If I were to name the most influential airliners of all time, it would be way more than just six planes!
I would include the following:
1. Douglas DC-3
. Besides being the first airliner that could fly passengers profitably without a mail delivery contract subsidy, the DC-3 embodied all that was learned from the DC-1/2 with its monocoupe structural design and its shape determined by modern wind-tunnel testing. Its very strong structure made it possible to convert it to the famous C-47 Skytrain
transport used during World War II
2. Lockheed Constellation
. One of the first airliners that could fly from Los Angeles to New York non-stop, the Constellation benefited from having a pressured cabin and also the beautiful aerodynamic design of Clarance "Kelly" Johnson, perhaps the greatest airplane designer of all time.
3. de Havilland Comet
. Despite the unfortunate metal fatigue problem that ground the Comet I fleet the plane proved that jet-powered airliners was a good idea.
4. Boeing 707
. This airliner made it possible for more economical travel at jet speeds. This plane spelled the death knell for transatlantic travel by ship.
5. Boeing 727
. This airliner pioneered flying shorter routes on a jet airliner. A lot more airports saw jet airliners with the introduction of the 727. What the 727 pioneered was taked further by the Boeing 737, the Douglas DC-9/MD-80 series, and eventually the Airbus A320 Family series.
6. Boeing 747
. This airliner made it possible for a massive increase in international travel at lower prices.
7. Airbus A300B
. This airliner not only pointed the way for successful European collaboration on airliner production, but also made it possible to dramatically increase pax/cargo capacity on short- to medium-haul routes. The A300B design has evolved all the way to today's A340-500/600 designs.
8. Boeing 767
. This airliner not only replaced older 707's and DC-8's, but also pioneered twin-engined airliner flights on transocean flights.
9. Airbus A320 Family series
. Airbus' most successful product, it pioneered true fly-by-wire controls, proved smaller planes can fly longer routes, and is the reason why Airbus can successfully challenge Boeing nowadays.
10. Boeing 777
. One of the first airliners designed with considerable customer input, the 777 sports FBW and proved twin-engined airliners can fly very long routes. What Boeing learned from the 777 will be applied the upcoming 7E7