Favorite Aircraft Challenge: Cessna seeks to be king

March 15, 2012

Cessna dominated the first round of AOPA’s Favorite Aircraft Challenge: None of its aircraft was eliminated from the first three brackets. The winning streak broke with the fourth bracket—in part because two Cessnas were pitted against each other. How are the 64 aircraft competing for the title faring in their brackets?

Predictions are in that the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair will make it to the finals. The Aerostar wasn’t a rising star, and voters weren’t easy on the Rutan Long-EZ. Piper may want to hold a pity party: The Maule M-5 edged out the Piper Malibu, and the Cessna 310 trumped the Piper Comanche. However, Piper’s iconic J-3 Cub is faring well, passing the first round with flying colors.

After a week of competing in AOPA’s Favorite Aircraft Challenge, 64 venerable aircraft have been narrowed to 32, and member comments enthusiastically calling aircraft sexy or beautiful have turned out to be the kiss of death.

It seems taste in aircraft varies as much as taste in other areas. The Glasair III, Piper Malibu, Rutan Long-EZ, Globe Swift, Waco UPF-7, Husky A-1C, and Cessna 310 were all dubbed sexy. However, four of the seven have been eliminated from the competition. Beauty didn’t fare any better, with five of the nine that were dubbed beautiful exiting the challenge. The one most commonly described as a beauty, the Beech Staggerwing, lives to see another day though.

The challenge kicked off March 12, with daily voting for one of four brackets opening each day. The second round of voting runs March 19 through 22, but we’re giving enthusiasts a head start on the voting for March 19. The first bracket of round two will be open early, starting at 12:01 a.m. Eastern on March 16. It’s open to all, but AOPA members get a perk—member votes count double.

Voters dubbed the P-51 and Glasair III sexy, and while many voted for the Glasair III because it is an Experimental and is more attainable, the P-51 prevailed in the end. “Are you kidding? There is simply no comparison. The P-51 Mustang is the epitome of piston flight!” one participant commented. The Glasair III’s suffered a blow to its ego when a voter didn’t know what it was: “Really, I mean is there really any reason not to pick the P-51 over the…what was it… a Cessna or something?”

The F4U Corsair verses Aerostar also generated its fair share of smack talk. “You're kidding, right??? Is there seriously any pilot on the planet, whether alive, or whose ashes have drifted down to sprinkle the Earth, or in the ground, who wouldn't choose a Corsair over an Aerostar???” Well, yes. From that matchup, the Aerostar received 22 percent of the votes. One justified the selection by stating, “Corsair is a bit of history.” Those of you making predictions, take note: One participant says it’ll make the top four.

The Cessna 310 also advances to the next level and may have had some help from the old television show. Commenters frequently listed Sky King as helping tip the scales in the aircraft’s favor. When it came down to the Bonanza and Citabria/Decathlon matchup, efficiency trumped fun. And nostalgia beat innovation, with the Douglas DC-3 blowing away the Cirrus SR-22 with 79 percent of the votes.

Despite its “German engineering” that earned the Extra 200/300 some votes, the American-made Pitts Special prevailed. One Pitts Special fan quipped, “designers built planes like the Extra to do what he Pitts already did,” while an Extra enthusiast gushed, it’s “coolest of the certified aerobatic aircraft!”

The challenge almost saw a classic upset, with an underdog nipping at the heels of a sporty, new aircraft. The Ercoupe (47 percent) just missed the Cessna Corvalis (53 percent). But were they sympathy votes? One participant said, “The Ercoupe is like the skinny little kid with dirty eyeglasses. He’s waited all his life for some respect, so let’s give him some.”

Truth is, all of the aircraft in the Favorite Aircraft Challenge deserve our respect. But, they all can’t be the favorite. Make sure your top pick advances to the finals by voting and encouraging your fellow pilots, aircraft owners, flying- or type-club buddies to get in on the action.