The Ugliest Planes of All Time

WE START WITH A QUOTE: “Who cares what it looks like?”

That was the sentiment of an emailer responding to my opinion that the Airbus A380 is possibly — no, wait, definitely — the ugliest commercial jetliner ever built.

“I spend my time inside the aircraft, not outside, he continues. “I don’t care what the A380 looks like. If it’s big, then maybe passengers will have more room and the economy class nightmare won’t be so bad.”

True, perhaps, on that latter point, but I’m having a hard time with the premise. I passionately submit that it does, absolutely, matter what the airplane looks like. Call me a romantic, but I like to think of the jetliner as something loftier — both literally and figuratively — than a mere vehicle, and thus deserving of the same aesthetic seriousness bestowed across a wide range of industrial design. Obviously this is nothing specific to aviation, but a point that speaks to design in general: do we not care what our bridges and skyscrapers look like, functionality aside?

Of course we do.

If you ask me, the emailer’s opinion is symptomatic of the public’s all but vanished appreciation for air travel. Flying has become so routine, and so uncomfortable, that few people stop to consider the impressiveness of soaring thousands of feet over the ocean, at hundreds of miles per hour, in a machine that cost tens of millions of dollars — in nearly absolute safety to boot. So what, the thinking goes. Just get me there quickly (and cheaply).

The industry, for its part — both plane-makers and the airlines — seems to be more or less comfortable with this attitude. In a lot of ways, a plane is only as attractive as the paintjob applied to it, and the state of airline liveries has never been more atrocious than it is right now. Aircraft themselves, meanwhile, have become so generic as to be indistinguishable from each other. In the old days, every aircraft, even those of similar shapes and sizes, had a distinctive profile. You could tell a 707 from a DC-8 from five miles away. We recall the gothic lines of the 727, or the provocative curves of the Caravelle, the VC-10 and the L-1011. This distinctiveness is mostly gone. Planes nowadays tend to share the same generic blueprint: two engines below the wings, a nondescript tail, and a nose that could be any other nose. Planes used to look sculpted. Today they look like snap-together kits of interchangeable parts.

A bland-looking plane isn’t necessarily an ugly one, of course. The A380 aside, most latter-day planes aren’t ugly so much as boring. Conventional wisdom holds this is because they have to be — that there’s something about aerodynamics and economy that necessitate a certain monotony of design. “Air does not yield to style,” are the words attributed to an Airbus engineer.

There are just enough planes that are both modern and great-looking to suggest this is baloney: the 787, the Embraer ERJ-145, the 747-8, and Airbus’s own A340. If the rest are aesthetically bland, I submit it’s because their designers didn’t take the efforts to craft them otherwise.

Ugly, boring, or just bizarre, let’s look at some my least favorite commercial planes, both new and old, big and small. In no particular order….


— The Airbus A320

The A320 was made because not enough people thought air travel was boring. Somebody once wrote — wait, it was me — that the plane looked like it popped from an Airbus vending machine, or hatched from an egg laid by an A380. The A320 has three equally inelegant siblings — the A318, A319, and A321– that are essentially the A320 baseline plus or minus a fuselage plug. This bland foursome has been Airbus’s biggest seller, with over 4,000 built, doing all they can to reinforce the notion that yes, flying is tedious and unexciting.

The Airbus A320.     Commercial flight at its most ordinary.

— The Boeing 737

Boeing’s ubiquitous twin-jet joins the A320 as the McDonald’s and Burger King of jetliners: you see them everywhere and you inevitably find yourself sitting inside of one, but you just know there are better places to be. The later-generation 737s are especially unattractive. That’s what happens, maybe, when you’ve taken what was originally conceived as a short-haul regional plane and stretched and tweaked and pushed the thing into roles it was never envisioned for. Throw in those rams-horn style winglets, and the result is a sort of Frankenplane. Notice the harshly angled cockpit windows, unchanged from the days of the 707.

A 737 in Southwest Airlines’ amusement park livery.

— The Lockheed Constellation

Help me out with this. For airplane buffs, talking trash about the Constellation is among the most grievous sins possible. Rarely is the vaguest slight directed at this legendary four-motor propliner of the ‘40s and ‘50s. But I just don’t get it. It started with my first and only sighting of the venerable Connie, in San Juan, in 1980. As the plane, ancient even 30-odd years ago, taxied past me, it appeared misshapen, wobbly, crawling along like an injured mantis. (The one I saw, a Dominican freighter registered HI-328, crashed the following year into the ocean near St. Thomas.) But maybe that’s it. The Connie, like some newer craft (the 767-300, for example), was victimized by a fish-out-of-water complex. On the ground it sat awkwardly, uncomfortably nose-high. Only when aloft did its grace become apparent. Or did it?

The Lockheed Constellation.

— The McDonnell Douglas DC-10

You may have heard that the Boeing 777 was the first airliner to be designed entirely on computer. What you probably didn’t know is that the DC-10 was the first to be designed with crayons and a wooden ruler. The problem revolves mostly around the tail. Although the DC-10 wasn’t the first jet to have three engines, the builders had no idea what to do with the middle one. Hurried to outpace their main competitor, the Lockheed L-1011, they flipped a coin and decided to wedge it through the vertical stabilizer. Lockheed took its time and developed a beauty; Douglas gave us this…

Tail of a National Airlines DC-10

— The Britten-Norman Trislander

Somewhere in the UK, a group of precocious fifth-graders saw pictures of the DC-10. Grabbing up scraps of plywood and lawn mower parts they shouted, “we can do worse!” A few days later they unveiled the Trislander, which promptly won fourth prize in the school’s show-and-tell science contest. Though you have to admit, the idea of a three-engine, piston-powered commuter plane is kind of neat. Or not.

The Trislander

— The Shorts SD-330, 360, and SC-7 Skyvan

Northern Ireland gave us Stiff Little Fingers, the great, long-forgotten punk band of the late ’70s and early ’80s. It also gave us the Shorts Brothers, known for their line of boxy commuter turboprops. I admit to a fondness for the 330 and 360 models. Sure they’re inelegant, but the design is so wonderfully utilitarian — and from certain angles the planes do maintain a certain grace and dignity. The Skyvan, however, is another story. Could you fly on one of these scaled-up child’s toys and still feel good about yourself in the morning?

The Shorts SD-330 and SC-7 Skyvan.

The CASA C-212 Aviocar

Here’s the answer to why the Spanish aerospace industry is second in global non-prominence only to its automobile industry. And the name… “Aviocar” is like “Airbus” (or “Skyvan”), only stupider. (We’re reminded of those fantastical flying car ideas of the 1950s. Someday we’d all be zipping around in our own “aviocar,” though who knew it would look like this?) Wait, the Spanish are major partners in the Airbus consortium too. Does the A380’s troubled DNA go all the way back to this contraption?

The CASA C-212 Aviocar

The VFW (Fokker) 614

Nobody knows what this plane, one of the few German commercial aircraft ventures, is supposed to be, exactly. Are the engines really on top of the wings, or was the plane built upside down around them? In either case, why? We’re told the unorthodox placement allows for shorter landing gear and perhaps a slightly lower wing, which in turn allow for a slightly bigger cabin and a bit more space for fuel or cargo, but some of us theorize the engineers were strung out on schnapps. The engines-on-top concept had the added bonus of reducing the plane’s noise footprint on the ground, while making things as loud as possible in the cabin.

The VFW-614.    Photo by Mick West

— The Antonov An-72

Things gets tricky when it comes to the Soviet planes. They were strange-looking machines, but many of them embodied a cool, Cold War sort of sensibility that could be, in its own way, darkly beautiful. The Tupolevs were my favorites. See the Tu-134, or best of all the apocalyptic Tu-114. This wasn’t the case, however, with the Antonov line. Most Antonovs were beastly, and there’s a special place in the Pantheon for the An-72. Let the picture do the talking…

The Antonov An-72

And so on.

I know, there are plenty more worthy candidates. But let’s just drop it.

One final point, though, about the A380: I agree that an airplane’s design, no different from that bridge or skyscraper, speaks to its era, and it’s important to temper one’s judgment with context. This does not apply to the A380, a plane whose ungainliness will, I assure you, prove timeless. It’s ugly now and will continue to be ugly 40 years from now.


Now this is only half the story, of course — albeit the fun half. Where, you’re asking, are the good-looking planes?

My affections for the Boeing 747 are well documented, but we shan’t neglect the 727, the Ilyushin IL-62, and that handsomest of old turboprops, the IL-18. A list for another time.


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216 Responses to “The Ugliest Planes of All Time”
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  1. Stu says:

    The later models of the 737, particularly the NGs, are far better proportioned than their earlier models. The -400 in particular was always an awkward, ungainly looker. The NGs had the slight downward angle with a shorter nosegear that made them look sharp, sadly lost on the MAX.

    And for all-time ugly, the L1011 Tristar is an ungainly, dorky beast. The elongated, chinless wonder of the front, the stumpy, ugly RR engine, that awful ungainly s-curve for the tail-mounted engine and the shortened vertical stabiliser, all leading to that stumpy RR exhaust… hideous.

  2. daniel says:

    this must be a troll post if the 737 and a320 are the first things on your list

  3. 757MAX says:

    The ugliest passengers Jets, IMO, would be:
    A318 (Disproportionate, but at least it has some personality)
    A320 (Base model only)
    CRJ-200 (not a fan of the tail cone)
    I’d say that the best-looking planes of yesteryear are:
    1. Concorde
    2. 747SP
    3. 757WL
    4. Tu-134
    5. Caravelle (the wings look sculpted)
    6. DC-9 & MD-80
    7. 727
    The best-looking planes of today:
    1. A340
    2. 787
    3. ERJ-145XR
    4. A350
    5. CRJ-700/-900/-1000 (very elegant)
    6. E175/E190/E195 (sharp-looking)
    7. A220

  4. 757MAX says:

    Personally, I like ugly planes because they have some personality. So the A320 (just the base model) would not be on my list of ugly planes. It’s very bland. I like the A318 because it’s disproportionate and different. The A319 is short and kinda cute, and the A321 is nice and long.
    As for the 737, well, I like the sleek, 727-like fuselage, but It doesn’t look nearly as good. The OG regional jet 737 family looks OK, and so does the the Classic. However the 737NG looks “off”, particularly the -800. However, I like the Sharp looks of the MAX, although the plane itself…not so much.

