A few years ago, an ex-girlfriend bought me a birthday present that took my breath away. It was a huge painting of a Supermarine Spitfire flying through the clouds; now I know what you’re thinking. We’ve all seen paintings like this that rank slightly above a portrait of Elvis on black velvet instead of canvas. Part of why the present was so surprising is the fact that it was such a tasteful image. Years later now, I still keep it above my fireplace and get a compliment on it virtually every time a new guest comes in.
I can’t help but think, however, that an enormous portion of the reason it is so well received is the simple fact that the Spitfire is a damned good-looking plane. The dimensions are perfect, and the lines evoke speed and power in a way that few other vehicles have been able to match. But I can think of quite a few other planes — the Lancaster, the Mosquito and the P-38 Lightning, for instance — that have been gorgeous in totally different ways.
So which is the top of the heap? What is the most beautiful propellor-driven plane?