Can You Identify These Planes You'd See at an Air Show?

By: Robin Tyler

The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the most famous aircraft ever built. It first flew in 1936 and played a major part in defending Great Britain against the Luftwaffe, Hitler's air force, during World War II. It was produced throughout the war and more than 20,000 were built. There are still around 50 flying examples found around the world and they are regulars at air shows.

The P-51 Mustang certainly needs no introduction. This was the aircraft that could reach Berlin and escort U.S. bombers on daylight raids over Germany. This fighter's part in the Allied victory over Germany should never be underestimated.

The B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft of World War II. Designed as a bomber, it was primarily used in the West, flying daylight missions against Nazi Germany. The B-17 could hold 9,600 pounds of bombs and had 11 to 13 machine guns as defensive armament. It first flew in 1935 and entered service in 1938.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II first entered service in 2015. It is primarily a multirole fighter but can be used in ground attack missions. It has stealth capability. The latest fighters are always a drawcard at air shows and the Lightning II is certainly no different.

This multirole aircraft first entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1978. It remains in service today with more than 4,500 built. It was built with a number of unique features, including a control stick to the side of the pilot and fly-by-wire capabilities.

The most modern fighter in service with a host of European air forces, including the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe, the Eurofighter Typhoon was a joint development between a number of countries. This fifth-generation delta-wing multirole fighter first entered service in 2003 and is massively popular at air shows in Europe.

The Douglas DC3 Dakota is nothing short of a legend. It first flew in 1936 and has been used in many guises, from an airliner to cargo aircraft. During WWII, it was used as a troop transport, cargo carrier, glider tow aircraft, or to carry paratroopers. The DC3 is affectionately known as the Goony Bird.

The Messerschmitt ME109 was the primary fighter in service with the German air force at the outbreak of World War II. First introduced in 1937, the aircraft had proven itself extremely capable during the Spanish Civil War where it was flown by German pilots helping Franco. In combat over Britain, however, it met its match in the Supermarine Spitfire, although both aircraft were very equally matched. One major disadvantage that the 109 had, however, was that it had a very limited range and could only stay in combat over Britain for a short period of time.

Perhaps one of the most famous training aircraft ever produced, the T-6 Texan first flew in 1935 and incredibly, was still in service with the South African air force up until 1995.

The Junkers Ju 52 entered service in 1931. This tri-motor aircraft was initially a passenger aircraft but saw service in World War II as a paratroop and regular transport machine.

The backbone of the U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons since 1976, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is an all-weather air superiority fighter tasked with taking on counterparts in enemy air forces. Even with fifth-generation fighters coming online in the U.S. Air Force, the Eagle will remain in production until 2022.

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was one of the major carrier-based fighters of the United States Navy during World War II. The Wildcat saw action throughout the Pacific, playing a pivotal role in defending the U.S. fleet from Japanese attack. Although the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero was quicker and more maneuverable, the Wildcat was extremely tough. Wildcats accounted for 1,327 enemy kills during the war.

A training aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force, the BAE Hawk is the chosen ride for the Red Arrows, the world's premier aerobatic team from the Royal Air Force.

A carrier-based multirole fighter, the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet first entered service in 1983 and serves in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It has a top speed of Mach 1.8 and has served in combat theatres around the world. The Hornet is the chosen aircraft of the Blue Angels aerobatic team seen at air shows throughout America.

Together with the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hawker Hurricane saw off the German Luftwaffe during World War II, most notably during the Battle of Britain. Failure to do so would have seen Germany hold air superiority, which would have let Hitler invade the island nation. Although not as famous as the Spitfire, the Hurricane was an excellent fighter in its own rights.

Although it was not necessarily the most glamorous fighter produced by the United States during World War II, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk certainly served a purpose. It was a capable dogfighter that was easy to build and helped to ensure that the United States Air Force was significantly armed during the early days of the war. Almost 12,000 of the P-40 were built up until 1944.

This 10-seater commercial passenger aircraft from Lockheed first saw service in 1935. It perhaps gained more fame due to the fact that it was the plane chosen by Amelia Earhart on her trip to circumnavigate the world, one from which she never returned.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation tactical fighter with stealth capabilities. Together with the F-35 Raptor, it will form the backbone of U.S. Air Force fighter forces in decades to come. It first entered service in 2005.

America's heaviest bomber during World War II, the B-29 dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan that helped end the war. A flying example exists today in the form of a B-29 named "Doc."

Entering service in 1982, the Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig 29 Fulcrum is a fourth-generation fighter jet. Over the years, it has assumed a number of multirole capabilities. It is one of only a handful of aircraft in the world capable of performing the Pugachev Cobra maneuver.

