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Beauty or Beast? Up Close and Personal With the 787.

Let's ignore the 787's well-publicized technical troubles for a moment, and have a look at the plane from a purely aesthetic point of view. Is it a beauty, a beast, or somewhere in between? Photos by the author... ( More...

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Colin Seftel 9
The 787 nose is similar in shape to the 1950s Comet and Caravelle. That's meant as a compliment - they are two of the most beautiful commercial aircraft ever made - and it's interesting how a shape created 60 years ago still works.

Similarly, the wings of the B2 stealth bomber look a lot like the Comet's wings.
av8rdav 2
I think the 787 is a beauty. As far as features created 60 years ago and still work, NASA tried to design a prop for the Wright flyer that would be more efficient. They concluded that the Wright Brothers design could not be made better with today's tech.
mark seabrook 2
I agree the Comet (or Nimrod) is the first thing I think of when I see the B787
Jim Eldridge 1
add B-757 to that list.
John Atherton 6
My pick for best looking passenger jet is the BOAC Cunard liveried, Vickers Super VC10.Also the quietest, by far, of the pre-1970s commercial jets.
indy2001 4
I don't know about the best-looking since that would exclude Concorde. But for subsonic aircraft, I'll agree. The Standard VC10 looks good, but Super VC-10 is/was especially sleek and sexy. I just wish that I had appreciated the roundtrip KJFK-EGPK flights in my childhood to visit grandparents in Scotland. It's such a shame that truly wondrous things are lost on youth. But memories certainly came flooding back when I walked through the aircraft at Duxford a few years ago! And while waiting for a bus or train at the St. Andrews station, I've seen them in military colors as they performed touch-and-goes at RAF Leuchars.

I'd also like to add the MD-80 family of aircraft to the list of beauties. I guess I like rear-mounted engines. Once again, the original (DC-9) looked fine, better than the Caravelle or BAC-111. But it was only when the fuselage was stretched into the DC-9-80 that it finally had the perfect shape. Despite their age they all look like they want to go flying, even when they're sitting still. At least I get to appreciate their beauty and enjoy their remaining years of service. The replacement B737's and baby Buses may have more bells and whistles for passengers with short attention spans, but they can't hold a candle to the "Super 80" when it comes to looks.
sstuff 2
The DC-9s and MD-80s are also my favorites for your stated reasons; the long, unclutteed fuselage and the thin, uncluttered wings does it for me! I continue to be thrilled by the sight a Super-80 in the take-off climb.

Too, these 9s, 80s, and 90s will have a second-tier career and perhaps a "third-world" life, too.
jmilleratp 1
I agree there are tons of great, very cool aircraft throughout history! I think that, even those aircraft that come across as more practical than sleek, are great in their own way. But, the Shorts might be one I would exclude from the "attractive" list!
Mike Boote 2
I always thought the Shorts 330 looked like a bathtub with wings!
sstuff 2
Yea, the Shorts 330 and the 1949-51 Nash automobiles had a "bathtub" design. But both were practical for their intended purposes.
Dennis Noah 5
The most gorgeous aircraft I ever saw was on a trip into Andrews in 1969. It was a 707 with tail number 26000. I saw her again on a trip to the Dayton Airshow this year at the USAF Museum. Anyone with aviation knowledge will know her history.
jeff slack 1
Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnsons air force one, you just might be right!
Joe Kricho 4
Convair 880 and 990.
Bill Menzel 3
Here I will throw in two time-worn sayings--otherwise known as cliches:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

dodger4 0
Must be an aviation lawyer...

