If we were all airplanes

If I were an airplane, I would be a Cessna 182. Because it “drinks” a bit, but it’s a trustworthy, sturdy airplane. If I were an airplane, I would be the Cessna 182 because it is simple and obvious but delivers what it promises and rarely lets you down. You can’t say it’s pretty, but it won’t scare you with its looks. It’s not nimble, but it climbs well and doesn’t need much runway to take off…

If I were an airplane, let me be a little more specific about it: I’d be a 1970 Cessna Skylane with partly bald tires and in need of a new paint, but with a well working engine bolted to it. I’d still fly with all the original parts, except for the “brains” in the panel, which would be updated, ADS-B equipped and all. I’d be a no-damage-history, always-hangared Cessna 182; an airplane built in the old days, but functional and ready for the new times.

My mother would be a Boeing 727, with its gracious, clean wings, and three engines for better redundancy of care. She would be a classical machine, the most beautiful of her time. One that to this day still soldiers on, working hard, stable and true. My mom would be a 727 because it is the most beloved airplane that I know of. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the Boeing 727; I’d risk saying that there is no other airplane as universally loved. Not even the Bonanza…

V-tail Bonanza
“That charming, beautiful girl that turns heads wherever she goes.”

The Beechcraft Bonanza would be that charming, beautiful girl that turns heads wherever she goes. The Bonanza, were it a person, would be a traffic-stopping woman, one you look and then look again, in awe. It is truly inspiring to admire the perfect shapes of the Bonanza—she seems structurally overbuilt, her landing gear is aesthetically perfect and… look at that tail!

But be aware, the Bonanza is not perfect. That sexy tail and the flawless harmony of the wing, positioned well forward on the fuselage, make it rather easy to drive her out of her CG range. You have to be careful when loading the Bonanza, or she might become twitchy and temperamental. She is beautiful, performs well, and is quite comfortable, but don’t push her; she is not a cargo airplane.

My best friend, that’s the cargo airplane. My best friend would be one of those C-130 Hercules, an ugly, ungainly monster that drinks from four cups at a time and makes a helluva noise, just the way we like it. The Hercules is not subtle, but subtlety is not what you want from him. And just like a good friend, he can take it all; he carries a lot of weight, he flies for a very long time, he endures extreme weather and extremely harsh environments. He is just there for you, always, come what may.

My father would be the DC-3. The Douglas DC-3, the old retired warrior—we owe so much to this airplane! He was built in a way that no other airplane is ever going to be built. He was the king of the skies in his time and opened up most of the routes we fly today. He still flies, but not for profit anymore, only as an attraction at gatherings, where everyone is glad just to see him there, to seat under his historic wings, to listen to his old engines roar and to pay homage to this venerable champion.

My brother would be a Cessna 172, which looks a lot like the182 (that’s me) and even though it is older, more versatile, and more popular than me, it makes me feel bigger than I really am when we’re side by side.

Luscombe
A hangar queen, but in a good way.

My sister would be one of those pampered hangar queens, the little airplane that the family is overprotective of and thinks nobody is good enough to fly her. A shiny Cessna 140, or a Luscombe 8, for example. “Don’t touch her! You’ll leave greasy fingerprints on her polished fuselage!”

It would be an interesting world if we all were airplanes. But in many aspects, it would not be very different from what it is today. After all, what do we all want? To find our soulmate, our travel partner.

Just as it is with us as human beings, our airplane soulmate would not necessarily have to fly tight formation with us all the time. That would increase the risks and might end up transforming a possible long and happy flying life together into a tiring and energy-consuming precision maneuver. The airplane soulmate would be one to fly along with you, to share flying stories with you and to build a great logbook of memories with you. And then park next to you in the hangar, waiting for the next flight.

So how would my perfect airplane-soulmate be? She would be sweet, well rigged, and properly balanced. She would win my heart with her honesty of character and her readiness to remind me, at my smallest slip, that she deserves the best of care and that she will not tolerate complacency. She would be trustworthy and equipped with generous wings to help me guide her through the skies for a very long time, in safety, for better or worse.

And of course, she would have to be pleasant to my eyes, to be beautiful to me.

I think my “dream girl,” the one that would change my life with a swing of her propeller and for whom I’d trade my ailerons for spoilers… that should be a brand new TBM 940, with all her French charm.

But then again, a Piper Malibu, a TTX or a Cirrus would not be bad at all…

40 Comments

  • Amazing!!!!!!!! The way you put poetry and technical stuff together is really something. One of the best aviation articles I’ve ever read. Thank you very much for sharing this – and for not including that rich European geek neighbor hahaha

    • Dear Enderson: Such positive review coming from you is really flattering; you made my day with your kind words.
      Thank you very much, my friend!

