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World's Most Iconic Aircraft

World's Most Iconic Aircraft


The aviation industry has come a long way since the Wright brothers built the first plane out of wood in 1903. Recent news that the Boeing 747, one of the best known passenger jets of all time, is being phased out has sparked a mood of nostalgia. Air Charter Service take a look back at some of the most iconic airplanes in aviation history, from retired aircraft greats like Concorde and the Learjet 23, the first mass-produced business jet, to the Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest cargo plane to date. These are the world’s most iconic aircraft.

The Wright Flyer

Year: 1903

End Year: 1903

Display Date: 1903

Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers from the American mid-west, designed the first ever airplane in 1903. Both brothers worked in bicycle manufacturing, and saw parallels between bicycle and aircraft design, such as the need for balance, control and a solid, lightweight structure. After building the first piloted glider in 1900, the brothers went on to develop the glider design further, until creating the first functional powered aircraft in 1903. The three-axis control system is largely credited for the success of the aircraft, with wings shaped for lateral balance, a moveable rudder and an elevator for pitch control. The brothers’ record-breaking flight over North Carolina on December 17th 1903 lasted only 12 seconds but was the first time in history that a man had flown. During the flight Wilbur Wright lay on his stomach on the airplane’s lower wing. Elated at their success, the brothers made three more flights that day.

The Wright Flyer was the first ever airplane designed by the Wright brothers
The Wright Flyer was the first ever airplane designed by the Wright brothers

Enola Gay

Year: 1945

End Year: 1946

Display Date: 1945

In 1945 Enola Gay was the first airplane in history to drop an atomic bomb. Enola Gay was a Boeing B-29 bomber plane named by the Pilot Paul Tibbets after his mother. The airplane was owned by the United States Army Air Forces and was in service from 8 May 1945–24 July 1946. Enola Gay dropped a five-ton bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, killing up to 100,000 people and causing unprecedented devastation.

Enola Gay airplane the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb
Enola Gay airplane the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb

Learjet 23

Year: 1964

End Year: 1966

Display Date: 1964

The Learjet 23 was the first ever mass-produced business jet. Developed by American-born Bill Lear in 1964, Lear recognised the emergence of a new market for private jets specifically for business. This twin-engine jet could carry eight passengers and two crew members at a maximum speed of 560 mph and had a range of 1,830 miles. During the two years of production a total of 104 Learjet 23 aircraft were made, before the model was retired in 1966. Learjet has been a subsidiary of Canadian company Bombardier since 1990 and continues to be an industry leader with models such as the Learjet 60 XR.

Learjet 23 airplane, the first mass produced business jet
Learjet 23 airplane, the first mass produced business jet

Concorde

Year: 1969

End Year: 2003

Display Date: 1969

The iconic Concorde first took flight in 1969, entering service with British Airways and Air France in 1976. This turbojet-powered passenger aircraft could reach speeds of up to twice the speed of sound and was able to complete journeys in half the time of a standard passenger aircraft. Concorde’s primary routes were from London Heathrow and Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport across the Atlantic to JFK International Airport. Offering both speed and luxury, Concorde provided an unparalleled, exclusive experience for those that could afford it. The Concorde crash of 2000, in which all 109 people on board the Air France Flight 4590 died, led to a decline in passenger demand. The fatal crash coupled with unmanageable costs and the September 11 aftermath a year later, led to Concorde subsequently being taken out of service. By the time Concorde became a retired aircraft in 2003, a total of only 20 had been built.

Photo of Concorde airplane the turbojet passenger aircraft that could travel at twice the speed of sound
Photo of Concorde airplane the turbojet passenger aircraft that could travel at twice the speed of sound

Boeing 747

Year: 1970

End Year: 2017

Display Date: 1970

Delta and United Airlines recently announced that they will be removing the iconic Boeing 747 from their fleet by the end of 2017. This American commercial jet airliner and cargo aircraft was the first wide-bodied passenger jet ever to be produced, but now after 48 years of service the iconic ‘jumbo jet’ will be phased out. The Boeing 747 completed its first flight on February 9th 1969, and was introduced as a commercial airliner in 1970. Known as the ‘Queen of the skies’ the 747-400, the most popular passenger version, can seat up to 416 passengers in a three-class flight. Recognisable by the hump-like shape of the upper deck, this soon-to-be-retired aircraft has featured in over 300 movies such as Die Hard, and will live on in memory as Air Force One, the private plane to the President of the United States.

Photo of a Boeing 747, a wide-bodied passenger jet airplane that was the original jumbo jet
Photo of a Boeing 747, a wide-bodied passenger jet airplane that was the original jumbo jet

Rutan Voyager

Year: 1986

End Year: 1986

Display Date: 1986

This iconic airplane was designed to fly around the globe on just one tank of gas without stopping. Designed by Burt Rutan, the airframe and engine weighed a total of 1,020 kg, but on the day it set off it weighed in at 4,397 kg with the huge amount of fuel it was carrying. The airplane was flown by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who had initially planned to take it in turns to fly the plane. However, due to flight handling characteristics resulting from the heavy load, the pilots were unable to swap every three hours as planned, and Rutan is reported to have flown the plane for the first three days straight. The journey was successfully completed in nine days from 14th–26th December 1986.

Photo of the Rutan Voyager airplane the first aircraft to fly around the globe without stopping
Photo of the Rutan Voyager airplane the first aircraft to fly around the globe without stopping

Antonov An-225 Mriya

Year: 1988

End Year: Currently in service

Display Date: 1988

The world’s largest civilian cargo aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is the only aircraft with six turbofan engines. It can carry up to 250 tonnes or 250,000 kg of cargo over short and medium haul routes, which is the equivalent in weight to 62 female elephants or over 100 Range Rover Sport vehicles. In 2016, ACS chartered the AN-225 to transport the heaviest single piece of air cargo to ever be flown in the Americas. The An-225 has a range of 4500 km and a total load volume of 1100 m³ and is available for cargo charter with ACS.

Photo of Antonov Mriya 225 plane the world’s largest cargo charter
Photo of Antonov Mriya 225 plane the world’s largest cargo charter

All of these aircraft were groundbreaking for their time and shaped the aviation industry into what it is today. With big players such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A340 set to be phased out, a space has opened up for new, highly advanced passenger and cargo aircraft to take the lead. The future of the aviation industry is big news right now, with digital advancements and increased automation at the forefront and Boeing recently announcing that it is currently undertaking a study on pilotless planes. Watch this space for news on future developments.

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