The taste (style?) is not disputed
Navy65 3
The Queen of the Skies was the Lockheed Constellation. The Boeing 707 approaches, but no other airplane ever matched the beauty of Connie.
dodger4 3

We'll go a long way before that beautiful look is matched again.
Lynque 3
I have to agree. The Constellation is in a class by itself.
I find it strange that there's not one mention anywhere here of the beautiful lines of the DC-8, especially those of the stretched -60 series with the sleek turbojets but looking just as good later with the large CFM Turbofans on the -70 series........ Now don't even start me on the sleek, smokey but oh so sexy Convair (GD) 880/990's.
Daniel Bailey 2
Beauty.. But I'm biased because it's my bird! ;)
Steve Smardon 2
I miss the look of speed standing still that only the Boeing 727-200 had.
Ev Butler 2
The Seven-Two is still my favorite bird. No other crate is close to it in looks and handling. Just can't find them anymore.
nicole ngono 2
For myself the most beautiful , sexy , or all you want , a aircraft with an amazing reliability , was the Boeing 727-200 advanced ; i think i am not the only one !
Derek Thomas 3
Showing my age - I'm a huge fan of all things Boeing - 707, 727, 737 and 747, and yes the 757 too. The L-1011 in TWA livery was quite a plane - many passenger hours in that one. Going further back, let's not forget the Connie, as long we're talking beauty...
nicole ngono 1
Ev Butler 2
The Connie was my first but I never got to like the humpback look. Then I graduated to a 707, nice looking, good handling, then to a DC-9-30 (Nightingale), but the 727 was my favorite in the looks department. The ugliest crate ever is the fat, waddling Airbus 380. That is one ugly crate. For getting up there fast and performance, the 757 had super performance. The bean counters shot it down due to cost per seat-mile. I hope Boeing will reincarnate the 757 with more economical engines but I doubt that it happens.
Jens Francke 0
Agree 100%, I started flying the -100 in 1965 and flew the -200 into the mid seventies, when I went to the 747-200 till the mid nineties. Both planes still my favorities. Speaking of sportscar performance, ever flew an empty lightly fueled 747 ?
paul trubits 2
What about the DC3? Casablanca would not have been the same without it.
ric lang 3
Has anyone considered the L1049 Connie? I and many of my "colleagues" consider it the most beautiful transport ever built. Flew sideways on these with Eastern & found it the best and last of the great panel airplanes. Huge maint problems, but....pressurization was alwvays a problem due to nicotine gumming up the outflow valves in the pressure bulkhead, but it was a pleasure to fly.
Navy65 1
It was a Lockheed 10 in Casablanca
smoki 1
OK, here's the straight skinny on what airplane was used in Casablanca: It was a (simulated) Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior, more commonly known as the Lockheed 12 or L-12, which was an eight-seat, six-passenger all-metal twin-engine transport aircraft of the late 1930s designed for use by small airlines, companies, and wealthy private individuals. A scaled-down version of the Lockheed Model 10 Electra, the Lockheed 12 was not popular as an airliner but was widely used as a corporate and government transport. The airport scene was filmed at Van Nuys airport. Otherwise the movie was filmed entirely at Warner's Burbank studios from May 25 to Aug 3, 1942 except for some Paris stock footage and an exterior street scene from the backlot.

Factoids: The airplane was a cardboard model. Fog was used to mask or blur its details. Dwarfs were used to walk around it to give it the proper proportional perspective. Ingrid Bergman was 2 inches taller than Bogart requiring Bogart to be elevated through various means in all their scenes together. It was Bogart's first romantic role and launched Bergman's career which had been mostly floundering in B-movies. The actors didn't know how it would end until the day of shooting. Turner had it colorized for just under a half mil which was met with considerable negative criticism.
paul trubits 1
Thanks for details! Makes sense: Stanley Kubreck made space look way cooler than NASA could.
Mike Meyer 1
Hey Paul. I'm pretty sure that was a Lockheed Electra in the movie. I still love the "Connie"!
Eric Crone 2
I fell in love with the Super Viscount Mk. 2 as a 15 year old in the 1960s. Many years on though I appreciate the sleek elegance of the B757 and the MD80.

