Ever since the Wright Brothers made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, mankind has been on a relentless quest to fly higher and faster. Human ingenuity has resulted in many fascinating airplanes that serve many different purposes – human transport, cargo transport, warfare, reconnaissance, space exploration, and even crop maintenance and firefighting. We’ve compiled a list of the 19 planes that represent the greatest achievements in their categories or are of paramount historical significance. It’s clear the people that conceived and designed these are brilliant, insane or both.
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Significance: Highest performance spy plane of its generation; conducted critical spy missions against the USSR during the Cold War.
Key Facts: This spy plane, designed as part of Lockheed’s vaunted, secretive Skunk Works program, was an unprecedented achievement in aeronautical engineering. The SR-71 could fly at 85,000 feet, at the outer edge of the atmosphere. It was so fast – it could fly up to 2,200 miles per hour – that it could actually fly faster than any surface to air missile an enemy could fire at it.