What never changes when we fly somewhere? Well, we do it on an airliner! Airliners have helped to shape the way we travel over the years. Without them, we could spend days on end aboard cruise ships that would take so long, it might not have been worth taking the journey at all. It may feel like a long time, but it's somewhat remarkable that we can get to the US from the UK, and vice versa, in about eight hours. That isn’t even half a day.
Of course, as time goes by, different types of aircraft gets made. And that has lead to some of the most successful aircraft that we have ever seen. Some airliners are so good, they have even found secondary uses with air forces throughout the world, which is a remarkable achievement. As we all know though, there is always another side to the tale.
There have been some truly awful—and I mean awful—airliners built over the years that have made us detest flying, or just made us not want to even go near that particular aircraft. When we fly, we want to be as comfortable as possible. However, some aircraft—especially in the 1950s and 1960s—made that a very tricky task indeed. Want to know more? Well read on to find out about some of the best—and worst—of the aviation world.
21 Rocked The World: Concorde
Concorde is easily one of the most recognizable airliners that the world has ever seen, for one very good reason. It was one of the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft, and the only one of two (so far) to have been in service. The other supersonic airliner we will touch on later. Going back to Concorde, it was the true pioneer of supersonic jet travel and remained so right up until its retirement in 2003. Since then, there has not been any other supersonic airliner in commercial service. And it could be that way for the rest of time. We may never see its like again.
20 Rocked The World: Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is probably the most recognizable airliner in the world, and certainly one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world. The "Jumbo Jet" as it has so often been called, is perhaps the original "giant airliner" of the skies. It was introduced in the 1960s, around the same time as Concorde was taking shape and is partly the reason the supersonic jet never caught on. Air travel quickly became all about transporting the most people from A to B, and the 747 did that superbly whilst passengers traveled in comfort. The only downside perhaps is that it now takes 8 hours to go from the UK to the US, as opposed to 2.5 in Concorde.
19 Rocked The World: Lockheed Tristar
The Tristar is one of the most innovative aircraft of its time, and if it looks familiar, that’s because it is very alike to the Douglas DC-10. However, both of these aircraft have very different stories. The DC-10 sold quite well, very well in fact. It was hampered though by various issues that gave it a crash happy reputation. The Tristar, on the other hand, was far more advanced than the DC-10, and overall a better aircraft. It nearly sunk Lockheed though who were new to the passenger aircraft game. The Tristar also found service in air forces, most notably the RAF, but despite nearly killing its creator it was a phenomenal machine.
18 Rocked The World: Boeing 737
Perhaps there was nothing truly groundbreaking about the Boeing 737. There's nothing special about its looks, nor is it any faster or slower than most jet airliners out there. What it does have, however, is versatility, which a lot of other aircraft lack. The 737 is one of the most popular airliners out there, not just for passengers but for airlines themselves too. It is the perfect short-medium range airliner and is perhaps only rivaled by Airbus A320 jet, which is effectively the French company's only real answer to the 737. If you are flying nationally, or internationally through Europe, this is what you are most likely to be on.
17 Rocked The World: De Haviland Comet 4
The De Haviland Comet was the world's first jet airliner, but also one of the most troubled. The first version of the Comet was plagued with a multitude of issues that saw several high profile crashes, and forced the entire fleet of the original Comets to be grounded, causing big problems for maker De Haviland. Major rectifications to the original design had to be made, and the Comet 4 that came out of that was what the original Comet should have been. By then, the US had caught up and the Comet 4 was left behind a bit, which is sad as the Comet had become a great airliner.
16 Rocked The World: Airbus A380
The Airbus A380 has had a troubled existence in its relatively short lifespan, so troubled in fact, it's now going out of production. Why has it gone out of production? Well, airlines have been reluctant to place orders for it, for whatever reason. The 747 has remained the more popular choice when its come to the giant jetliner and the A380 has been a real struggle to sell. Not to mention that there are much cheaper airliners out there, that can be bought in greater quantities than just a few A380’s. Emirates have been a huge customer of the aircraft, and have seen the potential of the big Airbus. Sadly, others haven’t.
