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4 Iconic 20th Century Passenger Airplanes Every Avgeek Should Know

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Montana Skies

Whether you call yourself an aviation enthusiast or avgeek, chances are as an airplane aficionado, you have your own list of iconic planes. Some choose to rank their favorites by design, appearance, or historical importance. For our list below, we’re focusing on the most iconic passenger planes of the 20th century.


Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde above the clouds

1. Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde

Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde

First on the list, we have the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. This supersonic passenger jet airliner first hit the skies in 1969 and ran in service from 1975 to 2003. The British-French turbojet-powered airliner’s maximum speed was twice the speed of sound and sat 92 to 128 passengers. The Concorde is one of two commercial supersonic airliners (the other is the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 from the 1970s).

What made the Concorde such a stunner? The long, narrow shape was designed for both form and function. It made the airliner not only incredibly recognizable but also reduced drag as the plane moved through the air. Its triangle-shaped wings and pointed fighter-jetesque nose were also selected to support its supersonic speed.

2. Lockheed Constellation

Lockheed Constellation stored in Helena, Montana
Connie was ferried to Helena, MT early July 1981 with Frank Lang in command. While in MT, the airplane was used for training at the Helena College of Technology's Department of Aviation Maintenance Technology until 2008.

More popularly known as the Connie, the Lockheed Constellation was first produced by the Lockheed Corporation in 1943. The four-engine pressurized airliner was created to meet the needs of American business magnate, Howard Hughes. Hughes wanted a 40-passenger transcontinental airliner with a range of 3,500 miles. Transcontinental Airlines worked with Lockheed engineers to meet his request.

The Connie was produced in several variants from 1943 to 1958 including the Super Constellation. The Connie exceeded Hughes’s expectations with a range of 5,400 miles. It truly earned its place in history as it was flown by global airlines for years and by the United States military for three decades. It was also stored in Helena, Montana for 36 years. Today, the iconic plane is remembered for its curved lines, propellers, and graceful appearance in flight.

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3. Vickers VC10

Vickers VC10 Airplane

Love a sub-sonic jet airliner? Then you’ve probably admired the British Vickers VC10 a time or two. The VC10 is known for its rear-mounted, 4-engine configuration, which created a minimalist and clean appearance. It first entered service in 1964 but never reached a great deal of success. Despite being retired by British Airways in 1981, the beauty of the VC10 lives on. Its large wings allowed for smoother takeoff and landing experiences as did the location of its engines far away from runway surfaces (especially when compared to underwing designs).

4. Avro Avian

Avro Avian Airplane

We’d be remiss not to include the Avro Avian. The light British aircraft first took flight in 1926 and was produced until just 1928. It was originally designed to take part in the Lympne light aircraft trials of 1926, which were held to encourage the development of such planes for private ownership. Amelia Earhart first met the Avro Avian biplane through Irish pilot Mary, Lady Health. Earhart later purchased the aircraft and shipped it back to the United States. She would later fly the 594 Avian III in her 1928 transatlantic flight.


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