The first-ever vertical take-off and landing fighter, the BAE Harrier was a carrier-based fighter that served with the British navy, British air force and U.S. Marine Corps. Thanks to its movable jet engine, it was particularly maneuverable and saw action during the Falklands War.

The main U.S. fighter to serve in the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre was superior to the Mig-15 at the time. More than 9,000 were built during its operational history, the most of any jet belonging to NATO forces.

One of the world's first jet fighters to see combat, the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was introduced into the Luftwaffe in 1944. Together with the Me 262, the Komet proved a formidable opponent for Allied fighters and bombers but its introduction came too late to aid Germany.

The English Electric Lightning first entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1954 and served for more than 30 years. An interceptor, the Lightning was tasked with quickly reaching any aircraft threatening British airspace. It was a high-performance aircraft, capable of speeds of Mach 2.0

The Panavia Tornado entered service with a host of European air forces in 1979. This swept-wing jet is a multirole aircraft and services as a fighter-bomber, interceptor and reconnaissance platform.

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a majestic-looking bi-plane that could carry between six to eight passengers. At the outbreak of World War II, most Rapides were pressed into service with the Royal Air Force.

Like the Mustang, the P-47 Thunderbolt was capable of escorting American bombers all the way to Germany. It was a formidable aircraft, and could take plenty of damage. It was affectionately known as the "Jug."

A unique design, the De Havilland DH 115 Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1946, the second jet fighter to do so. More than 3,000 were produced, with the last serving until 1979 with the Rhodesian air force.

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe proved to be a fierce opponent for the Allies when introduced in 1944, although it had been in development since 1942. A dearth of experienced pilots, engine problems and a lack of fuel made it far less effective than it could have been.

One of the last biplane fighters in the Royal Air Force, the Gloster Gladiator was obsolete by the outbreak of World War II, although it had served as a frontline fighter from around 1935 onward.

The Hawker Demon was a fighter version of the Hawker Hart and served with Royal Air Force from 1930 but was obsolete by the outbreak of World War II.

The Avro Anson entered service in 1936 and performed a number of roles in the Royal Air Force, including as a light bomber, trainer, maritime reconnaissance and transport aircraft. It was largely obsolete by the time World War II began.

Produced between 1932 and 1933, the Gee Bee was a very distinct-looking aircraft. It was built especially for air racing and set a speed record of 296 mph in 1932.

The Hudson from Lockheed entered service in 1939 as both a light bomber as well as a coastal maritime patrol aircraft. It was commissioned for the Royal Air Force and was used by a number of Commonwealth countries, even after World War II. It did service with U.S. forces as well.

- The Buffalo, a fighter manufactured by Brewster, first entered service in 1937. It was one of the first aircraft to include an arrestor hook for operations from aircraft carriers.

This short, stubby Russian fighter first entered service in 1934. By the beginning of World War II, the Polikarpov i-16 was no match for more advanced German fighter aircraft. It was fondly nicknamed "The Donkey" by its pilots.

The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber that first entered service in 1936 with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It has the distinction of helping to sink the German battleship Bismarck during World War II.

One of the first jets in the U.S. military, the P-80 Shooting Star entered service in 1945. It began life as a pure fighter but went on to perform a ground attack role as well. The T-33 is a trainer version often seen at air shows in America.

The Focke Wulf 190 was the other famous German fighter of World War II after the Messerschmitt 109. It was immediately better than the Spitfire Mk V when it entered service, which astounded the British. Not only was it an excellent fighter, but it was also a capable fighter-bomber and saw service throughout the war.

The Saab Gripen is a multirole fighter that first entered service with the Swedish air force in 1996. It is capable of Mach 2 flight and serves in a number of air forces around the world.

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Image: Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Who doesn't love going to an air show to see the range of aircraft on offer?

The air show business is massive around the globe and as collectors and lovers of classic planes continue to restore aircraft from yesteryear, more and more air shows are not only featuring the latest in technology but also those aircraft that preceded them.

For many, these are the ultimate. 

And if you are lucky enough to get to one of the world's major air shows, such as Oshkosh in the United States, Farnborough in the United Kingdom or perhaps the air show in Paris, France, the range of aircraft featured, both flying and in static displays, is incredible. For instance, did you know that the museum at Oshkosh has more than 150 aircraft, some very rare?

Let's cut to the chase. As an aircraft aficionado, you probably have a vast knowledge of many different types of planes, from World War II fighters and bombers to more modern jets. And what about classic passenger aircraft from the 1930s and 1940s? Would you be able to recognize them?

That's what this quiz is all about and it will test your knowledge to the fullest.

Good luck!

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