Can You Identify These Pre-WWII Planes?


By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: U.S. Navy via Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Oh, those magnificent men in their flying machines, as the old song goes!

It's not really the men that are magnificent, is it? It really is those flying machines! Incredibly, despite being heavier than air, thanks to some wizardry, they stay aloft.

Seeing that humans only managed to fly in 1903, the aircraft produced in the two decades before World War II had come a long way from the Wright flyer. By the mid-1930s, wood was no longer the primary material used in their construction. Most planes were now made out of metal, which made them far heavier. Luckily, engine technology too had advanced at a rapid rate, so the powerplants installed on these aircraft were powerful enough to get them in the air and perhaps, more importantly, keep them there.

The 1920s and '30s also saw the beginnings of passenger transport. Flying in an aircraft drastically cut the traveling time between cities and companies soon realized this. Now, the aircraft was not only used for military purposes or the transporting of mail or goods, but it could also carry people to their destinations in style!

So now it's time to test your aircraft identification skills!

Will you be able to tell us which aircraft is which? 

Good luck!

Pictured here is a commercial passenger aircraft that first flew in 1931. It was the first aircraft of its type to have retractable undercarriage. Can you name it?

The Model 9 Orion from Lockheed was a single-engined commercial passenger aircraft first released in 1931. The enclosed cabin could transport six passengers comfortably. The Orion was the first airliner with retractable undercarriage.


A few of these beautiful aircraft remain today. It served as an airliner in the 1930s. Can you name it?

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a majestic looking bi-plane that could carry six to eight passengers. At the outbreak of World War II, most Rapide's were pressed into service with the Royal Air Force.


This image shows the last of the biplane fighter aircraft produced for the Royal Air Force. Can you identify it?

One of the last biplane fighters in the Royal Air Force, the Gloster Gladiator was obsolete by the outbreak of World War II although it had served as a frontline fighter from around 1935 onwards.


What is the make and model of this early 1930s aircraft that was built for air racing?

Produced between 1932 and 1933, the Gee Bee was a very distinct looking aircraft. It was built especially for air racing and set a speed record of 296 mph in 1932.


Intended as a transport plane, only two of this aircraft were ever built. What is it?

This 1930s two-engine aircraft was intended as a transport plane. Only two were ever built as the Miles factory was commissioned to focus on the Magister training aircraft as the threat of war approached in the late 1930s.


Here we have the first all-metal fighter produced in the United States. Any ideas as to the make and model?

The first all-metal fighter produced by the United States, the Boening P-26 Peashooter first flew in 1932. Chinese built Peashooters saw action against the Japanese before the outbreak of World War II, while the Peashooter also served in the Pacific with the Philippine Army Air Force.


Can you name this eight-seater amphibious passenger aircraft from the 1930s?

First flown in 1937, the Grumman Goose was an amphibious passenger plane that could transport up to eight passengers. Incredibly, it was purposely designed for businessmen in the Long Island area.


Here we have an American military trainer from the 1930s that served with a number of air forces around the world. What is it?

Perhaps one of the most famous training aircraft ever produced, the T-6 Texan first flew in 1935 and incredibly, was still in service with the South African Air Force up until 1995. Many examples are still flying today.


Only one of these was ever built. Sadly, it crashed and the project was scrapped. Can you name it?

Only one example of this behemoth was built in the early 1930s in the U.S.S.R. The K-7 had seven engines and was proposed as both a bomber and passenger aircraft. The only prototype crashed in 1933, killing 14 people.


Here we have a torpedo bomber that served with the Royal Air Force from the mid-1930s. Name it, please.

The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber that first entered service in 1936 with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It has the distinction of helping to sink the German Battleship, the Bismarck during World War II.


Known as the "Gooney Bird," this is one of the most recognizable planes from the 1930s. Any idea as to what it is?

The Douglas DC3 Dakota is nothing short of a legend. It first flew in 1936 and has been used in many guises, from an airliner to cargo aircraft, and even during the Second World War as a troop transport, cargo carrier, glider tow aircraft, or to carry paratroopers.


Name this aircraft, the first all-metal bomber to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

A bomber introduced into the United States Army Air Corps in 1934, the Martin B10 was the first all-metal monoplane bomber in service in the United States. When introduced, it proved faster than any of the current fighters in service.


First flown in 1934, this passenger airliner was still fabric covered and almost outdated by the time it entered service. Which of these below is it?

This two-engine commercial passenger aircraft first entered service in 1934. Constructed from steel tubing and covered with fabric, it was soon superseded by the newer designs which used stressed aluminum in their construction.


Identify the biplane in this image, please.

A two-seater bomber, the Hawker Hart served with Royal Air Force from 1930 but was obsolete by the outbreak of World War II.


This aircraft was able to serve off aircraft carriers. Do you know what it is?

The Blackburn Skua was a two-seater fighter/dive bomber that saw service with the British Fleet Air Arm after entering service in 1938. It is named after a sea bird.


Pictured here is a winner of the coveted Schneider Trophy air race. Name it, please.

The Supermarine S6 designed by RJ Mitchell, who later went on to design the Supermarine Spitfire. This air racer won the Schneider Trophy race in 1929.


Pictured here is an aircraft commonly referred to as "The Donkey" by is pilots. Any clue as to what make it is?

This short stubby Russian fighter first entered service in 1934. By the start of World War II, the Polikarpov i-16 was no match for more advanced German fighter aircraft. It was fondly nicknamed 'Donkey' by its pilots.


Here we have a German airliner introduced in 1931. By the outbreak of World War II it had a number of military roles as well. What is it?

The Junkers Ju52 entered service in 1931. This tri-motor aircraft was initially a passenger aircraft but saw service in World War II as a paratroop and regular transport machine.


