The fastest, the stealthiest, the most innovative -- here's a list of the coolest planes ever.
Piloted by U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, the Bell X-1 became the first aircraft to travel faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947. It's shown here in Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the National Air and Space Museum.
Spruce Goose: Wooden wonder
Howard Hughes built this craft to be a heavy strategic military transport during World War II. To save on metal, he built the plane, also known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, largely of wood.
Spruce Goose: Short lived
The world’s largest plane at the time, the Spruce Goose would fly only once in 1947, and Howard Hughes was the pilot.
SR-71 Blackbird: Born in shadow
Shown here at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford on April 11, 2001, the Blackbird was the first plane that made use of designs and materials specifically earmarked for stealth.
SR-71 Blackbird: Clean record
The SR-71 recon bird first flew in 1964, clocking in at 2,000 miles per hour, or Mach 3-plus. In action from 1964 to 1998, this model has never been lost due to enemy action.
SR-71 Blackbird: Built for speed
Unlike supersonic fighters, the Blackbird was built to cruise at supersonic speeds, and is most fuel efficient at high speeds. It's shown here in a test flight over Beale Air Force Base in California.
This craft was built to test the limits of aviation. Flown from 1959 to 1968, the rocket-plane reached Mach 6.7, or 4,519 miles per hour. Another flight achieved an altitude of 67 miles, which some consider to be space.
This 1960s-era nuclear bomber was so formidable that the Russians had to create another plane -- the Mig-25 Foxbat -- just to counter it and others like it. Only two XB-70 planes were ever made.
X-43: Big potential
NASA's unmanned X-43 plane was designed to test hypersonic flight, possibly for future travel. Its first attempt came in 2001. It was boosted into position via a carrier aircraft.
X-43: Shaky start
The first X-43 had the potential to fly at Mach 7. But it, and its modified Pegasus booster rocket, spiraled into the Pacific Ocean on its first test flight in 2001.
X-43: Achievement unlocked
A fresh attempt was made with a second X-43 in 2004. Over the Pacific Ocean, the craft finally did what it was built to do and accelerated to its intended speed of Mach 7.
U-2 Dragon Lady: Aviation veteran
This high altitude reconnaissance airplane first flew in 1951 and is still flying today. It's seen here at the Akrotiri British RAF airbase near Limassol, in the east Mediterranean Sea, on August 29, 2013.
U-2 Dragon Lady: Dangerous missions
The U-2 can reach 70,000 feet -- ideal for spying at very high altitudes. One of the planes was famously shot down over Russia in 1960 with Francis Gary Powers at the controls.
Call it the plane that taught the best: This aerospace training craft provided key experience to some of America's most illustrious fliers, including Neil Armstrong. The 1960s-era craft itself reached altitudes as high as 120,000 feet. It's shown here in an image provided by the Air Force Flight Test Museum.