The Most Difficult Plane to Fly: Ranking the Challenging Aircraft

Choose the plane you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 10, 2024 06:40
Dare to take on the skies and challenge your aeronautical prowess? Welcome to StrawPoll's ultimate showdown of the most difficult planes to fly! From classic warbirds to modern marvels, we've compiled a list of the most challenging aircraft that have tested the skills of even the most seasoned pilots. Cast your vote now and see how your favorite plane stacks up, or suggest a missing contender in this high-flying competition. Join the ranks of fellow aviation enthusiasts and put your knowledge to the test as we navigate through the thrilling world of flight. So, buckle up, engage your flaps, and dive into this adrenaline-pumping ranking of the most difficult planes to fly. You're in for some turbulence!

What Is the Most Difficult Plane to Fly?

  1. 1

    F-35 Lightning II

    Lockheed Martin
    This plane's advanced technology and complex systems make it challenging to fly. It also has a high crash rate during takeoff and landing.
    The F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters designed for ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions. It is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, which aimed to develop a cost-effective and highly capable aircraft for multiple branches of the military.
    • Top Speed: 1,200 mph (1,930 km/h, Mach 1.6)
    • Range: 1,350 miles (2,220 km)
    • Service Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
    • Unit Cost: $77.9 million - $101.3 million (depending on the variant)
    • Armament: Gun, missiles, and bombs (internal and external)
    F-35 Lightning II in other rankings
  2. 2

    F-22 Raptor

    Lockheed Martin
    The F-22's advanced avionics and stealth capabilities make it a difficult plane to fly. It also has a history of oxygen system malfunctions that can cause pilots to lose consciousness.
    The F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter jet built for air superiority. It is designed to have stealth capabilities and advanced avionics to defeat modern air defense systems.
    • Max speed: 1,500 mph
    • Ceiling: 65,000 ft
    • Range: 1,840 miles
    • Thrust: 35,000 lbf
    • Length: 62 ft
    F-22 Raptor in other rankings
  3. 3

    Su-27 Flanker

    Sukhoi Design Bureau
    This Russian fighter jet is known for its high speed and maneuverability, which can make it challenging to control.
    The Su-27 Flanker is a high-performance air superiority fighter jet.
    • Crew: 1
    • Length: 21.9 m (72 ft)
    • Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft)
    • Height: 5.92 m (19.4 ft)
    • Empty weight: 16,380 kg (36,110 lb)
  4. 4
    B-2 Spirit
    United States Air Force · Public domain

    B-2 Spirit

    Northrop Grumman
    The B-2's unique shape and advanced technology require a high level of skill to fly. It also has a high crash rate due to its high operating costs and limited availability.
    The B-2 Spirit is a stealth strategic bomber used by the United States Air Force.
    • First flight: July 17, 1989
    • Length: 69 ft
    • Wingspan: 172 ft
    • Height: 17 ft
    • Crew: 2
    B-2 Spirit in other rankings
  5. 5

    A-10 Thunderbolt II

    Fairchild Republic
    The A-10's close air support capabilities make it a valuable asset on the battlefield, but its heavy armor and large size make it difficult to maneuver.
    The A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, is a single-seat, twin-engine attack aircraft designed for close air support missions. It was specifically created to provide effective support for ground forces in combat situations.
    • Length: 16.26 m (53 ft 4 in)
    • Wingspan: 17.53 m (57 ft 6 in)
    • Height: 4.47 m (14 ft 8 in)
    • Empty Weight: 11,000 kg (24,250 lb)
    • Max Takeoff Weight: 23,000 kg (50,000 lb)
  6. 6
    Harrier Jump Jet
    Arpingstone · Public domain
    The Harrier's ability to take off and land vertically makes it a versatile aircraft, but it also requires careful control to maintain its stability in flight.
    The Harrier Jump Jet is a unique and versatile military aircraft that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). It was developed to provide tactical support and close air support for ground forces. The Harrier is widely known for its ability to hover in the air and execute short takeoff and vertical landing without the need for a runway.
    • Engine: 1 × Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine
    • Thrust: 21,500 lbf (96 kN)
    • Max Takeoff Weight: 31,000 lb (14,100 kg)
    • First Flight: August 31, 1966
    • Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.12 m)
  7. 7
    Airbus A380
    Julian Herzog (Website) · CC BY 4.0