[This poster has been suspended.]

ric lang 1
Really? Read "Destination Disaster", and just maybe, you'll get a new perspective on this widowmaker.
The nose/cockpit is so fluid looking that the 787 looks fast and efficient standing still. I agree the 8 looks "stubby" compared to the 9. The 10 will be even more sleek lookin. The wings are a work of art, (no wonder they adapted them to the 747-8). Stubby? that would be an A-319 or the 1st iteration of the 737 which looks like all they did was take the outer most sections of the 707 and glued em together. Funny how the A-350 looks almost like the 787 huh? Glad Boeing beat em to it.
744pnf 2
Beauty? Boeing 757-300 and Boeing 747-400
Mike Lieb 1
Im with you - to my taste these are gorgeous airplanes. I am going to miss both of them. Hopefully, Boeing will find a niche for a 757 re-do...
David Barnes 1
I honestly find the 757-300 to be a bit long for my taste, and prefer the proportions of the -200. Hard to beat any variant of the 747 for sheer awe, but the sports car performance of a lightly loaded 757-200 is fun to fly in.
james myers 2
Beast! Looks like a Killer Whale. For beauty and sex appeal I'll take the Connie & 747--they'd make a great couple.
The sight of a 747 still causes a thrill, especially landing or taking off.
I know the 787 is a beauty, and the Concord too, but what would one say of the Super Conny ?
jmilleratp 1
I've seen it up close on a Maintenance Facility tour. Very cool aircraft! I personally think it's very pretty.
steve rogers 1
agree with the vc 10 , that was one cool looking plane , maybe those retro shapes will come back in time
Dolf Brouwers 1
Conny......need I say more ;-)
Ken Hardy 1
Best looking large aircraft by far was the XB-70. I would have loved to have just been able to see it take off in person
Jim Atkins 1
Saw the B-70 flying over LA in about 1967- I was at lunch, 7th or 8th grade. Big contrail coming, with a white arrowhead shape in front of it. Very cool.
The Concorde and the Constellation are my top two picks!
Robert Simon 1
It is a beauty...if you've ever stood behind it while it takes off and watched the wings spring to is amazing. I still love the 747 too...every time that airplane takes off, I am in awe. I'm really going to miss the 757. A truly beautiful airplane and one of my favorites to ride in.
Murray Wilson 1
Definitely "Beauty". It looks sleek and fast, almost like a bird the way the wings are swept up and back in a tapered form. Having said that, I would love to see some new radical form-factor on a supersonic jet or a 21st century Zeppelin.
Jim Atkins 1
Love the 787. VC-10 was one of my all-time favorites, too. I think the common thread running through those birds (and the 340, too) is the graceful wing form.
Roger Curtiss 1
Patrick Smith may be missing a key point when he says that so many aircraft no look alike. The same can be said of many car models. But one reason they assume nearly the same shape is that such a shape is an aerodynamic success and the most efficient given the limitations designers must work with.

Also, Smith's criticism of the 787 tail appearing to be too small. While I do not disagree, small tails are the golden grail of aviation. Rudder is needed for yaw control but that big fin adds considerable drag and weight so working to eliminate it is a goal of future aircraft design. The fact that Boeing was able to shrink the size of the 787 tail indicates they are headed in that direction.
Brian Nasset 1
She is Beautiful although I live in the Seattle are never saw one up Close till
I was sitting on the Ground waiting for push back @ Joburg and this Emirates came in.
Just love those raked wings on another not I sort of live in the Flight pattern for SeaTac and they are easy spot but you almost never hear them. The 747-8 is just as quiet
Stefan Sobol 1
From some angles the 787 looks pretty sleek. However from others (3/4 rear view) it looks kind of fat. IMO.
ilkleymoor 1
Convair 880 by miles. A 1957 design that is still be a winner.
fundiks 1
The 787 is a cool plane to work down below. But it looks like a giant Caravelle to me :) it also sits like a hot rod, lower in the front.
The DC10 has to be my all time favorite plane.
Chris B 1
If we were told all the issues that happened with the 747 (anyone else see the recent documentary on Smithsonian?) people would have worries about that plane to.
P&W had their issues.
It doesn't knock my sox off.
nicole ngono 1
Ok Sir , only be repectful !
nicole ngono 0
And be tolerant too , the missing " s " is a typing error ( lol )
Kent Thompson -4
Piece of junk.


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