Best aircraft challenge down to four finalists

April 4, 2013

showdown Click to see the latest bracket in the Best Aircraft Showdown.

After a spirited competition in the round of 16 and round of eight, the AOPA Best Aircraft Showdown, sponsored by Aero-Space Reports, is down to four aircraft—the Douglas DC-3 versus the Piper J-3 Cub, and the F4U Corsair versus the Cessna 182.

In the Eastern bracket’s round of 16, voters were definitive about their picks. The Cessna 172 beat out the Piper PA-18 Super Cub by a margin of two to one, while the DC-3 posted a respectable win over the Spitfire. Over in the Southeastern bracket, The F4U Corsair won in a landslide over the Beechcraft Baron, while the de Havilland Beaver beat out the Beechcraft Staggerwing by less than 100 votes.

Going to the Western bracket, the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza beat out the Bell 47 helicopter by more than double the votes, while the Piper J-3 Cub won over the Cirrus SR22 by 99 votes. And in the Southwestern bracket, the Piper-PA-32 series lost badly to the Cessna 182, while the Boeing Stearman beat out the Pilatus PC-12 by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Looking at the round of eight’s Eastern bracket, the Cessna 172 made a respectable showing against the Douglas DC-3, but not enough to make it to the “Four on Final” group of aircraft. The de Havilland Beaver’s run ended after a loss against the F4U Corsair in the Southeastern bracket.

In the Western bracket, the Piper J-3 Cub managed to beat out the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, while in the Southwestern bracket, it was the Cessna 182 over the Boeing Stearman in a squeaker.

Commenters on the aircraft challenge were passionate about their picks. “Every airplane is a compromise. The 172 is just about the best compromise anyone has ever come up with. It's not great at any one thing, but it does everything well,” said Anthony Wilson.

“The J-3 Cub is the founder of it all. Still a marvelous airplane today. If you've never flown a Cub, please seek out the experience,” said AV8OR Bob.

Don Fey was torn between two aircraft. “Corsair vs. P-38? It would be easier to decide which of your kids to ‘throw away!’”

“That Staggerwing is the most beautiful plane ever conceived,” said Chris.

Voting on the last four aircraft standing will run April 5 through 7, and votes for the final two on April 8. Which aircraft will be the next to join the P-51 Mustang in the Best Aircraft Showdown Hall of Fame?

vote now

‘Four on Final’: The contenders

Here’s our breakdown of the aircraft that made it to the “Four on Final” in the AOPA Best Aircraft Showdown.

Douglas DC-3Douglas DC-3: Some would argue that this aircraft, credited with making air travel possible, is one of the greatest of all time. The aircraft made its first flight on Dec. 17, 1935, and was delivered to launch customer American Airlines in June 1936, according to Boeing. The company built 455 of the type for the airlines, along with another 10,174 built as C-47 military transports during World War II. Hundreds are still flying today.

Piper J-3 CubPiper J-3 Cub: Built between 1937 and 1947, the iconic Cub was seen as an aircraft that gave anyone the freedom to fly, according to William Piper, the company’s founder. Generations of pilots fell in love with aviation flying low and slow in the distinctive yellow J-3 Cubs with the doors and windows open in flight. Perhaps no other airplane captures the pure essence of flying's joy and freedom better than the tube-and-fabric Cubs from Lock Haven, Pa. The company built nearly 20,000 of the type before production ended.

F4U CorsairF4U Corsair: The distinctive long-nosed, bent-wing aircraft, built between 1940 and 1953, was the U.S. Navy and Marines’ most versatile fighter/bomber in the Pacific. Charles Lindberg flew bombing missions with the aircraft against the Japanese in 1944, according to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum archives. The Japanese called it "whistling death" for the high-pitched screaming sound Corsairs make during power dives. A roomy cockpit, a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, and unmatched speed and strength made the Corsair a favorite among pilots. Vought Aircraft Co. built a total of 12,571 Corsairs.

Cessna 182Cessna 182: Perhaps the best utility aircraft of all time and Cessna’s second-most popular model behind the 172, the ubiquitous 182 can carry heavy loads, fly in the clouds, and land on unimproved airstrips. It's a four-seat airplane that can actually carry people in all four seats. The aircraft was produced from 1956 to 1985; production on the type restarted in 1996. More than 23,000 of the aircraft have been built.