A plane is a plane, and if it flies, it looks like an airplane because it is an airplane.
Unfortunately, that is not always true with commercial and private planes. Some airplanes, for instance have a nose too long, or a body too thin and narrow, giving the plane a pointy appearance. This is the case with Piper Aircraft, where nifty looking planes like the Cub have evolved into a lineup of very long tubes. Planes need to carry things, and anything too narrow is suspect; a good looking plane is the Hawker Siddley 748. No pointy planes.
Many “plane-looking” airplanes are still in production; large airliners from Boeing and Airbus all look like airplanes. However, the naming of a plane adds to the branding of a plane; for instance something was lost when McDonnell Douglas stopped its “DC” series of planes and called them “MD.” While there were many reasons for the demise of McDonnell-Douglas as an independent entity, the loss of their major brand, “DC” certainly had to figure in their sales problems.
Regional jets are also a big problem. Somehow, when they get smaller, they stop looking cool. They provide no excitement when you see them.
Let’s look at the top five lineup of the coolest retro small airplanes. They are not in a particular order.
- Pilatus PC-6: This plane (seen above in use in Nepal) is made as the PC-6/B2-H4 Turbo Porter. It is a “highly robust multipurpose aircraft that is extremely economical to fly and maintain. Its excellent short take-off and landing capabilities allow it to operate in environments which are inaccessible to many other aircraft.” First used in the late 1950s, it was used by Air America in Southeast Asia. The PC-6 is used for paradropping, ambulance transport and cargo/passenger flights.
- Viking Air Turbo Beaver: In 1947, the de Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada introduced the DHC-2 Beaver aircraft. They produced approximately 1600 before ceasing production in 1967. Today, the plane is made by a company called Viking, and they make not only the DHC-2 but have rights to all the de Havilland planes. They are not refurbished but new.
- Cessna Skycatcher. OK, so this isn’t an old plane. But it has a solid look, and feels like a plane, and looks, well, cute. It is sensible, and practical, and the lines are clean. So we are including it on the list, and making it a new classic.
- The Britten-Norman Islander is a popular plane in the islands of the United Kingdom, and has a delightfully British feel. It does have a bit of a narrow body, but that is fine because it is so nifty in flight. It’s nice to see photos of it doing commercial airline work.
- EADS CASA is better known as the CASA Aviocar, and is used around the world and made under license in Indonesia. It is used both commercially and for troop and medical transport, holding 25 soldiers.