An aircraft is one of the greatest inventions of mankind that has given wings to humans to fly like a bird in the open, blue sky. Since the early days of aviation, hundreds of thousands of aircraft have been built to offer hassle-free travel to people all over the world, from mega hubs to far corners of the world. Some aircraft types have been produced more in numbers than others owing to their fuel efficiency, economics, price, performance, etc., and gained fame as best-selling aircraft in history. Here’s our list of five best-selling aircraft in the world that is still in production.
1. Cessna 172 Skyhawk
Numbers built: 44000+
First introduced in: 1956
An American four-seat, single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk wears the crown of best-selling aircraft in the world. It is the staple of general aviation and has given wings to pilots more than any other airplane in the world. Touted as the world’s most favorite aircraft ever built, more than 44000 Cessna 172s have rolled off the production line till now.
First introduced in 1956, this fixed-wing utility airliner has undergone many tweaks and improvements over the years and continues to be a common sight in skies worldwide. The Wichita-headquartered Cessna Aircraft Company still manufactures this iconic aircraft and doesn’t plan to end its production run anytime soon. Cessna 172 has found its application widely as a flight training aircraft for student pilots due to its robustness, excellent design, and high-wing feature.
2. Beechcraft Bonanza
Numbers built: 17000
First introduced in: 1947
The second greatest-selling aircraft that has been in continuous production since 1947 is an American-made Beechcraft Bonanza. It is a six-seater, single-engined aircraft designed and built to be certified in the utility category. It represents the ultimate piston single for many pilots and enjoys popularity among air charter companies. The prototype 35 Bonanza performed its maiden flight on December 22, 1945, and production began in 1947. The general aviation Bonanza aircraft is the best-selling of its kind and the highest-produced airliner of Beech Aircraft Corporation with more than 17,000 built (including Bonanzas of all variants).
Over the years, the venerable Beechcraft Bonanza has undergone many improvements in size, engine power, and designation, preserving its well-earned niche. It has a cruise speed of 176KTAS, a fuel capacity of 74 gals, and is approved for day and night VFR/IFR when properly installed. The main three variants of successful Bonanza aircraft are the Model 33 Debonair (conventional tail), Model 35 Bonanza (V-tail), and Model 36 Bonanza (longer-bodied, straight-tail variant). The success of the Bonanza family aircraft has spilled over into the civil and military sectors.
3. Piper PA-28 Cherokee
Numbers built: 32000+
First introduced in: 1960
The Piper PA-28 Cherokee Series is a family of single-engine, two-seat, or four-seat light aircraft ideal for personal use, flight training, and air taxi use. Unlike ordinary utility aircraft, it is an iconic aircraft manufactured in the highest volume in the history of Piper Company. It is powered by a four-cylinder hp Lycoming and features an all-metal design with low-wing, aluminum monocoque construction. Piper Company introduced this single-engine, unpressurized light aircraft in 1960. The hugely-successful Piper PA-28 was produced to compete mainly against the Cessna 172.
The Piper PA-28 Cherokee Series is a top contender for easy-to-fly planes as it is simple to handle and possesses reliable flight characteristics. It is cost-efficient and allows people to fly about 167 knots at 15,000 feet with less money and fuel. Owing to its exceptional design, affordable costs, reliability, and endurance, the aircraft has been in production from 1960 until today. More than 32,000 PA-28 planes have been built and sold so far which continue to grace the world skies.
With time, the aircraft has undergone substantial upgrades to make the Piper Cherokee family more wide-ranged. The later variants are powered by improved engines and equip turbocharging and constant-speed propellers.
4. Boeing 737
Numbers built: 11000+
First introduced in: February 10, 1968
Boeing 737 is the most successful aircraft of US aerospace giant Boeing Company and makes it to the list of the world’s best-selling airplanes still in production. The first B737 entered revenue service with German flagship carrier Lufthansa in 1968 and 54 years later, it still holds the same value and receives the same favor from airlines worldwide.