Introduced in 1937, this aircraft was initially a long-range airliner. It was soon pressed into military service, however.

Initially developed as an airline for long-range trips, the Focke-Wulf F200 Condor was used extensively by the Luftwaffe during World War II as a maritime patrol aircraft and anti-ship bomber. It was first introduced in 1937.


The aircraft in this image, a bomber from the 1930s, is a __________

The Keystone B-3 was a biplane bomber aircraft in service with the United States Army Air Corps in the 1920s. Although made obsolete by the new all-metal monoplanes of the 1930s, the B-3 stayed in service til 1940.


This British airliner was introduced in the 1930s. What was it called?

The De Havilland Express was a larger of the Dragon Rapide, also built by De Havilland. Over 700 were built in the 1930s.


This was a true multi-purpose military aircraft and acted as a bomber and trainer amongst other roles. What is it?

The Avro Anson entered service in 1936 and performed a number of roles in the Royal Airforce including as a light bomber, trainer, maritime reconnaissance and transport aircraft. It was largely obsolete by the time World War II started.


Are you able to identify this beautiful flying boat that could cross the Atlantic with ease?

The Boeing 314 Clipper was a flying boat airliner which first entered service in 1939. Clippers were capable of flying across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with fuel stops along the way of course.


What is the name of this maritime patrol aircraft used by both the Royal Air Force and their American counterparts?

The Hudson from Lockheed entered service in 1939 as both a light bomber as well as a coastal maritime patrol aircraft. Interestingly, it was commissioned for the Royal Air Force and was used by a number of Commonwealth countries, even after World War II. It did service with US forces as well.


Can name the aircraft pictured here, one of the first to use an arrestor hook?

The Buffalo, a fighter manufactured by Brewster, first entered service in 1937. It was one of the first aircraft to include an arrestor hook for operations from aircraft carriers.


The first monoplane bomber made out of metal, can you name this American aircraft?

Introduced in 1931, the Boeing YB-9 didn't have a long operational service in the US Army Air Corps, and by 1935 was retired from service. It does have the distinction as the first monoplane bomber to be made entirely out of metal.


Designed by a Hollywood mogul and famous aviator, what is the aircraft show in this image?

A design from Howard Hughes, the H-1 set a number of records in the late 1930s. During this time, the H-1 was the fastest landplane around, capable of speeds of over 350 mph.


The model that followed this aircraft was a famous fighter from World War II. What is the name of the aircraft in this image?

This single seat aircraft was designed for sport flying as well as touring by the famed Messerschmitt aircraft factory and Willie Messerschmitt in particular. It first flew in 1934.


This aircraft was the one in which Amelia Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the globe. Can you name it?

This 10-seater commercial passenger aircraft from Lockheed first saw service in 1935. It perhaps gained more fame due to the fact that it was the plane chose by Amelia Earhart on her trip to circumnavigate the world, one she never returned from.


Can you name the Dutch airliner that entered service in 1933 and held 12 passengers?

The F.XX, from Dutch designers Fokker, entered service in 1933 as a passenger transport aircraft. It could fly up to 12 people and crew up to distances of 800 miles.


This flying boat could transport 24 people over 700 miles. Do you know what it is?

The 1930s saw an upsurge in the popularity of flying boats as a form of a commercial airliner and the Empire Boat, from Short, is one of the more famous examples. First introduced in 1936, it was capable of flying up to 24 passengers up to 700 miles at a time.


Only one example was ever made of this night fighter in 1931. What make and model is it?

The Lockheed YP-24 was a two-seat fighter that never entered service. In fact, only one was made, in 1931. Multiple factors, including the Great Depression, saw the project abandoned.


Are you able to identify this record-setting racer from the 1930s, please?

A 1930s racing aircraft, the Percival Mew Gull was made of wood. This made it very light and coupled with the de Havilland Gipsy Six motor that powered, helped the Mew Gull to many air speed records during its lifetime. It had a top speed of 265 mph.


A fighter-bomber in service with the US Navy, what is the make and model of the aircraft in this image?

Introduced in 1933, the Curtiss BF2C Goshawk saw service on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. It served as both a fighter and fighter bomber. A number also saw service for China against the Japanese.


What is the name of this trainer aircraft which served in 39 air forces around the world?

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was the main trainer used by the Royal Air Force before World War II. Close to 9,000 examples of this beautiful biplane were made, and many still exist. All-in-all, the Tiger Moth served in the air forces of 39 countries.


This aircraft was used by the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue. What is its name?

Introduced in 1933, the General Aviation PJ was a flying boat used by the U.S. Coast Guard. Generally, it was in operation for search and rescue missions. It featured a high wing, flying boat hull and stabilizing pontoons under the wings. Only five of them were made.


An aircraft not in service in the U.S., can you name this plane that saw action against the Japanese in China in the late 1930s?

Very similar in looks to the T6 Texan, the Vultee V-11 was an attack aircraft a number of air forces around the world used in the 1930s, including the Chinese. It only flew in the U.S. air force for test purposes.


Can you name the all-metal monoplane featured in this image, please?

This experimental aircraft featured a monoplane device and all-metal construction. It was an alternative design to the Boeing P-26 Peashooter but lost to that aircraft when the United States opted for the Boeing as a front-line fighter.


Just 17 examples of this three-engine transport plane were made in the 1930s in England. Do you know what it is called?

A three-engined design from the Edgar Percival, the Spartan Cruiser could carry between 6 and ten passengers. Most saw service with Spartan Air Lines, flying from the Isle of Wight to London.


What is the name of the American torpedo bomber from the 1930s?

The Douglas TBD Devastator first entered service in 1937. Although it was advanced for its time, it performed poorly during World War II and during the Battle of Midway 35 of the 41 Devastator's were lost.


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