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Key Takeaways

  • The most famous canard aircraft are the Wright Flyer, Beech Starship, Piaggio P.180 Avanti, Rutan Long-EZ, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
  • Canard aircraft are characterized by their front wings, which feature the two primary components traditionally used in a plane’s tail: the elevator and horizontal stabilizer.
  • Although canard planes have distinct advantages such as increased lift force and manueverability, tailplanes have proved to be more reliable due to consistent stability and safer stall recovery.

Canard aircraft are not nearly as popular as traditional tailplanes, but there have been a number of iconic models that have surfaced over the years.

The most famous Canard aircraft are the:

  • Wright Flyer
  • Beech Starship
  • Piaggio P.180 Avanti
  • Rutan Long-EZ
  • Eurofighter Typhoon

After extensively researching canard aircraft models, I have gathered enough information to compile a list of planes built with this design feature. My research has indicated that although canard planes offer unique in-flight performance capabilities, the drawbacks of this kind of aircraft design result in a less reliable plane with potentially increased safety risks.

Table of contents


What is a Canard Aircraft?

Canard planes are not a new concept and the original design was first introduced in the early 1900s when aircraft were first being built. However, the unique aesthetic of a canard aircraft often leaves a lot of people thinking that this is a new-age type of plane.

You can immediately spot a canard plane by its additional wings, which will be mounted at the front of the aircraft. Some canard designs will also have one or even two propellers located at the tail end of the plane, but this is not always a necessary part of the design.

At first glance, a canard plane looks a lot like a duck, which is actually how this type of aircraft got its name. With the two wings in the front, the plane has a much longer neck due to the primary wings positioned further back. In Frech, the word canard translates to duck, hence the name of the aircraft design.

Although canard planes are quite unique and come with certain benefits, they are not nearly as common as traditional tailplanes which are still the standard today. With that said, this rare aircraft design essentially moves the function of the rear tail to the front of the plane. The front canard wings have the following components

  • Elevator
  • Horizontal Stabilizer

As you may have already guessed the drawbacks of operating a canard aircraft often outweigh the benefits, which is why this design has not taken over. The vast majority of planes flown are traditional tailplanes, but that is not to say that canards are not used at all.

For certain conditions and situations, flying a plane with a canard design can actually be very advantageous. That is why there have been a good number of canard planes made over the years by some of the world’s most innovative and respected aircraft manufacturers.

Why Are Canard Aircraft So Rare?

A lot of people are often surprised by how rare canard planes are. At the end of the day, there are a lot of perks to flying an aircraft with this kind of design and some pilots prefer to fly canards over traditional tailplanes.

The truth is that canard aircraft are better suited for specific types of flying styles and conditions. If used in the right circumstances, there are a lot of benefits to flying a plane with this kind of design. With that said, most pilots and the aviation industry as a whole would agree that tailplanes are still much more conventional and practical for standard flying.

When operating a tailplane, you have increased reliability in the sky, which ultimately translates to a safer aircraft. Canard planes, on the other hand, do pose certain safety risks and performance issues, which is why they are so rare. To fully understand why canards are not common, we need to break down the advantages and disadvantages of this aircraft design.

Advantages of Canard Aircraft

When aeronautical engineers design planes, one of the key focuses that they must prioritize is creating an efficient lift. Traditional tailplanes achieve this, but not quite as optimally as canards.

A canard wing allows all surfaces of the aircraft to contribute to the lift of the plane. This ultimately makes the lift of the aircraft superior to that of a traditional tailplane. In addition, an aircraft with a canard wing will also have better stability and control. This is a key feature of canard planes, which is why we can often see this kind of design on jets.

If used in the right circumstances, canard planes are very useful, which is why this design, although rare, has not been made obsolete. The increased maneuverability that you get with a canard is a key perk of operating one of these planes, which is why an aircraft with this kind of design can have better performance than many competitive tailplanes.

Disadvantages of Canard Aircraft

As I looked into canard planes, I couldn’t help but wonder why this aircraft design was so rare given the clear advantages that the front wings offer. The truth is a canard wing can be a bit of a double edge sword.

If you are flying at high speeds, you will have increased stability and you will greatly benefit from having a front wing as an elevator and horizontal stabilizer. However, slower speeds actually result in a less stable flight. This is one of the main reasons why we do not see canard wings on most aircraft that are used for taxiing and hobby flying. Jet planes, on the other hand, are usually flying at high speeds and will have an advantage with a canard design.

A canard plane's reliability comes into question when it is destabilized. If you are operating a plane with a canard wing and you encounter a stall, recovering from it can be more challenging and potentially dangerous. Although a canard wing is actually intended to make the aircraft ‘stall proof’, the opposite has been known to happen.