15 Rocked The World: Vickers VC-10
The Vickers VC-10 is another rather unique airliner, in that it has four jet engines mounted on the tailfin as opposed to under the wings like on a conventional jet airliner. What really made this airliner special though was its speed. The VC-10 at the time became the fastest airliner in the world and held the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. Only Concorde could match and surpass the VC-10; such was the aircraft's dominance of the London to New York route. The VC-10 was finally retired a few years ago, after several served with the RAF as tanker aircraft.
14 Rocked The World: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the latest, and perhaps greatest, aircraft in Boeing's arsenal. It is hard to find a problem with any of Boeings airliners, and the Dreamliner is perhaps the best of the modern generation of Boeing airliners. Its flicked wings give it a lot of lift, and its economy and capacity can easily rival that of anything Airbus throws at it. It is 20% more efficient than the Boeing 767, with noise-reducing chevrons on its engines also making it one of the quietest airliners on the market. It certainly has a lot to go for, despite a few in service problems.
13 Rocked The World: Bristol Britannia
The Bristol Britannia was known as the whispering giant, although it wasn’t always that case when flying in the aircraft. The Britannia is one of the most ground-breaking aircraft when it comes to turboprop design, and proved to be incredibly popular both with aircrew and passengers alike. Its exterior noise was surprisingly quiet, and it also had a very smooth nature that made it quite comfortable even if it wasn’t always the quietest machine for passengers. Ultimately the jet age caught up quite quickly with it in commercial use, but the RAF made good use of it as a transporter for a good many years.
12 Rocked The World: Boeing 777
Like the Boeing 737, the 777 is one of the most versatile aircraft in Boeing's range. Its first flight was in 1994 and the aircraft is very much still in production to this day, and has been developed into the ultimate version, the 777X. It is the most produced Boeing wide-body jet and is easily one of the company’s best selling models. It's fuel efficient, comfortable, fast and incredibly nice for the pilots to fly as well. In fact, it has proved so successful, that some of its design features have even been shared with the 787 Dreamliners; such is the 777’s versatility.
11 Rocked The World: Lockheed Super Constellation
The Constellation is often regarded as one of the most classic, and legendary airliners the world over. Quite rightly, mostly for the gorgeous looks that it has. That isn’t all though. A response to the rather successful Douglas DC-6 airliner, the "super Connie," saw service in both commercial and air arm fleets across the world, and was a comfortable aircraft to fly in as well as having a great range that rivaled that of the Douglas. It was also a larger aircraft as well. Together with the original Constellation, it has become one of the most recognizable airliners the world has ever seen.
10 Rocked The World: Vickers Viscount
The Vickers Viscount is one of the pioneering turboprop airliners that never really caught on as much as it could have. Why? Because it emerged just as jet aircraft were starting to take center stage. Why was it so pioneering? Well, it was the pioneer turboprop airliner. It still became one of the most successful and profitable post-war transport aircraft, with 445 built for a wide range of customers worldwide. Renowned for its quietness and comfortable cabin, the last Viscount in any service was retired in January 2009. That’s not bad really. In fact, it is truly remarkable indeed.
9 Rocked The World: Boeing 707
The Boeing 707 has often been referred to as one of the pioneers of long-distance jet travel, and one of the best airliners that's come from not only Boeing's factory, but any aircraft manufacturer in the world. In fact, it was the first jet airliner to be commercially successful, stealing a lot of the De Haviland Comet's thunder. Credited with ushering in the jet age, a staggering 865 aircraft were built by Boeing and it was only commercially retired this year (2019), which is astounding and shows just how good the 707 is. It established Boeing as a leading airliner manufacturer, thanks to its range, comfort and carrying capabilities.
8 Hated Flying: Tupolev TU-144
Most people forget that there was another supersonic jet airliner that beat Concorde into the air. It was, of course, the Tupolev TU-144—or Concordski, as it had been dubbed by the west. Flying at the start of 1969, the ‘144 was plagued by multiple problems. It wasn’t as advanced as Concorde for one. Its engines had to stay on afterburner to be supersonic, whereas Concorde’s didn’t This made the ‘144 horrifically noisy and an unwelcome aircraft to fly on. Two high profile accidents, one of them at the Paris airshow, left the aircraft's reputation in tatters, and it mostly ferried freight and parcels for Russia’s Aeroflot carrier.