  5. Jeff says:

    What about the airbus beluga? It was used to transport plane parts.
    it reminds me of a smaller, more beluga-like A380 with only one engine

  6. Jeff says:

    What about the airbus beluga. It was used to transport plane parts.

  7. Timotheè Bôcque-Millaire says:

    (Please forgive my disgraceful premature tapping of the’submit comment’button, and my even more disgraceful typo that turned ‘describe’into ‘prescribe’. Perhaps I was simply distracted by the surpassing hideousity of the A380. I now continue.)
    No matter how well a thing works, if it is ugly, then it is incomplete. Bad industrial design hurts all of us. Look at the current state of affairs in regards to everyday objects that arrive from China by the fleetload: cheap, poorly built, unpleasant to look at, but with at least the saving grace that they won’t last very long. “Who cares?”, say some. “They’re cheap enough- just go buy another one!” But I could barely bring myself to buy the first one… Bad design + worse
    execution = We Are Filling Our World With Ugly, Badly Made Crap.
    But the A380 is expensive and it’s not badly made… so why, praytell, is it so mind-numbingly ugly? Perhaps not enough people care. Which is really sad. I am now consumed with ennui. I go to weep softly in the dark.

  8. Timotheè Bôcque-Millaire says:

    First of all, I agree that looks matter. Beauty is essential to life; It gives us a kind of joy that words alone fail to prescribe.

  9. cher says:

    I think it is cute. Makes me think of a Bumble Bee. Sleek is not always beautiful they have a fast look… yet we know that bumble Bees and hummingbirds are much more compact and are some of the best fliers. Yes the others are much more aerodynamic in form and look. I still think it is cute.

  10. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says:

    i hope you all that say some of these planes are ugly die

  11. BRUH says:

    you ppl dont know how much some of the planes you say are UGLY changed aviation

  12. BRUH says:

    stop putting things on the internet that arent true KEEP YOU OPINION TO YOURSELF

  13. LR says:

    So many uglier airplanes out there, even among airliners, though I suppose most of the ugliest are old. I don’t know if you consider ag planes “commercial”, but how about the Airtruck, the PZL M-15 Belphegor, and the Grumman Ag Cat (radial engine version). Among airliners, the Budd Conestoga stands out, when it should be hiding. Also the Bristol 170. The Handley Page HP-42 was kind of hideous. The Sikorsky S-40 was called a flying boat, but it should have been called a flying bridge. The Caproni Ca-60 was meant as an airliner. The Curtiss Condor’s sleek fuselage should have been part of a monoplane, not a sleek contrast to make the biplane wings and their bridgework more obvious. More: Junkers G-38, Saro Princess, Armstrong-Whitworth Argosy 1. I guess the Beluga and the Super Guppy aren’t exactly airliners any more.

    I’m of two minds about the An-2. Not sure if it’s QUITE ugly enough. I suppose the Burnelli RB-1 was only a prototype. I gotta mention the twin engine version of the Lacey M-10, even though it was only a homebuilt.

  14. Eric says:

    Hope Ur Fat, So That They Could Identify Your Body Easily When Ur IL-18 Crash.

    • Patrick says:

      Thank you for the most wonderfully infantile comment we’ve had here in some time. Nicely done.

      Here’s hoping that you’re not more than ten years old.

  15. Michelle Shivonne Cheng Wing-Thorpe says:

    ur ugly

    the a320 , a380 and 737 is good your ugly

  16. Carter says:

    Um obviously the Airbus A880 is the ugliest plane in the world

  17. Carter says:

    I think that the Boeing 747 is the MOST UGLIEST PLANE IN THE WORLD!I don’t care that it’s a double Decker but it’s just so UGLY because the ugly hump on the front, and who puts the windshield on the hump like that? That is why the Boeing 747 is so ugly.

  18. Someone uglier says:

    U r ugly urself
    So u think those planes …… ignore it

  19. Fish Exist says:

    Just saying, Bob is my pseudonym. I decided to have a different one, which I made up myself.
    To the creator of this site,
    Speak no evil of the Connie! They are beautiful and graceful in the air, and if on the ground they look cumbersome, that is part of their charm! The high, far-forward nosewheel is one of my favourite bits.
    Enough negative criticism, however. I agree about A380s being hideous, and 747s being beautiful, and the Southwest Airlines 737 livery makes the model of plane look ugly (quite an achievement).
    One thing, however, Fokker planes are Dutch, not German.
    I sort of like the DC 10, though, but I prefer the other triple-jet aircraft. I am fairly sure the DC 10 wasn’t designed with crayons and a wooden ruler, looking at some of the plans.

  20. bob says:

    Speak no evil of the Connie! They are beautiful and graceful in the air, and if on the ground they look cumbersome, that is part of their charm! The high, far-forward nosewheel is one of my favourite bits.
    Enough negative criticism, however. I agree about A380s being hideous, and 747s being beautiful, and the Southwest Airlines 737 livery makes the model of plane look ugly (quite an achievement).
    One thing, however, Fokker planes are Dutch, not German.
    I sort of like the DC 10, though, but I prefer the other triple-jet aircraft. I am fairly sure the DC 10 wasn’t designed with crayons and a wooden ruler, looking at some of the plans.

  21. Danielle Jeremy says:

    I almost took this serious when I realized this mook is nothing more than a nothing. So, breathing normally now…LOL. I thought the author was important or relevant…I guess sometimes even we the relevant people make mistakes…nough said!

  22. Parker West says:

    One day at Long Beach’s McDonnell Douglas plant
    Roy— Hey Walt, I got a great idea I even put it in the suggestion box, maybe i’ll Win the $1000
    Walt— Roy, before you start spending your winnings tell me what your magnificent idea is.
    Roy—Think of all the labor hours and materials cost we could save if we put the three hydraulic lines together instead of spacing them out. After all what could happen?
    Walt— Just brilliant Roy

  23. KT315 says:

    An-72 was made for very rural airports. To replace the An-26

  24. Skystare says:

    Sticking with post-WW2 airliners, I agree that blandness is the main sin of designers. The field shows strong evolutionary convergence – they’re all starting to look like Airbus 767s, I suppose because they all come from the same technological toolbox and are aimed at the same task.
    Even the worst are mostly just a bit clunky looking, to me. I’ll stick with the Boeing 337, and add the Baade 152, as hard on the eyes.
    On your list, I can agree that the A380, the VFW614, SD330, and the AN-72 are pretty ugly, the last looking just like a passenger version of a military heavy lifter. Check out the Boeing YC-14 for the American version.
    On the other hand, the Constellation is an Art Deco classic, along with the Beech Staggerwing and the ’37 Hudson Terraplane Pickup.
    I also concur on the Caravelle, B-727, and the VC-10 as truly fine. Top of the list is of course Concorde.

  25. Skystare says:

    Truly, before making a list like this, a person should look at the Blackburn Sidecar, the Blackburn Blackburn, the Blackburn Firebrand (Blackburn had a real talent for ugly design), the PZL Wilga (a success though; in production over 40 years), the PZL Belphegor (just plain weird), the Transavia Airtruk, the Replogle Gold Bug, the Boeing X-32 (queasily misshapen), the Junkers Ju-237 (Frankensteinian, built from 4 other airplanes), and the Farman Jabiru (caution: you can’t unsee this).
    Honorable mentions:
    Blacburn Beverly
    Ju -87 Stuka
    Handley Page Heyford
    Kilinin K-7
    McDonnell Goblin
    Hawker Siddely Nimrod MR2
    Fairey Gannet
    Boeing 337

    • Wallace Mynatt says:

      The Replogle Gold Bug is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO beautiful.
      I love this little airplane. No I’m not partial; just because I own it. 😀

  26. Rowland says:

    Seriously? Most of these are not ugly planes. I have no clue how they’re ugly at all. People are so stupid…

  27. Richard Green says:

    I was wondering whether the AA regional plane I would fly on from Madison to Chicago in the 1980s was as ugly as I remembered, and I came across this piece. It turns out I did remember correctly, and the plane was the Short. I also remember it being very slow–it seemed like it took forever to get from Madison to O’Hare, which are about 110 miles apart.

  28. JanAviator says:

    I will kill you!!!!! A320s, 737s and DC-10s are ugly??!!!!! go kill yourself!!!

  29. TK1923 says:

    This list is almost disrespectful, the DC-10??
    I don’t really care for props, they’re all kinda ugly.

    Definitely ugly are:
    -747 (sry)
    -AN 225
    I don’t know how to feel about the A330 and the C-17 Globemaster

  30. John Jinks says:

    Whoever put this section together needs glasses.

  31. Barry says:

    I miss the old reality planes with jets UNDER the wings. Google it

  32. Ben says:

    I got a big laugh at you calling the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 the McDonalds and Burger King of air travel because of how common they are. These two planes alone make up half of the global large airliner fleet.

  33. AgentGerko says:

    Four engines always looks nicer than two, except perhaps for the DC8 with its nostrils.

  34. Ben says:

    @Partick Just when you think the A380 can’t get any uglier, Airbus comes up with the bright idea in the A380 Plus upgrade to do a split scimitar winglet for it.

  35. john_to says:

    We can always debate about who is uglier than whom, but most people like beautiful things, form + function, outside and inside.

