Speaking of Beautiful Airplanes

Gulfstream’s ultra-long-range G650

In creating our list of the 25 Most Beautiful Airplanes ever there were a number of contenders that just missed the cut. And by just missed, I mean that some actually made it onto the original list only to be bumped off by others. If there's an airplane you thought should have been included that wasn't, chances are it would have been on a list of 30 or perhaps 35 most beautiful aircraft.

Two airplanes that were never given serious consideration but which easily could make anybody's Most Beautiful list are models we wrote about in our last eNews issue: the Gulfstream G650 and Dassault Falcon 8X. It was Marcel Dassault who famously proclaimed that for an airplane to fly well it must be beautiful. He would undoubtedly be very pleased with current state of design at the company he founded. The 8X, a stretched version of the Falcon 7X, is a stunner.

Before the 7X and G650 arrived on the scene, the most beautiful ultra-long-range business jet was probably the Bombardier Global Express. Now with the G650 in service, I think the award has to go to Gulfstream.

So often does our nostalgia for designs of the distant past impact our judgment — whether it be the shapes of beautiful airplanes, cars, motorcycles, or what have you — that we forget just how striking some of the forms right under our noses are.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is another example of a gorgeous airplane that nobody really thinks of as being among the most beautiful ever. Give it a few decades. Viewed through the prism of time, I'd bet that the 787 one day ranks in aesthetic splendor right alongside the Connie.

One big advantage newer airplanes have over relics of bygone eras, of course, is their incredible technology and efficiency, which designers of generations past scarcely would believe possible. The G650ER can fly an incredible 7,500 nautical miles – the distance from New York all the way to Hong Kong. All the while, its passengers can relax in supreme comfort (at FL 470 the G650’s cabin altitude is just 4,300 feet) with access to movies on large HD screens, satellite telephones and high-speed Internet. At the end of a flight, the pilots can shoot an approach below published minimums using the G650's infrared enhanced-vision system paired with the head-up guidance system.

Put it all together, and I can think of 25 current and under-development airplanes (maybe more) that should be on a list of the most beautiful of all time.

Which is to say, of course, that we are a fortunate generation indeed.

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