The history of aviation and aircraft highlights the power of design and engineering. Most inventions within this field completely transformed and expanded the future and possibilities of design. These aviation designs have helped increase our mobility, diffuse wars and have given us the opportunity to travel and explore different parts of the world. 

Here are some of the aviation designs you should definitely consider exploring:

1. Wright Flyer

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The Wright Flyer aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC _© 1903 Wright Flyer | National Air and Space Museum

The Wright Brothers are widely known to have constructed this aviation design, which as a concept is still used within every plane in use to this day. The brothers were unsuccessful in spending many years travelling across Europe and presenting their invention for sale to the governments as possible military vehicles. Their invention sparked an entire revolution in western Europe that led to the development of these flying machines to the standard of design they are today.  

2. Boeing 787

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A Boeing 787 Dreamliner in flight _© The Verge

This particular aviation design named The Dreamliner is Boeing’s first airliner that was constructed of predominantly composite materials. The assemblage of this design was different to the traditional method, with various sections that had to be attached. The overall improvements within this airliner resulted in increased fuel efficiency compared to the previous Boeing 767, which made it more environmentally friendly. This particular airliner design has now set the standard for quiet jetliners, which will be increasingly common in the near future. 

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The form of the Boeing 787 _© BBC News

3. Scaled Composites Voyager

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The Scaled Composites Voyager design _© Dick Rutan Recalls Historic Round-the-World Flight | NASA

This aircraft is known for circling the globe without needing to refuel due to its high endurance. The journey took nine days, at 116 mph speed with an altitude of 11,000 feet. Its unique design and structure were powered by two propellers facing opposite directions that were attached to separate engines. This feature aided in achieving its record speed and height compared to other aircraft. 

4. Boeing 777

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The form of the Boeing 777 in flight _© Boeing: 777

The Boeing 777 design developed from the 367-80 model, which is characterised by the usual tube and long swept wing airliner, which is familiar to most people. However, this particular model was very different to any other form of a jetliner and involved a risk for Boeing across many fields including materials and flight control technology. The size of the aircraft is between the large 747 and smaller 767 designs, constructed using composite structural materials. A major decision taken, which changed the method and speed of aviation design development, was undertaking all the design elements of the aircraft using computers. This step completely changed the course of aviation history and has led to the magnificent and successful designs we see being developed and created to this day. 

5. Gulfstream I

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View of the Gulfstream I _© Quick Look: Grumman Gulfstream G1 – AOPA

This aviation design of a business jet was conceived after an aircraft corporation decided to alter and develop a line of warplanes into airliners. The engines were mounted onto low wings which allowed the cabin height to increase and therefore gave passengers on the aircraft the freedom to stand up to their full height when inside the plane. This aircraft was originally designed to comfortably carry 24 passengers; however, these business-class aircraft usually hold around 12 people on their journeys. Several key features, of this design in particular, made it very appealing to the figures in the business industry who preferred a more private means of transport. 

6. Boeing B-29 Superfortress

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Structure and design of the Boeing B-29 _© Buck Wyndham

The Boeing B-29 aviation design is most known for dropping the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during WWII. Its technological features were advanced, including a remote firing system and a pressurised cabin. This design was also used for continuous research and development of this flying machine structure for future construction.  

7. Dassault Falcon 7X

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The Dassault Falcon 7X in flight _© Falcon 7X (dassaultfalcon.com)

This aviation design was developed and constructed using extensive three-dimensional visualisation software, throughout all the phases of design. It is therefore the first aircraft to be designed completely using virtual software and platforms. The particular software called Computer Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) is also used to design the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, which were also both successful in flight. 

8. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

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The streamlined design of the F-16 aircraft _© F-16 Fighting Falcon (popularmechanics.com)

The General Dynamics F-16 is one of the most important aviation designs ever created. Its features consist of a top speed which is twice the speed of sound, a single engine having the ability to pull nine times the force of gravity and a maximum altitude height of 50,000 feet. The design allows for the pilots to have unobstructed visibility when flying the machines and the seating positions reduce the aggressive forces that usually negatively impact the pilots within them. This aircraft was specifically designed to be aerodynamically unstable, which in turn decreases the level of control the pilots have over the aircraft but improves the manoeuvrability of the form as a whole. Therefore, today this design is utilised in military fleets by various nations around the world.  