    I have walked around Pima Air and Space in Tucson, and some of the stuff laying about is even worse than the above.

    I agree on the A380 – looks like a balding monster on steroids, perhaps some combination of Mr. Burns merged with the Incredible Hulk.

    I think we have an innate notion of what a flying thing is supposed to look like from birds – generally well-proportioned, light, sleek. Sure, there are frantic hummingbirds, chubby / plump ones, glider-style albatrosses, but we expect the passenger crafts (even warbirds) to be like one of those.

    When we design something that is blatantly out-of-whack with the range of natural birds, we instinctively recoil, as we should.

    I’ll add original 737-100 or 747SP to the list because of the grotesquely over-sized stabilizers. I get aerodynamic requirements, but the baby remains ugly.

    Sadly, like the car industry, bland utilarianism and re-use streches are in, innovation and style not. In aircraft, it is about maximizing yield to airlines. Thus the non-descript A320, Embraer 1×5, 737-NG…

    The 747, which is quite aesthetic on its own, unfortunately killed the Concorde, arguably one of the most sleek planes from the outside, however cramped and narrow it is inside.

    That lesson stuck.

  36. Bo Bren says:

    You’ve missed two of the most epic ugly aircraft of all time!:
    1: PLZ M-15 Belphegor
    2: Transavia PL-12 Airtruk

  37. Mario Franco Uría says:

    Come on man! To consider the Douglas DC 10 one of the ugliest airplanes of
    all times and not the Lockheed TriStar 1011 with that middle aft located engine …No doubt: everything is relative.
    Regards from the Northwest of Spain.

    • Patrick says:

      But those middle engines are exactly what make the DC-10 ugly and the L-1011 so pretty. The TriStar’s center engine was fluid, sculpted, blended. The DC-10’s was just rammed through. I admit that it looks cool in a way — muscular and even kind of scary — but it’s hardly graceful.

      • DJ says:

        Yeah, that airplane was scary alright. They kept falling out of the sky. It coined the phrase “If it’s not a Boeing, I’m not going.”

    • AgentGerko says:

      The 727 was a lovely aircraft. The L1011 was IMO the prettiest airliner of all. The DC10 just didn’t mix it with those two.

  38. Louie says:

    Looking at the A380 reminds me of the Flying Guppy .. lol

  39. Carlos Melo says:

    The DC-10 on that list? You must be kidding. The DC-10 is definitely one of the most well designed planes that have graced our skies. It combines elegance with a very masculine and powerful looks. Just like the 777, which as well is one of the absolute top marvels of airplane design. When it comes to the A380… well. I am a proud European. And as such I really want to like it. When i flew in it from LA to Sydney I felt absolute pride in what we Europeans can achive. Phantastic. But as much as I try, I must admit: yes, it looks god awful. Why can’t Airbus build planes that are technologically great but also look good? Why do they leave that to Boeing? I try to console myself by saying, well, Boeing having been founded by a German, is also kind of European. But it doesn’t really work. So. Point for you there, Americans.

  40. Scarebus driver says:

    We used to call the 380 ‘The Sara Jessica Parker’ – it doesn’t matter what angle you look at it, it isn’t pretty.

  41. Anonim Air says:

    Technicaly, the L-1011 Tristar is much pretier than the DC-10, but aestetically I prefer the latest (I find Tristar ugly).

    Regarding that second engine mounting on the DC-10, in the middle of the vertical stabilizer, as you say they did it to save development time and cost. But it has consequences: smaller stabilizer, so less directional stability, which required for engines 1 and 3 to be positioned closer to the fuselage (with some inconvenients, like a greater risk in case of a disc rupture)

  42. Anonim Air says:

    I agree with you on the Shorts and the Skyvan. And even on the A380.

    Not at all on the Constellation.

    I would include the 787 on the list (short wheels height, fat). With all the beautifull airplanes Boeing produced or produces (707,727, 747, 757, 777), it looks like that, from time to time, they need to produce an ugly one (737, 787).

    Then, you make funny comments:

    -‘one of the few German commercial aircraft ventures’: yes, few ones(this one, or another one named Airbus).

    -‘Here’s the answer to why the Spanish aerospace industry is second in global non-prominence only to its automobile industry’. You are right: Spain’s automobile industry ‘only’ ranks 8th, worldwide, on ammount of cars produced by year.

  43. Martha says:

    On come on now, the SC-7 is cute in that “it is so homely it’s cute” way. Actually, it reminds me of those little pot belly pigs and does prove pigs can fly.

    Ascetics are important, but not to the majority of people. Most people who not know beauty if it tapped them in the shoulder.

  44. Frank L says:

    Flew the Shorts SC-7 Skyvan (or similar) on Olympic Airways (remember them) from Athens to Mykonos, with the pilot (I think) for 4 times saying lets try to land 1 more time before we head back to Athens. Thrilling indeed. Did make it to Mykonos though, back in 1974, so unlike the Glamour Spot it has become today. Yeah “PIERO’S” bar, the best, better than any today or those found in Ibiza!

  45. Nino says:

    I call the A380 “The Hunchback of Toulouse”. It’s really the biggest “Frankenplane”.

  46. benjamin says:

    737 isn’t boring, it’s just the archetypal wing-mounted, twin engined “modern” airliner. I find it especially pleasing to the eye. The old lines from the 727 give it just a bit of it’s own flair.

    Can’t say the same for the A320 series.

  47. phoenix says:

    I don’t disagree that the A320 is Generic Airliner, but I find the extra length of the A321 balances out the blunt nose nicely.

    I also like the looks of the E190. Sharp and sleek.

    For some odd reason I can’t explain, the A330 looks dowdy to me while the A340 looks like a supermodel. Even knowing they both have common fuselages.

    And yes I like both the 787 and A350. The crazy wing flex of the Dreamliner and the badass winglets of the A350.

    • Ben says:

      I wonder if the difference between the A330 and A340 is due to the A330 being twin engined, and the A340 being quad engined. The A330 just looks like a bland twin jet, though I find the 767 and first gen 777-200,300 and 200ER models I find way blander then the A330. The four engine aspect makes the A340 much more beautiful and striking to look at for me, and especially the A340-500 and 600 models.

  48. Michael says:

    Speaking as passenger I’m afaid I have to go back to “I don’t how it looks on the outside”. The only relevant issue to me is comfort on the inside, which in most cases presumably depends on how the airline choses to configure the seating etc. rather than any intrinsic property of the plane’s design.

  49. Zu says:

    Just love me an AN-2; uglier than a mud duck.

  50. r titus says:

    Maybe not the ugliest, but the Sikorsky S-40 was certainly the most improbable-looking aircraft ever. Why this thing didn’t tear itself apart immediately is beyond me.

  51. Peter says:

    haha, demonstrating just how subjective a list like this is, I would rank the 787 up there as one of the ugliest commercial jets I’ve laid eyes on recently. That nose!! 🙁 The A380 isn’t pretty but it’s a damned impressive piece of machinery and every morning I love seeing EK and QF coming in overhead from the other side of the world. As an ex TE employee from the 70’s, the DC-10 has a very special place in my heart. Though I agree that nothing beats the 707’s, VC-10 and the 747s.

    • DJ says:

      I’ve always liked the DC-8 and the Constellation. I used to see Connie planes, with the huge radar dome, fly overhead, in southeastern Massachusetts, in the early 60’s.

  52. TomZ says:

    The 1049 series of “Connies” is my fav. Yes, as a 20 something S/O walking out on the ramp to pre-flight my “Shuttle” Connie I accepted that on the ground it was not very striking, BUT, while flying, it is one of the most pleasing aircraft to see! Ever! Beautiful!
    Now currently topping my list for the ugliest is the “Giant Flying Forehead” aka., A-380!

  53. Rafael says:

    Definitely, the A320 Series is the worst airplane to spot.. so booring! The E-Jet (190-195) could easily fit into the A320 series category.

    737s definitely looks like a Frankenplane – specially the 733/734/735 and lately, the MAX series. On the other hand, both the 731/732 and 737NG looks in better armony, being the NG the nicest and best 737 so far.

  54. Andrea G. says:

    If you fly JetBlue you’ll always find yourself on an A320 (or one of its siblings). Same with United domestic flights and the 737.
    My grandfather worked as an engineer for Pan Am, based at “Idlewild”. He worked on the DC-7s/8s and the 707 along with a few others but nothing stood out in his mind like the 747. He told me the story several times of the Clipper Young America. It was supposed to be the 747’s first international flight from NYC to Heathrow but it experienced engine issues so another 747 was brought in. The towed the Young America into the hanger and they finally got to tinker with it. He told me that Boeing had sent them a lot of info and material and they had training with Boeing engineers but nothing compared to finally seeing it in person. He said it was awe inspiring and breathtaking.

  55. Michael B. Morris says:

    My heart will always belong to the L-1011. A graceful jet with swooping curves and lines.

  56. Msrtin says:

    However ugly the a380 may be, it continues to be the most comfortable, silent plane to fly with. B777, B787, A350 do not come close (unfortunately)

  57. Ron Witzke says:

    On the other hand, I watch a show called “Ice Pilots” on Netflix and marvel at the grace of the C46s and 47s . Perhaps an article on “Grace in Flight” might be in the making.

  58. Noor says:

    Very well written and I second your view that aesthetic elegance is not inimical to the aerodynamical efficiency. Could Airbus Beluga be counted as a contender in this race of ugliest planes ? ( For me ,it’s always been a big mammoth of the airplane industry)

  59. Pranav Rao says:

    We need to include the Boeing 747 doppelgängers the Boeing 747 Dreamlifter and — with a deep breath — the Aviation Traders Carvair.

    Picture of the Carvair

  60. Dan Ullman says:

    I am in the “Connie was a pretty aircraft” gang. ‘nough said.