7 Hated Flying: Ilyushin Il-14
Ilyushin has sort of become famous for some of their earlier airliners, though not in any good way. The early Russian airliners were some of the worse that you could ever fly on. Noisy, uncomfortable and not well advanced, the Il-14 was one of those airliners. Remarkably though, the last version of the aircraft did not retire until 2005. A staggering achievement for an aircraft that was used to land on poor quality airfields and used in rural areas. Despite its loudness and uncomfortable nature, the Il-14 was still a remarkably rugged aircraft and even quite reliable, making it an interesting proposition for some airlines.
6 Hated Flying: Douglas DC-10
The DC-10 is very similar to the Tristar in that it has that unique three-engine arrangement. One in the tail, and two under the wings. It sold in greater numbers than the Tristar and it is still in service today. But there were several issues. And the biggest one surely by far is its reputation. DC-10’s have been involved in a number of high profile accidents, and its fuel economy was not up to the standards that airlines needed. Production ceased in 1983, but some cargo carriers still use the DC-10 and it did pick up a solid safety record come the end of its service life.
5 Hated Flying: De Haviland Comet 1
We have already talked about the Comet 4, but what of the Comet 1? Well, as touched upon earlier, the Comet 1 was involved in several high profile crashes, mid-air explosions more like, that were put down to metal fatigue, a new phenomenon at the time. The problems could be traced to the square windows, which caused cracks in the aircraft and thus eventually, in flight, the aircraft gave up the ghost. As can be seen on later models, round windows suddenly started to appear, after a huge investigation into what caused the failures. The accidents hurt the Comet’s reputation, and severely curtailed its service life.
4 Hated Flying: Bristol Brabazon
The Bristol Brabazon was one of the earliest leviathans of the sky. And it was built with very good intentions. To be an advanced, comfortable and efficient airliner for the brave post-war world. It had its fair share of problems though. It was deemed too large and too expensive for any potential companies, not to mention the jet engine was slowly catching on and the De Haviland Comet was not that far off from taking shape. Only one prototype was built, and it was duly cut up in 1953, along with the incomplete second prototype. And looking at the aircraft, you can see why no one was interested.
3 Hated Flying: Avro York
The Avro York again can trace some of its routes right back to the Avro Lancaster. And it very much suffered the same issues that the Lancastrian faced. Noisy, loud, uncomfortable and quite frankly a bit mental. Several sections of the Lancaster and York were actually identical. 258 were built yet only two have survived on display, some examples of the aircraft clinging on into 1964, four years later than the Lancastrians. The York was a stylish enough aircraft but as jet engines slowly began to take over the skies, it never really stood a chance, although it survived well as an RAF transporter aircraft.
2 Hated Flying: Baade 152
The Baade 152 is an ungainly looking thing, and was the first German jetliner to emerge, and its first flight took place in 1958. But the aircraft never took to active service, though two prototypes did take to the skies. The Baade didn’t have the best of starts, the first prototype crashing on just its second flight after only amassing 35 minutes flying time on the first flight. A third prototype was only ever used for ground tests, and never took to the skies. A serious malfunction in the fuel tanks which interrupted the fuel supply during steep descents was discovered, and the test flying came to the end.
1 Hated Flying: Avro Lancastrian
The Avro Lancastrian can trace its roots right back to the Avro Lancaster bomber of World War II. And that, essentially, is all this aircraft is. The aim at the time was to find a use for old bombers, and to get a fairly cheap bunch of airliners in service. The Lancastrian was hugely unpopular. Old, uncomfortable and rather loud, it never hit any sort of dizzying heights that Avro perhaps thought it might achieve. Only 91 were built, including conversions from original Lancaster bombers, and some amazingly clung onto life right up until 1960, well into the jet age of transportation.
Sources: YouTube, BAE Systems, CNN, Flugzeug info, Wikipedia, Air Power World