My Kinda List

That would be the Top 25 Badass Planes Of All Time (and I especially like their choice of #1).

Now, as with all this kind of geekery, one can argue with the choices (or omissions, e.g. the WWI Fokker D.VII), but it’s still a credible selection.

(Yeah, that’s Ernst Udet in the foreground.)

And I don’t agree with Gen. Spaatz’s characterization of of the B-17, but it’s a minor quibble:  the Flying Fortress was a dandy, any way you look at it.


Feel free to add your suggestions — but:  if you do so, you have to say which of the existing 25 you’d drop.  (Mine would be the DC-3/C-47, to make room for the D.VII, for example).


  1. Can’t argue with the D.VII, but I think I’d have to add the original Wright flyer (because what’s more bad-ass than being the first person EVER to fly?) and the Sopwith Camel (because Snoopy is bad-ass too).

    I’d remove the Airbus (because we don’t need SO many passenger jets on the list) and the F35 (because despite being friggin expensive, it’s unproven). Unlike Kim, I’d leave the DC-3/C-47, because it’s safe to say that without the C-47 (or something which would be a direct replacement) the Allies really couldn’t have won WW II.

    I’d also have to think long and hard about the B-25 Mitchell, because if we’re looking at bad-ass the Doolittle raiders has brass balls so big they clanged when they walked. To make room I think I’d remove the Leer jet.

    Regarding the B-17, best bomber of the ETO? Probably not (the B-24 Liberator carried more and had longer range). But there were a LOT of them, with the capacity to make more. Kinda like a flying Sherman tank.

    Mark D

    1. I agree the B-24 Liberator should be on the list. It was not only a strategic bomber, but it was used as an anti-submarine bomber, cargo plane, and many other roles. The Liberator was the most produced bomber in history, with 18,500 produced.

      Somehow, I don’t consider passenger planes like the 747, Learjet, etc. to be “bad ass”.

      Full disclosure: my father was a B-24 ground crewman during WWII. The B-24 has long been my sentimental favorite bomber.

      1. My brother in law’s uncle was the pile-it of Hadley’s Harem. Hit by flak on I believe the first Ploesti raid, had to ditch off the coast of Turkey. He and his co-pile-it died in the ditching, the rest of the crew survived. The nose section of the B24D was recovered in 1998, iirc and is on display in an Istanbul military museum.

        I’d lose the airbus, the 747 and F35 in favor of the B24, B26 (the Martin Marauder, not the later pretender), and P38, the ride of America’s top ace, Richard Bong. Gotta love the name.

    2. If the DC3 is dropped there will be a fist fight. It was the first plane I flew on, when I joined the army in 1974, from Fort Myers, FL to Miami. Climbed the exterior stairway and upon stepping inside, I walked “uphill” to my seat because it was a tail dragger. The seats were basic plastic covered upholstered pipes like found in the then current school buses. For the past 50+ years the DC3 has been the mosquito planes in southwest Florida skimming the treetops delighting and terrifying people all over the place.

    3. The B-24 may have looked better on paper, but the B-17 design survived damage much, much better. That was important for the men who had to fly these airplanes through German flak and fighters. It’s possible that the heavy daylight bombers’ biggest contribution to the war wasn’t their imprecise bomb deliveries, but the attrition the Luftwaffe suffered trying to stop them, and the B-17 crews had a better chance of coming home after playing fighter bait.

      Aside from the design differences, there were far more complaints about the production quality of the B-24. IIRC, all B-17’s were built by Boeing, although they did have to construct one or two new plants in other parts of the country. Consolidated farmed the B-24 construction out to Ford and other contractors; that gave them 50% more aircraft built (in 1941-1945, as compared to 1938-1945 for the B-17), but it made controlling the quality more difficult.

  2. As i was reading their list, I was becoming concerned that I hadn’t seen the C-130 and A-10A yet. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. I worked on the A-10 in avionics until BRAC took them away and gave my unit F-15Cs. Loved that plane, loved the mission, and loved all the weird places that plane brought us to.

    Lots of rides on C-130s, too. Even the C-130A the RI ANG sent to pick us up got us where we were headed. Not necessarily in comfort, but reliable as a rock.

    As good a plane the A320 is, I have a hard time labelling it ‘badass’.

    1. Worked at the old Quonset Point base from 1977 to 2013, across from Electric Boat and down the road from the airfield. Used to see four RIANG 130s buzzing around seemingly weekly.
      Local paper, back when they weren’t just redistributing others work, had an account of one of the last flights out of Saigon with a 130 packed like a Tokyo subway car. Among the passengers was a little kid whose family eventually made its way to the US. Kid became an engineer and went to work for Martin Marietta. Guess what he worked on?