    The Trislander is an aircraft that has little to say for itself but speaks volumes about its designers. “We could place the third engine in the front”. “NO! Let’s make an aircraft that, in the event of a catastrophic engine failure in the rear, is certain to wipe out all controls on the tail.”

    Airbus is Airbus. Bus is the important part.

  61. Tod Davis says:

    Firstly i pretty much agree with this list.
    The a380 is beautiful to fly on but is looks rather awkward to say the least. The a320 in my mind looks like a flying Tic Tac.
    And on the constellation, i might be wrong on this but wasn’t it incredibly unreliable. I think that Qantas referred to them as the best 3 engine aircraft they ever had

  62. Dick Waitt says:

    “You could tell a 707 from a DC-8 from five miles away.”

    Well, maybe you could, but even after being on both more than once, it took a while for me to recognize that all four engines on the DC-8 were suspended on pylons which were angled forward and down, in a pretty much straight line from the wing’s lower surface.

    The outer, port side engine on the 707 was similarly mounted but the other three had what looked like a ridge line added to the top of the nacelle, each of which I presume housed the earlier equivalent of an APU. Why that fourth engine didn’t also have a similar configuration is something I never knew.

    At least this was what I noticed when I was doing most of my air travel in the late 60s, possibly more recent versions of those two aircraft were configured differently. I don’t know if this carried over to later variants – the 720B, for example.

    You may well notice other, finer points of difference between these two aircraft, but for me that was the most obvious point.

    You may wish to comment…
    ‘s of the

  63. James Wattengel says:

    Disclaimer: My father worked a the Lockheed, Burbank factory and we lived beside the approach to runway 080. So production of the Connies and Electras put the food on our table.

    I vote for the Constellation.

    Do you know the reason for the three vertical stabilizers? May think that it was to allow the plane to fit in the hangar doors; but that is not true.

    The aerodynamic reason was to nearly eliminate the trim-induced roll caused by deflection of a large vertical stabilizer. Remember, in the 1950’s they did mot have all the electronics that now automatically compensate for the induced roll.

  64. Andy Porter says:

    The A380 is certainly an eyeful but like Matt Foley it beguiles one with its sheer size and audacity.

  65. Kein Helmboldt says:

    Learned about this little doozie when I was on the NIFA team…

  66. Marshall says:

    As far as civil transport goes, the Ford Tri-Motor is one of those sentimental favorites, like the Constellation, whose design is adored (mostly by old timers), but that I find revolting. It is brutish and ungainly, from its awkward, cowlingless engines, its forward-canted trawler windscreen, its London broil slab of a wing, its shipping container fuselage, and its putty knife tail. The Tri-Motor is right up there on the Uglympics medal stand with the HondaJet. What is it with carmakers designing ugly airplanes? Yes I know, Saab. But even they designed some eyesores. Tunnan anyone?

    I’d round out the ugly list (civil, non-Russian) with the Vickers Viscount, Lockheed JetStar, and the Carvair. The 787 isn’t ugly, but many aspects of its design scream missed opportunity, especially the pinched-face windscreen and the dumpy landing gear.

  67. Dave Moses says:

    Does the high profile of the Shorts Bros. fuselage make it more vulnerable to crosswinds?

  68. Art Knight says:

    I’m laughing and vomiting at the same time!

  69. Slarti says:

    I agree with most you write, although your wrath of the A380 feels a bit over the top.

    But even more so, I just don’t get the love of the 747 around here (article and comments). I mean, the hump! Maybe the A380 looks more boring, but there’s nothing nice or even sexy about that hump! While you’re making jokes about designers/engineers not knowing where to put certain parts of an airplane, the 747 is the obvious example: “Where do we put the additional seats? – Well, let’s just tack half a story to the top of the plane! And fingers crossed it still flies…” Granted, I may be too young and European – but I dare say some here are mistaking admiration for the (admitted) US success story called B747 with concepts like beauty.

  70. U. David says:

    I have to respectfully disagree about the A320 series; while I wouldn’t call it beautiful, there’s an understated aesthetic in its functionality, and it’s harmoniously proportioned. Someone once described the A320 as “the Honda Accord of airliners,” and I think that’s a very good analogy: not sexy, but smoothly and quietly functional.

    The A320 is certainly more visually attractive than the Boeing 737, with its peculiarly thick-looking fuselage (regardless of its length), “squeezed-cheeks” nose, and stubby landing gear.

  71. tom says:

    Seriously, I think you’re ugly. You just insulted the airbus a320, one of the most iconic planes of all time. And just telling, at least it looks better than you.

  72. Kevin says:

    I have read many of W.E.B. Griffin’s books, and his obviously great admiration for the Continental motivated me to look it up. It is certainly distinctive and an important piece of avation history, but I can’t convince myself that it is attractive (to me, no offense intended to those who feel otherwise), and on the ground it is utterly ungainly. As much as others love it, I wish I could too.

  73. John Kent says:

    Blackburn Beverley any one ? A heap that the designer of should have been in court for crimes against engineering and good taste. Even Burt Rutan could not design such a piece of junk. As a ground engineer I hated that piece of junk

  74. Planely Obsessed says:

    Interesting reading your opinions about some of these airliners. I’m really partial to trijets (except perhaps the Hawker Siddely Trident, which seems to be more stumpy engine than vertical stabiliser). You say that the DC-10 looks ugly. I think it looks timelessly modern, like something designed in the Bauhaus. It’s got clean lines and looks balanced in a way that the L-1011 just can never achieve.

    Take a look at those sculpted engine pylons and nacelles, too. The rounded, elongated nacelle is thrown out in front of the leading edge to the point that the the entire nacelle sits a good few feet in front of the leading edge, unlike on most aircraft where it looks more like it’s part of the wing.

    Most of the aircraft you listed here – with the exception of the depressed looking guppy from Toulouse – are really old airliners now. I’d be interested to hear your opinion on the new Bombardier C-Series; I reckon it’s probably the most distinct short hauler in the sky today.

  75. I must completely disagree. The DC-10 is, after all these years, still graceful and still classic. The L-1011 is what happens when you build a model plane and melt the tail with a lighter; it looks like its No. 2 engine has prolapsed; it’s so ugly it doesn’t fly as much as it is rejected by the Earth… I could go on and on about Lockheed’s misbegotten child, an airplane so ugly they had to PAY All Nippon to take some off Lockheed’s hands. S-ducts can be done gracefully, like the 727, Falcon 50 and Yak-40/42; they can be done awkwardly, like the Tu-154; and they can be done like @$$, like the “look, I did a butt-strike” L-1011 and the “I got empennage tumors” Trident 3b.

  76. Mike Carter says:

    The Trislander may be ugly, but it is / was a lovely little aircraft to fly on.

    I agree with most of your comments but think the A380 has some sort of attractiveness, and that the Constellation was really beautiful.
    Talking of ugly, what about the Let L-410?

  77. John Brown says:

    The Britten-Norman Trislander certainly is not beautiful but is does have a rugged utilitarian appeal. Sort of like the original Humvee. One look at the plane and you know exactly what it is meant for, short haul flights in remote locations.

  78. matthew neathery says:

    i agree with all of these except for the connie and i think the 747 has to be the most beautiful plane ever

  79. John Smith says:

    Most of these planes aren’t ugly in fact the 747-8 is ugly

  80. SMPablo says:

    LOL. I think it’s beyond safe to say that the Aviocar, in both name and looks, is uglier than sin. The photo he used is probably the best looking shot of the jalopy one could find. And as for our automotive industry, let’s face it, it IS second in global non-prominence. Perhaps one from our country won’t see this as low respect but rather a hint, or piece of truth. A push we need to eventual realize that we can do better and that we, above all, can candle criticism like grown men.

  81. Pedro says:

    By the way: do you know anything about Spain’s automobile industry?. Whats your knowledge about it, in order to adress the kind of sentences you write?. Why you write this kind of things?. You want my opinion, about USA automobile industry?

  82. Pedro says:

    What a low respect from you in regard to my country (Spain). Thanks God, not everybody in your country is like you.

  83. Peter Hager says:

    It’s your site, so you are free to write what ever you want. But don’t expect any of the readers to share your opinion or your “taste”. From the engineer’s standpoint, any design, which perfectly meets it’s demands and goals, automatically looks beautifully just from this aspect. The Super Constellation, the A350 wing, the A380 for example are unsurpassed so far. Once one understands their function, it becomes visible that any deviation from the envisaged design would have made the construction less efficient and thereby inevitably ugly.

    • UncleStu says:

      “From the engineer’s standpoint, any design, which perfectly meets it’s demands and goals, automatically looks beautifully just from this aspect.”

      The warthog is an animal that is superbly designed for the niche it occupies.

      Beautiful? No, except perhaps if you are engineer. :))

      Glad you like the Connie, though. To me, it is a thing of grace and beauty.

      I don’t think Patrick is trying to convince his readers to agree with him. He just wants to write interesting articles, which describes this one, among his many others.

      Other articles Patrick writes are to educate us, which they do.


  84. Basel says:

    sorry, man. I’m actually looking to be an airline pilot in a few years time. So is the aircraft type your choice when you re a captain?

  85. Basel says:

    never seen someone as stupid as you. Nothing wrong with the A320/A380 and enough bloody American bias!U know what? 777 and 787 are the worst planes ever made. Happy?

    • Michael B. Morris says:

      A little defensive, don’t you think? Smith was talking purely about aesthetics. Along the way, he mentioned the Airbus A-340 as a candidate in the “beautiful planes” column.

      I have never had the impression that Smith was an argumentative A vs. B people, but you certainly appear to be.

