Last of Their Kind | Photo Gallery | Air & Space Magazine
(Library of Congress)

Last of Their Kind

Airplanes without equal at the National Air and Space Museum

"These aircraft bring people from all over the planet,” says Jeremy Kinney, a curator in the National Air and Space Museum’s aeronautics division. “The Smithsonian is the only place where visitors can see the Wright FlyerSpirit of St. Louis, and Bell X-1, rare survivors such as captured German and Japanese aircraft from World War II, and technology demonstrators like the Lockheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter. NASM’s 325 aircraft artifacts include 149 one-of-a-kind, sole surviving, and one of two remaining examples that are well known and not so well known.”

Presenting the NASM aeronautics division Top 10—and five runners-up, not pictured—chosen for their significance and their places in curators’ hearts. Notes Kinney, “Of course, the Wright Flyer [pictured above] will always be number one of our one-of-a-kind airplanes.”

See the complete list of the National Air and Space Museum's one-and-onlies.

Arado Ar 234 B-2 Blitz

(Dane Penland)

The world’s first operational jet bomber was not quite ready for full-scale bombing missions before the Allies invaded Normandy in 1944, but the Ar 234s later used in Luftwaffe units proved their worth as reconnaissance aircraft. Equipped with twin Walter rocket-assisted-takeoff units. Manufactured in 1944. Captured by British forces in Norway in May 1945; sent to Wright Field in Ohio for flight testing in 1946. First flight: March 1944. Transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the National Air Museum in 1949; sole survivor.

Abrams Explorer (not shown)

The Abrams Aircraft Corporation Explorer, with a glass-enclosed forward fuselage enabling superb views for both pilot and photographer, was designed for mapping and surveying. First flight: November 1937. Gift of Talbert Abrams, 1949. One built; in storage.

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