  3. F-16: ” the F-16 turned out to be not only an effective fighter but an all-round performer, deadly against targets on the ground as well as in the air. ”
    Not so fast there Guido. I would make the argument that it was improvements in munitions that made the Electric Lawn Dart an adequate attack platform. Before the wide deployment of Precision Guided Munitions, we estimated that weapons released from a 16 would probably hit the ground, somewhere. On target? Not so much. Designed for the “knife fight in a phone booth” engagement (i.e. close in dog fights) it wasn’t really a first class air to air bird due to lack of long range capability until it got the AMRAMM. When I was at TAC/ACC (early 90’s) my office had a sign that stated “The F-16: a great aircraft if you don’t have any fighters or bombers available”. Putting the smarts and capability in the weapons is where it really picks up capability. But the fighter mafia loves it for it’s sports car like looks and handling.

    The Corsair was “U.S. Navy’s top carrier-based fighter of WWII. “??? I call bullshit on this one.

    It was a great aircraft and performed well in the Pacific , but primarily from Marine ground bases. IIRC the reason the Marines got such a hot aircraft is that it’s landing gear made carrier landings problematic and they dumped something they didn’t want on the Jarheads, as is their tradition.

    Drop it from the list and replace with the best _carrier based_ fighter of WWII: the Grumman F6F Hellcat, designed to be a Zero killer and it exceeded it’s designers expectations, racking up the highest number of kills and kill ratio of any WWII carrier based fighter.

    Side note on the Tornado: The reason for it’s high loss rate in DS was the asinine mission it was given; using the worthless JP233 (I swear that piece of shit was a KGB plant on the RAF) to attack runways (a whole ‘nother rant). Typical Battle Damage Assessment photos post attack showed scorch marks (which later surveys by boots on the ground described as “dimples” on the runway that in no way impaired operations by Soviet designed fighters), a larger crater (aircraft impact) and (if they were lucky) two ejection seats on the ground. Rational and effective airfield attacks using PGMs to plink aircraft shelters and other critical facilities (or loitering in the area to splash Iraqi aircraft as they took off to run for Iran) did not suffer near the loss rate and actually accomplished something useful. /rant mode off

    1. The F4U Corsair’s biggest problem wasn’t the landing gear – that was fixed by 1943 – but the placement of the cockpit behind the wings. Between the big radial engine in the nose and the wings, the pilot couldn’t see the carrier. It must have also been impossible to see the landing strip in land-based service, but the pilot could pick out marks to the sides and keep them in view through the vees in the wings. Coming straight on to a carrier deck, the whole carrier would be blotted out for most of the approach.

      The British used the Corsair from carriers. They had the pilots run a counterclockwise spiral landing pattern. In a continual left turn, it was possible to keep the LSO in sight through the left vee. That seems even more dangerous than straight carrier landings are, but as I understand it, the Sea Spitfire was obsolescent, and we didn’t have enough F6F Hellcats to share. If you wouldn’t choose a dangerous landing in exchange for superiority in the air, you aren’t a fighter pilot.

  4. Others come to mind …
    F-86F Saber
    Do-335 Pfiel (spelling?)
    Ar-234 (early jet bomber)
    DeHavilland Mosquito
    B-25B Mitchell (think Doolittle Raid – that took STONES)

    1. I seriously doubt the author of the article has ever heard of or seen any of those greats…

    2. Forgot to mention ..
      F6F Hellcat .. had something like a 14:1 kill ratio over Japanese opponent aircraft.

      1. Also forgot forgot the unspoken hero of Mother Russia .. IL-2 Stumovik, aka The Flying Tank .. destroyed countless pieces of German armor

  5. Scratch the F35 and B1. Add DeHavilland Mosquito and Su-27. Concur that F6F is a better pick than F4U if you are only looking at the WW2 service, but the Corsair had a very long post-war service that the Hellcat did not have.

  6. I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of the Warthog as number 1. I once heard the sound of it’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon firing as “God farting”. Truly a remarkable aircraft and so perfectly suited for it’s intended role that nothing since has come close to matching it.

  7. The Spitfire gets all the glory, but the Hawker Hurricane was the real champ of the Battle of Britain.

    (Pause to let the furor die down)

    Give the PM editors credit, they left off the F4, whose primary contribution to aviation was proving that even a brick could fly if given sufficient thrust. Its shortcomings (and they were legion) led to the F-15, -16, and -18, as well as E-M Theory and the OODA Loop. John Boyd may be the greatest American you’ve never heard of.