    • Fish Exist says:

      I’m European-Australian and even I think Boeing beats Airbus.
      Table of Boeing-Airbus competition here.
      |Boeing |Airbus |Winner
      |737 |A320 |737
      |747 |A380 |747 (except for 747-8 variant)
      |767 |A350 |A350
      |777 |A340 |A340 (I’ve never liked 777s)
      |787 |Airbus can’t make |
      | |anything this good |
      | |yet |Lockheed Constellation
      |Dreamlifter|Beluga |Dreamlifter

      Winner: Boeing
      Bonus corny joke: Q.what does a bouncing 747 sound like?
      A. Boeing, Boeing.

  86. Hannah says:

    I disagree on the a380 being ugly. I think it is a very good looking aircraft (in my opinion). Believe me, there are aircraft that are much uglier than it. I find the a380 a very proportionate and streamlined aircraft. No one can go wrong with the boeing 747- a very sexy looking aircraft

  87. Dave says:

    The Guppy cargo plane, there is no real contest.

  88. Patrick…. what’s your opinion about A350? And which is better, 787 or A350?

    • Patrick says:

      They are both good looking planes. I give the 787 an edge, I think, just by virtue of its being so distinctive. It looks pretty different from any other Boeing, whereas the A350 isn’t terribly different than the A330. And I’m not sure how I feel about the A350’s curvy-swervy winglets. I like the 787’s tapered tips better. Those wings are so pretty.

      I take it you saw this?

      • I bet you got that mixed feelings with A350 winglets, right? I just love the shades on A350’s cockpit. They’re both quite comfortable and pretty quiet though. You should try to fly with these gorgeous planes soon.

      • Basel says:

        flipping heck, 787 is the worst plane in human history compared to a350 cant you understand that?

  89. Ken says:

    I can’t help but noticing some patriotism in it. It’s true that 747-8 is way sexier than A380 but A330 is better than 767. A320 and 737 are nothing special either. In fact, Airbus has lately sold more planes than Boeing, especially their A320 over the 737. Airbus make air travel more comfortable with their A380, the plane which you crowned as the ugliest airplane in the world.

    • Patrick says:

      It is the ugliest airplane in the world. But I’m also first to admit that it’s a fantastic plane on the inside. And yeah, the A330 is sexier than the 767 (though its competitor is really the 777 or 787). I also concede that the A320, bland as it is, is a more comfortable ride than the 737. And how about the cockpit: the 737’s flight deck is tiny and noisy. The A320’s is quiet and spacious. It’s no contest, really.

      I’m no fan of the 737. Boeing took what, at heart, was a regional jet, and has stretched and stretched the thing to the absolute end of the envelope. Today people are flying six hours, coast-to-coast, in a jet conceived to fly 300-mile legs. It takes 160 knots and ten thousand feet of runway to get the thing off the ground! The A320 is a more civilized design, I think.

      Though neither is especially handsome.

  90. Doug Douglson says:

    Is Ba rock Obomba still mayor of canada?

  91. Turvey says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    I find the a320family the most beautiful and most original aircraft around. In particular the shorter 18 and 19 varieties and the a380 is beautiful in its own way. I think the b787 is really beautiful and just pips out the a350 at the moment for mine. I used to like skinny butts. Now I like fat butts. But that may change again.
    To me a boring plane is the b737. Just sick of the sight of it.
    Used to think the b777 was beautiful but now when I look at it it looks like the cockpit section doesn’t fit the fuselage properly and that totally spoils it for me. I don’t even like the chisel shaped backend anymore either.
    ps.Don’t be to harsh on spelling and gramma

  92. Coinneach says:

    I think I’ve figured out what makes the 380 look so damned ungainly compared to the 747 – there’s not a single hint of area rule in its design. The fuselage is just one huge constant-diameter tube all the way along.

    • not an anon says:

      Agreed that there’s no hint of area-ruling there, and also agreed that the A380 is Airbus’ attempt at a Big Ugly Fat Fella of their own (Boeing already has one in the B-52).

      As to the An-72? It looks…almost cartoonish in a way (‘Cheburashka’ is a fitting nickname). But, it sure does perform!

  93. Taylor says:

    I’d fuck all of those planes their all beautiful in their own way. I disagree with this page and think that calling don’t something ugly does not solve anyone’s problems.

  94. JoseR says:

    After spotting those of Emirates in MAD, I’ve to agree how ugly is the A380. Sure she is majestic and impressive in size, but in my opinion the bulbous nose a la A31X-32X ruins it even more than the… thing it has as upper deck -if it had the nose of an A330-A340, there’d be at least something redeemable on it-.

    I’ve to agree: the 747 is still the Queen of the Skies -and will be so for many years-, and the 777 as well as the Dreamliner follow her not very far away.

  95. MikeB says:

    OK, I have to agree with Patrick’s assessment of the Constellation. It looks like some of the cheap plastic worms in my tackle box. Even Harry Truman’s “Independence” has lines that only a mother can love.

  96. Pete Conrad says:

    The AN-72 has the engines up high to reduce the trouble with FOD. Russian strips often are not maintained at all; that means no sweepers and no one to walk around picking up tiny rocks. Sometimes a pilot must tolerate a small inconvenience if he wants to fly at all.

  97. Ben says:

    I agree that the Airbus A380 is going to be as timelessly ugly as the Boeing 747 is timelessly beautiful.

  98. Ben says:

    Some of these aircraft on this list I went “what the heck?” when I saw them.

  99. Ryan James says:

    We need to be bluntly honest here. Ugly aircraft are mostly the product of sycophants afraid of losing their jobs. Just imagine what the world of aviation would be like if they had been free to speak their minds:

    “Mr. Hughes, have you given any thought to what would happen if the seal between the prop hydraulics was to blow? We’re talking turning a housing development or an apartment building into a landing strip.”

    Over at North American Av as they stare in awe at the great white wonder XB concept, “Hey guys. I realize it’s fast but what you have there is the worlds largest missile target. It’s radar footprint is bigger than god.”

    Then over at Boeing as they put the brown lipstick on for Juan Trippe someone could have mentioned, “So we’re building an aircraft that modernizes round the world travel. Has anyone noticed that bloated pig has a payload to performance ratio second only to the P-47? We’re going to need pounds per second fuel flow meters.”

    Then back to Mr. Hughes. “Well, if you filled it with helium you might get 3,000 or maybe even 5,000 foot cruising altitude.”

  100. Ryan James says:


    Then the Sc-7 Skyvan. Obviously a shortage of construction materials left the designers little choice but to recycle shipping containers with a nod here and there to aerodynamics.

    The C-120 Aviocar. And just where do you think the designers got their inspiration? ^^^^

    VFW 614. This one is painfully obvious. All designed, it’s Friday at 16:55, and someone takes a last fond look at their new baby, frowns and asks, ‘What about engines?’

    And last, the AN 72 which brings us back full circle. The heck with looks. Build an aircraft that gets into the air in less than 1000 yards, flying out of a cornfield or potato patch. Give it landing gear from hell usually found on artillery support vehicles.
    Basically the same mentality as the Airmoose 380 Cattle Car designing concept.

  101. Ryan James says:

    Now Mr. Smith, you aren’t being reasonable. The 380 isn’t ugly. It’s homely. Like your average American housewife letting herself go. She just puts on that (as big as a) house dress and is good to go. Just modify that old Led Zeppelin song, Waddle On.

    So let’s look at some of your other grumbles. The A320. Be nice! It’s got… six tires! See? Not all that mediocre.

    Connie. What a wonderful glop. It’s almost certain it wasn’t designed that way. It must have been a very handsome plane before it started melting in the sun. It also has fantastic accessories as a friend related to me, a terrified 5 year old child trapped in the bathroom as the plane circled Gatwick airport unable to land due to a passenger not in his seat. Fortunately some helpful passengers searched the cabin floor, found the missing bathroom door latch parts, reassembled the latch and freed him him before they had to declare an emergency, or run out of fuel.

    The DC 10. That one is simple. Let’s make the APU actually do something besides blow air through the cabin and make the lights come on. Tada!

    The Trislander is simple as well. How to make a plane using 4′ by 8′ sheets of plywood with as few cuts as possible. Add that third engine to distract viewers who might notice the Weyerhaeuser Plywood trade name visible through the paint.

    The SD 330 just suffered delusions of grandeur. The illegitimate offspring of a midnight tryst between Connie and a Pan Am Clipper. Unfortunately it was several weeks premature.

  102. Sam says:

    In my opinion, the most pleasing aircraft to the eye is the 727, another really good looking aircraft is the Beechcraft Starship, that’s eye candy!

  103. Nianbo says:

    Hello Patrick! what airolanes have you flown in your pilot career? Which one do you think looks better, the MD-11 or the A340? Please gimme your thoughts on the md80.

  104. Mike Peng says:

    I especially agree with you on the constellation: lots of people probably think its beautiful because of sentimental values. But me, and most sensible people who didn’t grow up with that monstrosity will agree that it’s ugly as heck. It’s only somewhat better in the air. Weird shapes also makes it look like a royal pain in the rear to build or maintain one. Then the DC-10: looks like some kids toy with that tube stuck in the tail. And the a320: not exactly ugly but maybe the most boring plane ever. Even the 737 has its pointy nose. On a sidenote I can’t wait for you to make a list of most beautiful planes if you ever make one: the 727 and 747 are definitely on my most beautiful aircraft. And the IL-18: I typically don’t look at soviet planes but every proportion of it is perfect. If only someone in the states had made a plane like that…
    Keep the articles going, they are well thought out and funny.
    Mike P.
    Also San Diego CA

    • Anonymous says:

      I beg to differ!! IMHO, the Connie is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. The graceful lines of the fuselage and the well-balanced overall appearance make this one of top favorites.

    • John H says:

      The Lockheed Constellation was not a great beauty on the ground but in the air where it was designed to work it was a great beauty. Also, that was a lift producing fuselage!

  105. Doug Vernon says:

    Never trust the judgement of a guy who calls a Constellation ugly…on the ground or not!
    You want to see an ugly aircraft? Try the Junkers 87 “Stuka” dive bomber. This howling banshee was not only ugly, it was a flying nightmare! However, I still see the beauty in its wicked design.