9. RV-3

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The RV-3 plane in flight _© RV-3 – Van’s Aircraft Total Performance RV Kit Planes (vansaircraft.com)

Richard VanGrunsven created the RV-3 aviation design that eventually manifested one of the most successful companies in history. The final design took many trials and stages of development, which is what makes them so reliable and successful. After the RV-3 model, he continued to create different kit aircraft, which inevitably led to the expansion of his business. At present, the number of aircraft built by DIYers across the globe, that were designed by VanGrunsven, outnumber the combined production of all the commercial aviation companies. 

The innovation of aviation design is remembered for its technological advancements and rarity in its transformational design and construction. The aviation industry has created and left a lasting impact on the opportunities available to the whole of humanity in the near future and beyond. 

10. Cessna 172

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The Cessna aircraft in flight Ⓒ Cessna 172 Skyhawks Reborn | Flying (flyingmag.com)

This aircraft has been sold more times than any aircraft in the world. It is still in production today and has been sold over 43,000 times. It was released as a personal aircraft that is affordable and reliable. It is often chosen as the ideal mode of transport by private pilots due to its credible performance. These continuous sales of this aircraft made the Cessna Aircraft Company very successful in the light aircraft market globally. 

11. Supermarine Spitfire

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The design of the Spitfire Ⓒ Supermarine Spitfire – Savior of Britain | Military Machine

The Spitfire aircraft is known to have been produced continuously during the Second World War which became a key weapon throughout battle. The wings were designed to have the thinnest possible cross section, which allowed for the aircraft to travel at higher speeds compared to other fighter aircrafts at the time. This plane was particularly popular due to its versatility and its ability to serve different purposes, with an adapted large engine to handle the load and speeds. 

12. Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

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The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird’s form Ⓒ Sept. 1, 1974: New York to London in Less Than 2 Hours | WIRED

The Blackbird is known for its ability to operate at high speeds and altitudes which allowed the aircraft to be used for dangerous missions. If it came into a situation including possible contact with a missile, it could outrun any threat due to how fast the aircraft can accelerate. The retirement of the Blackbird was because of the need to create a replacement that was not as complex or costly to construct. 

13.Learjet 23

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The Learjet business aircraft Ⓒ The Learjet: The private plane that changed travel – BBC Culture

Bill Lear had the intention of designing and creating a business jet, with the insight that there was an increasingly popular demand for executive private travel, which led to the development of aircraft Learjet 23. The aircraft could usually carry eight passengers with a high speed of 560mph. This invention created a new-found interest and market for efficient business travel. It therefore became the first ever mass-produced business jet. 

14. Lockheed Constellation

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The Constellation aircraft preparing to take-off Ⓒ Lockheed Constellation (aviation-history.com)

The production of the Constellation aircraft created an era of comfortable and affordable air travel, with hydraulically powered technology for the flight control systems. The success of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft allowed the production and service to expand worldwide to areas including the Middle East and Asia. This aircraft design was very appealing to many buyers due to the fluid form and tubular shape, making it easier to construct. The Constellation eventually became the second largest air carrier in the world. 

15. Gossamer Albatross 

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The Gossamer Albatross in flight Ⓒ Gossamer Albatross | NASA

The Gossamer Albatross was the first human-powered aircraft to successfully cross the English Channel in 1979. It was designed by engineer Paul B. MacCready and flown by pilot Bryan Allen. The aircraft reached a high speed of 18mph at an altitude of 5ft above water. The design of the aircraft includes long tapered wings and a carbon fibre frame, making it super-lightweight. 

References:

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. 11 of the World’s Most Famous Warplanes. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/list/11-of-the-worlds-most-famous-warplanes> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

  1. [online] Available at: <https://www.flyingmag.com/photo-gallery/photos/20-most-famous-airplanes-and-aircraft/> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Team, E., 2021. Top 10 Famous Airplanes in History – Aero Corner. [online] Aero Corner. Available at: <https://aerocorner.com/blog/famous-aircraft/> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Pocket-lint. 2021. 33 best planes of all time: From mighty jet fighters to the humble biplane. [online] Available at: <https://www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/148109-the-most-interesting-and-important-aircraft-of-all-time> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Author

Currently a final year BA Architecture student in the UK; Abbarnah is passionate about art and nature, an avid reader and a believer in embracing culture and spirituality. She hopes to inspire through her artwork and writing; highlighting the beauty and importance of creativity in our ever-changing world.

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