Whether luxury business jets or commercial airliners , some planes have a special place in aviation history. To mark the 2011 Paris Air Show, we've picked 12 aircraft, whose design and construction make them key players in almost a century of innovation.
Click ahead to see see an early runway success, modern flyers that have gained worldwide recognition and new models likely to make their mark in the years and decades ahead, as well as their production history.
By Andrea Ludtke
Posted 17 June 2011
The 12-passenger Fokker F.VII took to the skies in 1925 and quickly became the aircraft of choice for many early airlines in Europe and the Americas. Popularly known as the Fokker Trimotor because of its three engines, the Dutch-made plane rose to dominate the American market in the late 1920s, but a prominent crash ended that success.
Revelations that its plywood-laminate construction contributed to the 1931 crash that killed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne grounded the planes for good. This gave rival manufacturers the chance to spread their wings, with Boeing and Douglas’ all-metal planes taking the iconic Trimotor’s place in the sky.
The Boeing 727 was born out of a compromise between United, American and Eastern Airlines over their requirements for a jet with fewer passengers to serve smaller cities that had shorter runways. The 727 enjoyed success around the world, carrying passengers from large cities to smaller airports found in many tourist destinations.
It is, however, one of the noisiest commercial jetliners; as a result Australia banned it from some airports in 2010.
The only unsolved airline hijacking in American history occurred in a 727, when an unidentified man, infamously referred to as D.B. Cooper, hijacked one in 1971 and parachuted out while it was flying over the Pacific Northwest.
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 has had two moments in the sun.
The DC-10 was McDonnell Douglas’ bid to capture the burgeoning market of commercial airline travel that came about in the mid-to-late 1960s. Despite being bigger, faster, and having a longer range than its sister the DC-9 and competitor Boeing 727, the DC-10 was also quieter. The company rolled out 447 of the giants until the last one was delivered to Nigerian Airlines in 1989.
The DC-10 hasn’t carried passengers of the two-legged variety since it cut ties with major airlines in 2007, when it caught its second wind.
Cargo carrier FedEx is now the largest operator of the DC-10, with 74 of the wide body jets hauling shipments to more than 375 destinations around the world.
Aside from the signature purple-and-orange FedEx paint job, you can spot a DC-10 by its distinguishing pair of giant turbofan engines under the wings, and a third at the base of the tailfin.
When First Lady Pat Nixon christened the first 747 in 1970 by spraying red, white and blue water on the plane, she had no idea how those colors would come to be so closely tied with the 747.
Also known as the Queen of the Skies or Jumbo Jet, the Boeing 747 is among the world’s most recognizable aircraft. This behemoth – the first wide-body ever produced – clocks in at more than two and a half times the size of the Boeing 707.
With many in the airline industry in the 1970s forecast an increase in demand for cargo planes, Boeing expected to sell 400 of the 747s. So much for estimates. Boeing produced more than 1,400 747s to this day, and they’re still rolling off the assembly line.
The Learjet 31’s maximum cruising altitude of 51,000 feet puts it above the range of most civil aircraft, giving it the ability to avoid airline traffic and adverse weather. With room for two crew members and eight passengers, it is a popular corporate jet.
The Learjet series dates back to 1963 with the 23 model, whose design was inspired by a Swiss ground attack fighter. The company is now a subsidiary of Canada-based Bombardier.
Since the launch of the first member of the A320 family in 1984, more than 4,600 of the commercial passenger jets have been produced. From 2005 to 2007, in fact, it was the world’s best-selling airliner family.
Compared to other jets in their class, the A320 has wider aisles and more overhead cargo space.
It was an A320 that successfully landed on the Hudson River in 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of birds, disabling both engines. All 150 passengers and five crew survived.
Brazil-based Embraer made the 50-seat ERJ 145 the largest in its series of regional jets. The largest operator is ExpressJet Airlines, operating as Continental Express, followed by American Eagle, flying 270 and 206 ERJ 145s, respectively, out of the nearly 1,000 in service.
Embraer began working on 50-seat regional jet concepts in the late 1980s. In a joint venture with Harbin Aircraft, it announced in December 2002 that it would set up a production facility in China.
Since its launch, the A330 has helped Airbus expand its market share in wide-body airliner sales. It competes with the Boeing 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner, which is expected to begin deliveries in late 2011.
The largest operator is Delta Air Lines, which owns 32 of the A330s. Airbus expects to sell the jet through 2015.
The Airbus A380, also known as the Superjumbo, is the largest passenger airliner in the world. The plane entered commercial service in October 2007, after a number of production and delivery delays.
The double-decker can carry between 525 and 853 people, depending on the number of seating classes, and fly nonstop from Hong Kong to New York.
The plane is so big it has been designed to have room for an in-flight duty-free shop, bar, restaurant and beauty salon, although Airbus has left it up to the airlines to customize the services they want to offer.
The Cessna Citation Mustang is a very light jet, weighing less than a typical business jet and designed to be operated by a single pilot. It is priced at $2.65 million and Cessna has produced 320 to date.
Accommodating a crew of two and up to four passengers, the Citation Mustang is usually operated by its owner and can take off on a shorter runway than others in its class.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has yet to enter commercial service, but that day is near. After a number of setbacks, the first delivery is set to occur before September 2011.
Outfitted with noise-reducing capabilities and a sleek nose, the 787’s makeup of lighter, composite materials means it consumes 20 percent less fuel than the similarly sized 767. It is the first mid-size plane designed to fly long-range routes.
Among its enhancements are the largest windows in the industry, auto-dimming glass that reduce harsh rays of sun, and three-color LED lighting. Boeing has even tweaked the air pressure and added filters that remove bacteria and viruses to improve air quality – all in the name of passenger comfort.
In the world of luxury business jets, the prices just keep climbing higher.
Canada-based Bombardier is planning to knock the $58.5 million Gulfstream G650 off its pedestal as the world’s most expensive business jet with the introduction of two new models, the Global 7000 and 8000. Both will cost about $65 million apiece, but aren’t expected to hit the market until 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Aimed to appeal to the wealthy customers in Asia (India) and the UAE, the ten-passenger 7000 will have the largest cabin among business jets and the eight-passenger 8000 will have the longest range, able to fly nonstop from Hong Kong to New York.