    D. Vernon
    San Diego, California
    United States

    Want to know what really cranks my drive shaft? Like it or not I’ll tell ya. It’s people who ask me if I’m human or not…or ask for a password…etc..etc..etc…or ask for a URL what ever the hell that is!

    • Mike Peng says:

      “Never trust the judgement of a guy who calls a Constellation ugly” Seriously? You probably grew up with that thing buzzing around your airport like flies so I can understand you liking it, but you can’t make fun of others just because they don’t believe the same. One of the most beautiful planes IMO is the 727 but when someone calls it “ugly” or “loud” or whatever I don’t give 2 (bleep)s. And most commenting websites do make you sign in or enter a code to comment, you’re hating on almost every site. At least Patrick didn’t make you sign in or enter a “captcha” word puzzle. Then the URL thing: I didn’t enter a URL and it works just fine for me. Why don’t you try something before you get angry at someone for making you do something else. You’re making yourself look like the guy whose judgement should not be trusted.

  106. Will says:

    The A330-200.


  107. nianbo says:

    which do you think is better looking Pat? the 777 or the a340.

  108. Brian Reynolds says:

    RE DC-2 #2 Engine

    The story told within Douglas Commercial was that both Lockheed and Douglas wanted to minimize maintenance costs by removing one engine from the 747 design; however Lockheed got the patent on the S-duct and wouldn’t license it to Douglas.

    Also part of that story is that only the RR-211 engine which had a short core, would fit the L-1011 because of the tight fit into the fuselage. When Rolls had problems with the fan failing the bird test and certification was delayed, the DC-10 could be fitted with either GE or PW engines (which were not constrained by length) and still be delivered while the L-1011 sat on the ground in Palmdale waiting until the RB-211 engine was approved.

    I also remember being told that the “banjo” fittings used to couple the #2 engine to the fuselage were the largest titanium forgings ever made and were machined from the original 4,000 pound forging to the final 400 pound fitting weight.

  109. Roberto Blanc says:

    The ugliest are the Tupolev 104 and 114. They are so ugly that the Dc 1o looks incredibly beautiful.
    And worse, but much worse, the Avro York,

  110. Ray says:

    A friend sent me this link to read ,
    All I can say is what a lot of crap from a bunch of whingers with nothing else to do ,
    Get a life people .

  111. John says:

    The A320 in my mind is the worst looking plane of the modern jet age. Furthermore the A-318 looks like it should only have a license to carry the cast of Toy Story from one end of the kids room to the other, with the wheels never leaving the carpet. When comparing the 318 & 319 to the sleek new Mitsubishi Regional Jet you see where cutting off chunks of an already ugly plane is the laziest and of course cheapest design choice ever. That said, I’m not an Airbus hater and I find both the A330 and A340 to be beautiful planes with elegant lines. Though the A350 does not even come close to the 787 aesthetically. Where the 787 looks strong and graceful, the 350 seems delicate yet efficient.

    My vote for ugliest plane though was not on your list. I nominate the Dornier 228. I first saw it in the movie The Darjeeling Limited and thought it looked reminescent of 1984 Yugo dressed up like Big Bird.

    Lastly, the guy who says he doesn’t care what a plane looks like is also the same guy that wears socks with sandals and covers up hardwood with carpet.

    • Patrick says:

      I agree with you on the A320, more or less. In my book I describe the A319/A320 as looking like “something you’d buy from an Airbus vending machine, or that hatched from an egg laid by an A380.”

      As to the “cutting off” to create the A318 and A319, I see your point, though this basic technique — the adding or removing of fuselage segments has been the standard for decades when it comes to creating variants of mainline models. Remember the 747SP for instance (yes, I know, it had many other enhancements too), and the different DC-8s. The 727-100/200, the 767 200/300, and so on.

      I’ve always been fond of the A340, and the A330 has grown on me somewhat. It’s not a bad-looking plane.

      • John says:

        Yeah lengthening and shortening planes is definitely predicated on the original. Good design usually begets better or equal to. I think planes like the 777 and 767 get sexy at the -300 length and In the other direction I daydream the SP is the only airliner with enough overwhelming power and buttresed frame to complete multiple barrel rolls.

        I’m exicited to finally get the opprotunity to cross the 747 off my list next week. After a few VAtlantic A340 rides (KLAX-EGLL) I made sure to catch the daily 747 run this time. Then in Dec I’ll complete all the major jets with the A380 (AF) on the way to Berlin. As Baluega-y as it is I’m still very curious about flying in one.

        Speaking of big jets I really can’t fathom why the A380 has found a niche while the most beautiful pass jet ever made, the -8, has not. The only thing I can think is that company’s figure if they are going to go big they might as well go big as possible. Such a shame, but at least two good airlines will keep it going for a while and hopefully more in the future.

    • Ben says:

      The A320 is the blandest aircraft in the sky which is rather fitting considering it is a common as dirt utilitarian workhorse of the aviation world. The Boeing 737 is a common as dirt utilitarian workhorse too, but it’s a lot more striking to look at with its sleeker cockpit and hamster pouch intakes.

  112. Mark Maslowski says:

    I agree with you Patrick. I always though that the Connie was built with extra curves just to have extra curves. Never looked quite right. And the 787’s tail really does look wrong. However, the real offenders in the ugly aircraft world are the ATR 42 and 72. Those things look like they were put together from totally unrelated spare parts and in a real hurry. When compared to something like the sleek Embraer 120 (although not nearly as pretty as its cousin the RJ145), they look like they shouldn’t even be able to fly!

  113. Mike Walsh says:

    Nice article. Funny. Too bad the blog site really blows and doesn’t allow the article to be shared (like one would expect in 2014). SMH…

  114. Ung Grabb says:

    A380 has its problem in the nose section, the small cockpit windows on that nose makes it look, well sinister, they should have put a second row o windows for the top floor in the plane, done something a bit wild. Or maybe experiment a bit with paint schemes to dull that huge boring white expanse about the front of the plane.

  115. Angelo says:

    I agree that the A320 series is just bland. A380 looks like a nearsighted bald fast guy. Lockheed Constellation is a beautiful machine. The DC-10/MD-11 are quite gorgeous. The L1011 had a weird looking back end. The list of mossy beautiful planes will have mostly obvious choices. My vote will go to the DeHavilland Comet. I’m aware of its checkered safety record, but chalk that to lack of experience for designers.

  116. Adriano says:

    Altough i agree very much about the heavi ugliness of the A380, in my opinion Airbus succeeded designing a beauty with the new A350, the first Airbus who looks slender and “light” in all its lines.

  117. andre says:

    A320 ugliest plane ever.Ugly ugly ugly. Looking on the planes on the runway, I saw a A320…pff just another fat,boring and ugly A320. When I fly I don’t know why I’m happier to get into a 737 even if it is older. Not an Airbus fun …..
    I think Airbus is designed to do what the title said. Nothing but an air bus.

    • Mark Walkington says:

      And the 737 wasn’t designed for the same purpose either – transporting people from point A to point B?

      With respect I like the short stumpy ordinary A320 looks as much as the 737. I find the workhorses don’t tend to get much love unless they are a 727 or DC9 – something from a previous era. I too like the classic jets.

  118. […] the oddness of that middle engine lands the DC-10 a spot on my “Ugliest Planes of All Time” list. It was as if the engineers weren’t sure what to do with it, and with time running out […]

  119. Dave says:

    Some of our esthetic comes from more than just visual impression – we bring our experiences to the equation. My first airliner ride was in a United DC-8, a minor traveling alone, so first class. Invited into the cockpit at altitude. Three impeccably-dressed flight crew, thousands of gauges, buttons, and leavers, and wispy clouds hitting the windshield at nearly the speed of sound. Presented with a wings pin, and escorted back to my seat by the captain. As a result, I hold the DC-8 in very high regard, but objectively I’d call it ordinary.

    In general, since you asked: Most Boeing and Airbus models-splitting hairs, who even cares?. Beautiful: 727, 747. Ugly: 737, A380.

  120. Paul says:

    I agree the A320 is boring, but the A319 and A318 are cute little things!

  121. Harrow says:

    I am an American of primarily Italian descent, with some French ancestry.

    As an Italian, I delight in the shape of craft like the Supermarine Spitfire and the Boeing 747. Obvious creatues of the air, every line and curve befits their purpose. There is nothing there that detracts from the message: but release me and I will soar.

    But as an American, I find a certain aesthetic treasure in a contraption that looks like an accident and then suddenly leaps to life and performs its primary purpose. To watch a Kamov Ka-26 actually leaving the ground from a cold start is to enjoy a series of improbable surprises. It works! Bozhe moi, it’s flying!

    I place aircraft such as the Shorts SC-7 Skyvan and the venerable Antonov AN-2 closer to the surprising end of the spectrum. They look ugly, but they fit their purposes beautifully. I guess I’m trying to say that attractiveness in a craft is not one-dimensional, and you can’t always say that one aircraft is more visually pleasing than another.

    Finally, as a Frenchman I am compelled to remark that, pretty or not, the Trislander looks like a Chihuahua humping a Dachshund.

  122. Fragman88 says:

    Lovely thread, I agree with everything said. The Constellation in particular needs to be seen an heard in display flight, Bit of an Ugly Duckling on the ground.

    I did both F27 and F28 courses at Fokker’s factory in Schipol many moons ago (another place to check the tides, elevation -8, in storm season, check the Dykes are still holding the North Sea back).
    At this time the Fokker VFW 614 was being tested with poor results, with predictable `discussion’ between Fokker and VFW over whose idea it was in the first place.
    Not a bad idea, lower wing, shorter( lighter and stronger) gear. Lots of ground effect for low touchdown speed, so no need for reversers, and engines on top for no FOD on the rough strips it was designed for (Mounted a little too far above the wing for serious Coanda gain, but that was in its infancy then). I still have the graduation ties featuring all three, presented to us by the inimitable Jan Mol, Chief Test Pilot with the words `Gentlemen, I give you the Friendship (F27) the Fellowship (F28) and the Failureship (VFW614)’.

