavier than air machine and achieve controlled flight.

It flew 4 times on the 17th December 1903 at Kitty Hawk. Beginning at 10:35 AM, Orville flew it about 120-feet or 36.5 meters (in about 12 seconds. Then Wilbur flew for about 175 feet or 53.3 meters, followed by Orville who flew about 200 feet or 60.9 meters. Finally about 12:00 PM, Wilbur flew 852 feet or 259.7 meters in 59 seconds.


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