  8. Glad to see the venerable Hawg as top pick. I have almost 20 years worth of wrenching on that beast. I also regret the F-4 didn’t make the list. There were a gazillion of the things built, they’re still flying, and damn near everyone had them. I’d drop the F-16, B-17 and the A320 as well. Add the F-4, F-86 and the B-24. The B-17 was prettier is all. Keep the Lear. I work on the Lear 45 version and have cussed at Lear engineers on the 25, 31 and 35 variants. It’s the granddaddy of bizjets and flies like a fighter.

  9. I would add the F-100, I saw the Thunderbirds throwing those planes all over the sky at an airshow in 1956 and a very good friend of mine now, an older guy did his first tour in Nam flying the F-100. The F-4 as mentioned above wold be a good one for the list and take off most of the Jet Liner things, maybe leave the 707 because it was the first commercial flight I took on a jet. Liked the C-47 / DC-3 because I flew on several of those in both military and commercial configuration and they as said above were the work horses of WWII, Berlin Air Lift and Korea.

  10. Dumb title for this list. Anything not wearing their respective national colors should be tossed. They are not “bad ass”. Historic? Certainly. Many good suggestions for list candidates. I would include the P-47, and the Hawker Typhoon and Tempest. I agree with Wickmeister, the B-24 should be on the list.

    Full disclosure: My father was a B-17 pilot. He flew 35 missions over Europe with the group–

    For those interested, everything you ever wanted to know about the P-47–

    Bad ass? Well now–

    Because: Texas–

  11. I’m a good bit surprised the Kim would advocate removing the DC-3/C-47, given his love of classic machines.

    To me, the DC-3/C-47 actually deserves a higher spot on the list, probably in the top 5, based on the fact that there are still a goodly number of examples still performing working service around the world. Not just pampered, exquisitely maintained warbird society living museum pieces, but actual, working aircraft. (I recall seeing one tucked away in a corner of the Kabul airport in 2010. I think it was either being used by the DEA or CIA.)

    In that way, it has something in common with another of Kim’s favorite classic machines, also coincidentally introduced in 1935: the FN P.35, aka, the Browning Hi-Power (which I saw Brit officers carrying in Afghanistan still in 2010.)

  12. The Panavia Tornado? Seriously?? A study in Euro-wussy collaborative ineffectiveness. The Bulton-Paul Defiant was more badass. The Fairly Battle was more badass. The Brewster Buffalo was more badass. The Vought Vindicator was more badass.

  13. Corsair v. Hellcat……as good as the Corsair looks, gotta go Hellcat.
    And, just why is the Spit ranked so much higher than the plane that really, for all practical aspects, replaced it: The P-51 Mustang (the RAF even named it)?
    (Oh, and the original air-frame was the A-36 Apache, built for the USAAC – it was why “Dutch” Kindelberger knew he could put a plane in the air in the time frame the RAF needed, over the P-40 – and when he got the Merlin to go into it, the P-51B was born along with a legend).
    A-10…..Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!
    and now that Boeing has signed a contract for about 120 new wingsets, all of the AF’s serviceable A-10’s will have new wings to keep them flying for the next 20-30 years – and some spares left over.
    [Full Disclosure: an uncle was an aeronautical engineer for NAA at both the El Segundo plant (during WW2) and in Columbus (in the 50’s – where NAA built jets for the Navy) a brilliant engineer, and quiet]

  14. It would have been much more fun if the list were chronological and organized by mission, civil transport, air superiority, bombing, ground attack, recon. Then we could list the game changers.
    For example, the Zero obsoleted the P40 and anything the Navy had.
    The MiG 15 with the F86 Saber because of it’s swept wings.
    The DC3 with the Fokker and Ford tri-motors.
    The A10 Warthog the A4 Skyraider.
    I could go on and the rapid advances in WWI would be interesting to explore.

    I watched a TV show in this format last night about weapons. They had RPGs, assault weapons featuring the AK47, the V2, the A-bomb. I kept mumbling under my breath, “Where’s the Minnie ball.” The Minnie ball was what allowed the line soldier to increase his rate of fire with a black-powder muzzle loader and have some hope of hitting his target. This alone changed infantry tactics forever.

  15. Not a single plane from WW1? Like the Sopwith Camel. And where’s the Mosquito? Where’s the Stuka? And not a single flying boat. No Catalina, no Walrus, no Sunderland. For shame!


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