    The 747 has to be my favourite looker, but I have too many hours on her not to be biased, and yes she flies like she looks, beaten only by the F28 in handling. After nearly 15,000 Hrs, I’m an absolute believer in `If it looks right it’ll fly right’.

    On good looking design stables, although on smaller A/C, have look at some pictures of Hawker aircraft over the years, Hunter, Harrier, HS125, and then skip to the latest Bizjet offerings from Beech/Hawker in the US. Look at the profile from the nose to the tip of the tail, and absolutely graceful signature profile, maintained for all these years.

    On a final design observation, the nose of the A/C is a pretty important bit to get right in terms of drag, so have a look at the B787 front end, presumably designed by a Cray computer or two. Then go back and look at the Caravelle and Comet, both done with a pencil and a slide rule in the 1950s.

    My jury’s still out on the 787, but Emirates bring a 380 over my house every day and it doesn’t get any better looking. But it’s very quiet, even going BNE-DXB. They have that bit right, thanks GE.

    On general design

  123. fatguyfromqueens says:

    Coming to this thread ultra-late but so what.

    Totally agree with you Patrick about the A380. I’ve struggled to figure out precisely *why* it is so ugly. It isn’t just big, a 747 is big, but rather it seems like it is too big for its skin, almost like a fat person trying to fit into a T-shirt that he should’ve given up trying to wear about 20 pounds ago. A 747 (or even a C5 Galaxy) never gives that impression.

    I’m glad someone mentioned the VC-10 as an example of a beautiful plane, but alas Britain’s 727 analog, the Trident, is not in that category. To my mind it looks ugly. I can’t put my figure on what makes it ugly compared to the 727 but put them side by side, and there is no doubt which is more handsome.

  124. Nicolas Bovay says:

    In my opinion.

    Most beautiful: VC-10, CV880, CV990, DC8, DC9, DC10, B707, B727, B747, B757, Caravelle, TU104, TU134, TU144, TU154, 1L62, Concorde, A340, Comet.

    Most ugly: B737, B767, B777, B787.

  125. A380 lover says:

    You are so wrong about the a380
    It is not ugly, it is streamlined, even more streamlined than the 747

  126. NB says:

    @Pete: I agree absolutely with you about the 737. I think the A320 series is dull, but the 737 series is downright ugly. It sits too low to the ground, the engine shape is all wrong (at least from the -400 onwards) and the tail plane triangular connector-thing is plain ugly, making the whole beast seem squat and utilitarian. By contrast the A320 series is quite svelte.

    The rot started, in my opinion with the 757/767 series, which were unadorned twin engine planes, joined by the A300s. Then came the A320s, A330s and the 777 – basically all the same essential shape but different sizes and, perhaps, different ends to the wings. For the passengers merely catching a glimpse of the thing from the jetbridge, it really was a question of how big is my bus today.

  127. Paul L. says:

    What about the DC8 63? So elegant and thin, still able to carry 250 people.
    A380 ugly? it’s a matter of taste. it’s very subjective.
    I think the big mistake is that the A380 is not a US made aircraft.

    • Patrick says:

      True, there’s no accounting for taste… to a point.

      As for your point about the A380 not being American-made, neither was the Concorde, or the A340, or the IL-62, just to name three… all pretty aircraft.

  128. JS says:

    That paintjob on the Trislander is a thing of wonder all on its own. Really deserves a separate mention, maybe even an award of some kind? Also, the 320 is nothing great, but does really belong in such exalted company? Either way, great piece—look forward to the list of good-looking planes. Cheers.

  129. Pete says:

    The 737 is the ugliest plane imaginable. It has a pointy nose, is short and chubby and its tail wing has a weird connection to the top of the plane. And yet the A320 appears on the list and the 737 doesn’t?

  130. Peter Voetsch says:

    Don’t forget the VC 10. That was a beauty. 4 tail mounted engines! Very cool. One of the very few jet airliners I never flew (and I flew on the Convair 880 and 990).

  131. chris conklin says:

    Patrick-seriously? The Connie? I’ve always thought that to be the most beautiful airliner ever built. In 1990 I was lucky enough to ride jumpseat on the SAC at Oshkosh, one of the highlights of my career. I will admit, a beat up, POS Caribbean freighter, taxiing at SJU might not be seeing this airplane in it’s best light.

    Other than that, keep up the good work!

  132. Marshall says:

    As for the 737 vs. A320, I agree that the A320 is a dull design that epitomizes the “air bus” name. However, the 737-200 through -600 series is uglier. I don’t think any of them deserve to be on the Top 10 list, but they are nonetheless uglier than the A320. They look like guppies with wings. The 707 nose and flight deck section has never been flattering on the 737’s short airframe. The smushed engine nacelles are an obvious, what-do-we-do-now fix so that high bypass turbofans could be slung under the wings without redesigning the gear – an issue that now plagues the MAX. Also, the APU exhaust port gives the 737 a big butt, though not as big as the 747’s.

    The -800 and -900 series are an improvement, but I was disappointed when Boeing announced it would offer the MAX instead of a more refined-looking narrowbody replacement. It’s too bad we’ll be stuck with another generation of 737s deep into the 21st century.

  133. Marshall says:

    You’ve got to add the BAC 1-11 to the ugly list, especially the version with the hush kits on the engines. Stubby landing gear, inelegant wing, uninspiring face, and like the 787, a vertical stabilizer that’s a size too small. I think the 1-11 has benefitted from fond memories of US Air flying them out of Dulles, but that plane is a beast.

    While you’re at it, throw in the Breguet Provence, the Ford Trimotor (the way you feel about the Connie, I feel about the Trimotor), and the Fokker F27. I think the Tu-154 falls on the “ugliest” side of the ledger, but I always figured one had to be Russian to appreciate the aesthetic.

    • Don Murray says:

      When I worked at Allegheny (since renamed to USAir and then US Airways), we were converting from Convairs to BAC 1-11s and DC9s. In those days the nonsmoking sections were the last 6 rows in the back of the plane near the engines which were LOUD.

      Nevertheless, the jets were a much nicer flight than the props.

  134. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    I grew up, and once again live, in an area of Long Island that sees traffic to LaGuardia, JFK, Islip MacArthur, and Republic, and used to see traffic to Grumman, Roslyn ANG, and a number of smaller airports. When I was a kid, there were still plenty of prop-driven airliners overhead and I can confirm that a Constellation in flight is a beautiful sight to behold.
    I have often heard it said that “looks right, flies right”, and it seems to be true for fighter aircraft. It certainly holds true for a P-51, a Spitfire, a Hawker Hunter, or an F-4 Phantom, among others. I don’t know how true it is for commercial planes.

  135. Rod says:

    No accounting for taste (though I defy anyone to defend the A380 on esthetic grounds).

    I totally disagree about the DC-10 — a very sexy machine.

    Agree with Charlie that there’s something just a bit off about the 787. And it’s the eyes.
    Also agree with Charlie about the 757 — gorgeous eyes.

    The Constellation is as weird in the air as on the ground. I live near where one of the two remaining airworthy examples is based. Man, does it lumber.

    One of the reasons many Soviet-era machines look strange is because of the glass nose (the TU-134 being an example). But the Soviet Union was so freaking enormous, with so few nav aids around, that it was best to give the navigator a decent view.

    • Patrick says:

      I’d have stayed quiet had you chosen any other adjective in your defense of the DC-10. “Sexy,” though, is too much.

      Not that there wasn’t something cool about the DC-10. And certainly it was distinctive, which is more than you can say about most planes nowadays. But sexy?

      I agree with you and Charlie about the 787. The problem, I think, is the tail. It’s too small for the rest of it, and its odd curvature makes the plane look… well, fishy.

      • Rod says:

        Oh well, erotic perception is a very complex matter. I was a teenage plane-nut when it came out, and it excited me. At my present age I’d settle for uhh.. fascinating.

        Have we neglected the Beechcraft 1900 in this discussion? That seems unfair. Could have been an Airbus product by the looks of it.

  136. BaconWings says:

    “…well its a big, pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows …wheels …and it looks like a big Tylenol”

    But the A380 is a big, UGLY Tylenol. Good point Patrick – the cookie-cutter A320 family and that sin-of-a-design A380 hail from the same company that produced the super-sexy A340 – a look I love almost as much as the 727. I’ve admired and traveled happily on the 340 many times (and have a nerd-fleet of them all in great liveries in FSFX.)

    I have to respectfully disagree about the Connie. While certainly awkward on the tarmac, once wheels-up and in its true element, it transforms its ungainly stork-like stance into a classic, sculpted beauty! I think that may always be the argument for the Connie. But the Shorts always fascinated me as in, “How the hell can that can of soup possibly battle gravity?” But the fact it does is at least interesting (a have a few Shorts in my nerd-fleet too.)

    I can agree wholeheartedly with the 747 and ever-sexy classic 727. Remember the cool ‘Lawn Darts’ game (before they were rightfully outlawed via massive injuries and litigation?) The wicked beautiful Boeing 727 tri-tail with the pointy-nose always reminded me of those. Maybe it’s my 70’s childhood thing! (Plus how cool are rear stairs and those multifaceted shape-shifter wings?! Oh so cool bird-of-prey at any speed or standing still…)

    As always, thanks for the article Patrick and I can’t wait to see what you say about the lifting of the restrictions on pocket knives (less then 1/2″ wide while box-cutters, the choice of all terrorists in any form, are still prohibited – who thinks of this stuff?) Oh wait, I already know what you think


    JM. Bacon

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  138. Bill K says:

    In defense of the AN-72, it’s a matter of form following function. The AN-72 is a STOL aircraft and it uses the Coanda effect to improve STOL performance. This requires that engine exhaust gases be blown over the top of the wings, thus the placement of the engines. The Boeing C-17 also uses this effect.