Boeing has built more than 11000 B737 aircraft so far and has managed to book a meaningful order for its variants including Boeing 737 classic, 737 Next Generation, and 737 Max. Boeing 737 is a narrow-body twin-engine jetliner ideal for short and medium-haul routes with a capacity to accommodate 85 to 215 passengers, depending on the variant. Boeing 737 Max is the latest plane generation, featuring excellent fuel efficiency and advanced technological design. The same model wreaked havoc on Boeing’s bottom line due to the worldwide grounding of the type for a certain time.
At present, aviation safety agencies around the world have cleared Max aircraft to return to the skies and resume their deliveries. China, the world’s second-largest market for commercial air traffic, was the first country to impose Max grounding and the last to clear the regulatory hurdle for 737 Max’s return to service in China. The aircraft is slowly resurging and coming into the limelight again, all for good reasons this time. The speed of its comeback, orders, and involvement in flight operations are impressive. Boeing aims to achieve a major feat by clocking huge orders for 737 Max family jetliners.
5. Airbus A320
Numbers built: 10,474
First introduced on: April 18, 1988
The fifth best-selling aircraft in the world that is still produced today is none other than the state-of-art Airbus A320, the iconic family aircraft that made Airbus a household in the exciting new jet era. The narrow-body twinjet A320 is the greatest-selling aircraft of the European giant that cemented its position as the largest commercial aircraft maker in the world. The Airbus A320 aircraft made a commercial entry for the first time with Air France in April 1988. Thirty-five years later, the fleet of A320 is still dominating the same niches it has been serving since the end of the 1980s.
Although Airbus A320 was introduced 20 years later than the Boeing 737, the European manufacturer has performed excellently over the years in ramping up production for its popular A320 family jets. In 2019, Airbus A320 snatched the crown from Boeing 737 to become the highest-selling airliner. America’s largest carrier, American Airlines is the largest A320 operator with more than 400 units in its fleet comprising several A320 variants such as Airbus A319, Airbus A320-200, Airbus A321-200, Airbus A321neo, A321XLR, etc.
Airbus A320 is powered by either CFM56 or IAE V2500 turbofans, allowing it to fly at the cruise speed of Mach 0.78 with a range of 6,112km. To make A320 more fuel-efficient, Airbus has introduced a re-engined A320neo (new engine option) which features more efficient turbofans and improvements, including sharklets. A320neo is quickly grabbing market orders with its unparalleled fuel efficiency, versatile cabin configurable for a variety of seating options, and outstanding operational, economic, and environmental performance.
Five best-selling aircraft that are no longer produced
All aforementioned greatest-selling aircraft belong to commercial and general aviation categories and are still in the production run. However, if we go back to aircraft history, we can find other commercially-successful aircraft that graced the world skies at some point. These airliners have already entered their sunset years and are no longer produced. The top five best-selling aircraft that are no longer produced are:
1. Ilyushin Il-2
Ilyushin Il-2 is a Soviet ground-attack aircraft that holds the record for being the single most produced military aircraft design in aviation history. The single-engine, twin-seat Il-2 was the finest aircraft during World War II and was instrumental in defeating the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. With over 36000+ numbers built, it is the second best-selling aircraft in the world, surpassed only by the Cessna 172.
2. Messerschmitt Bf 109
It is a German fighter aircraft that entered operational service in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a World War II aircraft equipped with advanced technology, way ahead of its time, and formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe’s fighter force. The production of this aircraft ended in 1958, with a total of 33,984 airframes rolled out.
3. Cessna 150/152
Cessna 150/152 follows the trail of its older sibling Cessna 172 to be among the most-produced aircraft in the world. Introduced in 1958, around 31,471 Cessna 150.152 units were produced until 1986.
4. Supermarine Spitfire
The UK-made Supermarine Spitfire is a single-seat fighter aircraft designed for short-range and high performance. It was introduced in 1938 and retired in 1961, with a total of 20,351 examples of all variants built.