    Airbus A380

    Airbus SE
    The world's largest passenger jet is a marvel of engineering, but its size and complexity make it a challenge to fly. It requires a crew of four to operate and landings can be particularly difficult.
    The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body airliner known for being one of the most advanced commercial aircraft in the world. It was designed and developed by Airbus SE, a multinational aerospace company based in Europe. The A380 is recognized for its spaciousness, efficient fuel consumption, and cutting-edge technology.
    • First Flight: 27 April 2005
    • Length: 72.72 meters (238.7 feet)
    • Wingspan: 79.75 meters (261.6 feet)
    • Height: 24.09 meters (79.0 feet)
    • Maximum Seating Capacity: 853 passengers
    Airbus A380 in other rankings
  8. 8
    The 737 MAX has been in the news recently due to its flawed flight control system, which contributed to two deadly crashes. Pilots must be trained to handle this system and its failures in order to fly the plane safely.
    The Boeing 737 MAX is a widely known commercial aircraft model developed by Boeing, an American aerospace company. It is an advanced version of the popular Boeing 737 series, designed to enhance fuel efficiency and overall performance.
    • Cabin Capacity: Up to 230 passengers
    • Range: 3,550 to 7,130 km
    • Length: 39.52 m
    • Wingspan: 35.92 m
    • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 82,190 to 88,310 kg
    Boeing 737 MAX in other rankings
  9. 9
    The F-16's agility and speed make it a popular fighter jet, but it also requires a high level of skill to fly. Pilots must be prepared to handle its advanced avionics and weapons systems.
    The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic fighter aircraft that was developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the United States Air Force (USAF). It is a lightweight fighter, highly maneuverable and capable of achieving speeds in excess of Mach 2. It was designed as an air superiority day fighter but has evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft.
    • Top speed: Mach 2.05 (1,500 mph)
    • Range: 2,665 km (1,500 mi) with drop tanks
    • Ceiling: 15.2 km (50,000 ft)
    • Engine: General Electric F110-GE-129 or Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229
    • Weight: 8,570 kg (18,870 lb) empty, 12,000 kg (26,460 lb) normal takeoff
    F-16 Fighting Falcon in other rankings
  10. 10

    P-51 Mustang

    North American Aviation
    The P-51 was a popular fighter plane during World War II, but its powerful engine and fast speed made it difficult to control. Pilots had to be skilled in order to handle its high performance and maneuverability.
    The P-51 Mustang is a World War II era American fighter aircraft known for its exceptional performance and versatility. It is one of the most renowned and advanced planes in War Thunder, recognized for its distinct design and successful combat history.
    • Crew: 1
    • Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.8 m)
    • Wingspan: 37 ft 0 in (11.3 m)
    • Max Speed: 437 mph (703 km/h)
    • Range: 1,650 mi (2, 655 km)
    P-51 Mustang in other rankings

Missing your favorite plane?


Ranking factors for difficult plane

  1. Aircraft complexity
    Consider the number of systems and sub-systems in the aircraft, and the level of skill and knowledge required to operate and manage these systems.
  2. Handling characteristics
    Evaluate the stability and control of the aircraft, including its response to different controls and maneuvers. Some planes may be more sensitive or require more precise input than others, making them more challenging to fly.
  3. Flight envelope
    Consider the range of airspeeds, altitudes, and maneuvers the aircraft is capable of performing. Some planes may have a narrow flight envelope, making it harder to safely and effectively operate in a variety of flight conditions.
  4. Automation level
    Assess the degree to which the aircraft relies on automation and the pilot's ability to manage these systems. Highly automated planes may be more difficult for some pilots to adapt to, especially if they are used to flying aircraft with more manual control systems.
  5. Pilot experience and training
    Take into account the skill level and experience of the pilot who will fly the aircraft. Some planes may be more challenging for inexperienced pilots or those with less specialized training.
  6. Environmental factors
    Consider the impact of weather conditions, altitude, and other environmental aspects on the aircraft's performance and handling characteristics. Some planes may be more difficult to fly in adverse weather or at high altitudes.
  7. Maintenance and reliability
    Assess the aircraft's maintenance history and overall reliability. Planes that are prone to mechanical issues or require frequent maintenance may be more challenging to operate safely and effectively.
  8. Landing and takeoff performance
    Evaluate the aircraft's capabilities for takeoff and landing, including runway requirements and performance during different wind conditions and aircraft configurations (e.g., flaps, landing gear). Some planes may have unique requirements that make these aspects more challenging.
  9. Cockpit ergonomics and visibility
    Consider the cockpit layout, instrumentation, and pilot visibility. Poor ergonomics or limited visibility can make an aircraft more difficult to fly, especially during critical phases of flight like takeoff and landing.
  10. Mission-specific requirements
    Some aircraft are designed to perform specific missions or operate in unique environments, such as short takeoff and landing (STOL) or carrier-based operations. These unique requirements may make the aircraft more challenging to fly in certain situations.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult plane to fly. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or plane is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 201 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each plane once every 24 hours. The rank of each plane is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


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More information on most difficult plane to fly

Flying a plane is no easy task, and there are certain aircraft that are notoriously difficult to operate. From the complex cockpit controls to the unique handling characteristics, some planes require a high level of skill and experience to fly safely. So, what is the most difficult plane to fly? There are several contenders, including the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, and the legendary SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. Each of these aircraft presents its own set of challenges and demands a high level of expertise from the pilot. Let's take a closer look at what makes these planes so difficult to fly.

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