  139. JAFD says:

    Hello, Captain Smith! Love your writing.

    On the Constellation – As one who remembers summer evenings on the outdoor observation deck at Philadelphia International in the 50’s, well, compared to the DC-6’s and 7’s, Electras and Viscounts of that era, it was a strikingly attractive aircraft.

    BTW, has it occured to anyone that in that era, when the average airline passenger was, even more likely than now to be a middle-aged man, and stewardesses were hired out of high school and expected to quit when they got married or at age 25, whichever came first, that hauling them around the country in a plane named for a girl that _really_ loved her Daddy, was a weird idea ?

    • Rod says:

      “Compared to the DC-6′s and 7′s, Electras and Viscounts of that era, (the Constellation) was a strikingly attractive aircraft.”

      WHAT??!! The Viscount was stupendous!

      • Patrick says:

        The Viscount and Vanguard both were good-looking planes — the latter especially. I need to stick up for the Electra also. Like the IL-18, it had a certain utilitarian handsomeness that I always liked.

        DC-6 and DC-7 were goofy-looking in comparison to any of these. But that’s not an entirely fair comparison, since they were piston-powered machines of a previous generation.

  140. Skyhook says:

    OK, so the Connie looked like it was going to fall over when on the ground. But actually flying, suffering cats, so s m o o t h.

  141. callsign says:

    I’m a little late to the party, but I’m going to put in my two cents anyway, just because I can!

    Thank you Patrick for FINALLY calling out the Connie for what it is. I much much prefer the B-377 Stratocruiser which may have had the bulbous nose but at least carried a ramp presence just not found in the Constellation.

    I will take the DC-10/MD-11 straight shooting #2 ANY DAY over the oopsie doopsie curvy shmurvy L-1011. I shudder at the sight of the Lockheed, but the DC-10 just evokes a practical get-it-done strong attitude. I love it!

    Finally, the A-380 is a monster. However, the A-340 and 330, especially when viewed from directly behind have such wonderful and beautiful curvy wings that are just so evocative in a feminine sense it just screams French Lady. Airbus may have made the 320 generic and the 380 eye-popping but the two others just sing.

  142. Chris says:


    Whether or not an aircraft sells around the globe is in small part due to its aesthetic nature. Airlines are not concerned with how pretty passengers will think the plane is. And they are right because passengers generally don’t care. So I don’t think pointing out global sales somehow validates the argument that Airbus make a more attractive airliner. Marketing and politics play far bigger roles.
    Furthermore it is the air carrier that determines the inside seating arrangement.

  143. Carlos Bonilla says:

    I agree that on the ground the constellation looked ungainly and awkward, since to clear the ground with the propellers it needed tall longing gear. More a limitation of props vs. jets than a design question.. But it’s flowing curves make it seem elegant ( to me) when in the air. The continuous curves, however, made it expensive to produce compared to a plane with a straight fuselage — no two parts of the barrel were alike and each needed their own tooling.

    Am I right in thinking that the triple tail was to keep it low enough to use existing hangars or production facilities?

  144. GeeBee says:

    The Britten-Norman Trilander was an expanded version of their Islander, which had a shorter body and no third engine. It was a decent-looking though kind of boxy little plane. A regional Scottish airline called Loganair used to use them in the 60s and 70s. They could use very small runways and even landed regularly on the beach on one island (Barra I think) making their schedule one of the few anywhere partly determined by high and low tide!
    Loganair (and this is very much hearsay I should add) had to fire a pilot, a WWII veteran, supposedly on grounds of age but unofficially because he was doing things like landing in farm fields so passengers wouldn’t have to get a taxi from the airport, and even using the Churchill Barriers in Orkney as runways. (URL,+United+Kingdom&hl=en&ll=58.871261,-2.912107&spn=0.007055,0.026157&sll=34.959208,-116.419389&sspn=2.863148,6.696167&oq=orkney&t=k&hnear=Orkney+Islands,+United+Kingdom&z=16 )

  145. Simon says:

    As an American ex-pat living in Europe I can’t help but notice an extreme level of bias.

    Boeing = all great inspired designs, innovative yet iconic
    Airbus = dull & boring

    And yet Airbus sells just as many or more aircraft around the globe. Is that all just blunt anti-Americansim or is maybe high time my fellow citizens back home undertake a serious reality check? The 757 is sexy, no doubt. But sit in one of Delta’s old 757’s and you’ll immediately understand why paying customers love modern A320 cabins or the convenient twin window seats on an A333. You can trash talk foreign competition all day long, but around the world people are voting with their wallets. And your bias won’t save aviation in the US. It does, however, make you look rather shallow to the rest of the world who prefers to judge based on their own personal experience without blindly following a bias intended to distract from sub-par performance in a free market competition.

    • Patrick says:

      I have an anti-foreign bias? Me? I’m the one constantly raving about overseas airports, and about the service standards of foreign airlines compared to those in the US. But a spade is a spade: Boeing’s planes are better LOOKING than Airbus’s planes. Having that opinion doesn’t make me biased. – PS

      • Simon says:

        Selective perception. The A320 is nothing special, but neither is the 737. The 748 is for sure more sexy than an A388. But the A333 is way more elegant than the clunky 767.

        As always, things become less black and white when you start looking at details. So it comes as no surprise that at the end of the day you CANNOT generalize that Airbus are better looking than Boeing or the other way around.

        • Patrick says:

          I agree with you on the A320-v-737. Neither is very pretty, but I’ll give a slight edge to the 737. I partly agree with respect to the A330-v-767. The 767-300 is indeed clunky, but the -200 was a good-looking, well-balanced plane.

          But come on, look at the Boeing line from the 707 through the 787, and dare tell me that Airbus is playing in the same aesthetic league. It’s not close.

    • Randall says:

      Thanks for singling out the 757. Pilots (understandably) love ’em, but they have too many seats and too long a range for a single aisle with hardly any toilets. Same thing for long-haul A321s.

      As for the A380, the photo shown cuts off the tail so you lose the full effect. But the true, beached-whale fatness of it is only apparent in the air. But it is nowhere near as ugly as the others in your collection. Merely ugly. Shouldn’t make the all-time top ten.

      BTW, Fokker was Dutch, and the company moved to the Netherlands permanently in 1919. He started the company in Germany only because his customer was the German military, but after they lost the war, he went home and went civil. Fokker’s only military builds after that were licensed copies of others’ designs, e.g., the Meteor and Zipper (F-104G).

  146. Tod says:

    Just a pity that the a380 is so nice to travel in. But I totally agree its as ugly as sin

  147. Siegfried says:

    I agree with the DC-10 and the Brittan-Norman Trislander being very unfortunate designs. I don’t know about the A-380 though. Sure it misses the nice lines of a 747 but I would not call it “ugly”. Just another of those new, uninspired designs. Like an A-320 in big. While there are reasons for the engine configuration of an DC-10, the VFW 614 just combines the disadvantages of all possible configurations. Notably the only “airline” in Germany ever flying the plane was the Luftwaffe where comfort is a secondary concern. I am missing the Cessna Skymaster though. Most push-pull configurations lack the elegance of the Dornier 335, but Cessna has brought the lack of a good design to a complete new level there.

    • Patrick says:

      The Cessna Skymaster, good call. I actually flew one of those beasts for a time. I have about 90 hours in an old Skymaster.

      • Marshall says:

        The Skymaster? Ugly? Ouch. Sure, it’s no RG Cardinal, but you gotta love that twin-boom tail and the air scoop reaching over the top of the fuselage. It’s like you’re flying a baby C-119! Looks great in USAF colors, looks great in its pressurized version. It’s Rutan-esque, but without the purist snobbery. Or the airspeed.

  148. Reza says:

    My opinion:
    The best-looking western-made plane is 747-SP
    The best-looking eastern-made plane is TU-154M
    The ugliest, I agree, A380 but probably due to a good reason, you have to extend upper-deck to allow 600+ people as the main fuselage cannot be extended after a critical point and by expanding upper-deck, by default you would get the ugly look.

  149. Larry says:

    Love the 727!

  150. Adam says:

    When it comes to best and beautiful, don’t forget the Starship. Perished because it was way ahead of it’s time.

  151. Charlie the Mechanic says:

    What a great article. Yes, aircraft should be as beautiful to look at as they are amazing at what they do.

    The A380 is truly the ugliest thing in the air. The person you quoted as not caring what it looks like… just goes to show that flying to the public has become as utilitarian as riding a Greyhound bus. They have no idea of the romance of aviation, even today.

    The new Dreamliner is a bit of an odd bird, I think because it carries a bit of a different profile. It’s still beautiful, but a bit like a supermodel who’s eyes are just a little too far apart. Beautiful, but something is just a bit “off”.

    The 757-200. Another great looking airplane. What a hotrod.

    Heard a good joke about the Shorts Boxcars one time… that when the aircraft was delivered, they threw away the airplane and are now flying the box it came in.

    Thanks for a great column and website. I look forward to my first up close and personal with a 747-8i…

  152. Bharani Padmanabhan says:

    ooh! painful to see two of my favourite designs on your ugly list – the DC-10 and the VFW-614. I am happy to note however the design of the VFW-614 is now refined into the HondaJet.


  153. Stéphane L. Paré says:

    Constellation. I have to admit I never saw one on the ground, and the picture is the fisrt I see of this airplane. That being said, when I saw it I thought it looked awesome! It seems to be ‘swimming’ in the air; the curves of the plane brings images of whales to mind (anyway, to mine!) Looking forward to see the list of good looking planes.