  • “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the Boeing 727″…

    Raises hand. I began my career in aircraft maintenance with the 727 and DC-9. I was always happier to be assigned a 9, rather than a 727 at the nightly crew briefing. Troubleshooting the pneumatic system on the 727 was challenging to say the least; it typically took two or more component failures before there was a flight deck indication of a problem. I would replace a component and correct the original pilot report only to discover another discrepancy during the ops check. Challenging.

    Confession time, I have a framed poster of the 727 in my office. It is a beautiful machine.

    • Mike, thank you for your comment. I didn’t know that dark side of the 727 personality. For me, my mom has always been the picture of beauty, like a 727 poster on the wall.
      Maybe I should start investigating mom for challenging personality traits…
      Thank you!

  • Great article Conçalo. Having made such comparisons in the past I frequently get a look that indicates I might be off my meds……

    Well written.

    • Hey, Doug, I am off my meds! But it’s not our fault, is it? It’s those talking airplanes that give us crazy ideas…
      Thank you for the comment, Doug.

  • As the owner of a 1964 Cessna 182 with everything original except almost all Garmin electronic panel, I agree with you Gonçalo, I wouldn’t be any other airplane. It has been my trusty alter ego for 24 years and hopefully for many years to come. Many family vacations. Many $100 breakfasts. Two boys who have their Private Pilot Licenses (although one went for that attractive V-tail Bonanza girl). Many trips to Oshkosh. What else could anyone ask for?

  • A lovely story and interesting choices, all explained quite reasonably. Made me wonder what I would be. I know my wife would be our Archer II, stable, good looking but not showy and predictable in all parameters. I would be a Dakota, much like the Archer, but with more capacity to carry with full fuel and faster while maintaining the PA 28 reputation for stability and handling.

    • I Agree, the PA-28s are lovely and friendly and they don’t need to show off. Everybody trust the PA-28s and everybody is happy when they see them.
      What a great family!
      Thank you very much, William.

  • Long live the mighty Herk! I spent 20 years on the C-130, 14 in maintenance and then 6 more as a flight engineer, with hundreds of flights over Iraq and Afghanistan. I trust the old Herkypig like no other plane!

      • I was on a Herc in January 1976, we were flying between Cold Bay, AK and Elmendorf AFB. I roused from my nap in the sling seat on the cargo deck and looked out the starboard portal window. The right inboard engine was streaming oil down the cowling and the prop was feathered. I said “neat” grabbed my trusty Canon SLR and took some great snaps of the situation. A desk flier asked me if I was concerned, I replied no we have three more. We landed without incident at the base and were met by the base fire trucks which accompanied us to the ramp. Then there was the time the brakes locked on take off from Nellis or we landed on an ice covered runway at Hill AFB UT but those are different stories. Fact remains the Herc is a great airframe which can successfully handle a lot of adversity.

  • “If I was staggerwing plane
    A staggerwing painted red
    I’d fly over to your house, baby
    Buzz you in your bed”

    From the song Red Staggerwing by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler

  • Never looked at either relationships or aircraft from that perspective before…but isn’t that what good writers do? Well written!

  • Great story Goncalo. You have shaken my mind. In a family of pilots, I am wondering what type of airplanes we would be. For sure my dad, an old crop duster Pawnee in Central America.

  • Very nice. You’ve achieved what good writers aspire to: you painted pictures in my mind of all those lovely (or venerable) aircraft. Gracias.

  • GREAT True-To-Life experiences Goncalo; but as a pilot for 50+ years that was a PIC in Piper cub, T-28, T-33, B-47, F-84, F-86H, and owned a Cessna 182….why not checkout and become a PIC in more aircraft? I know you WILL have soo much fun doing that. Please do contact me so we can ‘chat’ about that…if you would like!

  • Great fun read! Thanks!

    On my mothers side would be the Spitfire, the Globe Swift with a stick and more powerful engine, the Cardinal with retractable gear, and the Sabre jet because those are the most beautiful planes in the world for me.

    On my fathers side would be an early 210 with struts that had a turbo charger that works because I remember once flying at 15,000 feet over the Rocky Mountains with about 2 inches of throttle left to push in feeling like I was king of the world. Once we passed a bonanza because we had a turbo and the bonanza did not. Most of the time the turbo did not work, but when it did it was magnificent! (Why a 210 with wing struts? Because like a baby duck bonding with his mother, I was imprinted with that 210 as a perfect plane with all the power I would ever want.) My grandfather would be a 310 with a straight tale and gas wing tips which were not tilted for gravity flow because that is the most manly looking airplane I can imagine.

    Me? I would be a Cessna 150. It is true that on many cross countries you could make better time with a car, but the 150 is a fun honest plane that is easy and cheap to maintain. As a trainer it is forgiving, but honest enough to give you lessons for future upgrades. It looks modern which reassures passengers. When I think of a Cessna 150 I think of flying fun.

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