Instead of the canard wing stalling first with a quick recovery, which would happen in an ideal scenario, the main wing could end up stalling. This is an extremely dangerous situation to be in, as recovering from the stall could be very challenging and even unrecoverable, as the tail would start to sink.

Lastly, canard planes are generally harder to build. The long and skinny design of canard planes results in a more challenging build that ends up being costly for the manufacturer. This combined with the potential for in-flight destabilization and unrecoverable stalls is why the canard design has not replaced traditional tailplanes.

List of Canard Aircraft

Despite canard aircraft being less popular than standard tailplane designs, they are by no means unheard of. Canard airplanes have been around for over a century and the first designs date back to some of the earliest aircraft concepts.

In fact, the original canard aircraft was invented by the Wright Brothers - making these planes iconic and historic for aviation. Although tail planes would eventually take off and become the primary design for pretty much all aircraft, canards have been consistently made since the early 20th century.

The list of planes that have this design is quite long, as canards have been produced a lot over the last 100 years. This is a complete list of canard planes:

  • AASI Jetcruzer
  • Advance Motor Manufacturing Company
  • AEA June Bug
  • AeroCad AeroCanard
  • Aeronautical Syndicate Ltd
  • ALR Piranha
  • Ambrosini SS.4
  • AMSOIL Racer
  • ASL Valkyrie
  • Atlas Cheetah
  • Aviafiber Canard 2FL
  • Avro 730
  • Avtek 400A
  • Beechcraft Starship
  • Beltrame Colibri
  • Berkut 360
  • Besson canard
  • Blériot V
  • Canard (aeronautics)
  • Chengdu J-10
  • Chengdu J-20
  • Chengdu J-9
  • Cozy III
  • Cozy MK IV
  • Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender
  • Dassault Mirage 5
  • Dassault Mirage III
  • Dassault Rafale
  • dbcCanard aircraft
  • E-Go Aeroplanes e-Go
  • Emergency Fighter Program
  • Ernest Archdeacon
  • Eurofighter Typhoon
  • Fabre Hydravion
  • Focke-Wulf F 19 Ente
  • Focke-Wulf Fw 42
  • Freedom Aviation Phoenix
  • Grumman X-29
  • Gyroflug Speed Canard
  • IAI Kfir
  • IAI Lavi
  • IAIO Qaher-313
  • Junqua Ibis
  • Kyushu J7W Shinden
  • Latécoère 225
  • Lippisch Ente
  • Lockheed L-133
  • MacCready Gossamer Albatross
  • MacCready Gossamer Condor
  • MacCready Gossamer Penguin
  • Messerschmitt P.1110
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-8
  • North American X-10
  • North American XB-70 Valkyrie
  • Novi Avion
  • OMAC Laser 300
  • Piaggio P.180 Avanti
  • Pterodactyl Ascender
  • Rockwell-MBB X-31
  • Roe I Biplane
  • Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.1
  • Rutan Defiant
  • Rutan Long-EZ
  • Rutan Solitaire
  • Rutan VariEze
  • Rutan VariViggen
  • Rutan Voyager
  • Saab 37 Viggen
  • Saab JAS 39 Gripen
  • Santos-Dumont 14-bis
  • Scaled Composites ARES
  • Seaplane
  • Shenyang J-15
  • SM-64 Navaho
  • Sukhoi Su-30
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI
  • Sukhoi Su-33
  • Sukhoi Su-34
  • Sukhoi Su-37
  • Sukhoi Su-47
  • Sukhoi T-4
  • Tailplane
  • Tupolev Tu-144
  • Velocity SE
  • Velocity XL
  • Voisin Canard
  • Wren 460
  • Wright Flyer
  • Wright Glider

The bulk of these canard planes were designed during the mid to late 20th century. However, there have been a handful of canard aircraft that were made in recent years - with 2013 being the most notable design.

The Most Famous Canard Aircraft

Since 1903, canard planes have been soaring through the sky, but these aircraft are not nearly as popular as tailplanes. As I have already covered, there are certain design features in canards that make these planes less favorable, which is why their appeal never reached the level of mainstream use in the aviation industry as traditional aircraft.

However, that has not stopped manufacturers from building canard planes. Over the years, there have been a number of famous canard aircraft that have left their mark on the aviation industry.

Wright Flyer (1903)

Although canard planes have not been as successful as tailplanes, one of the most historically significant aircraft ever flown was a canard - the Wright Flyer. The Wright Brothers designed the Wright Flyer and flew the aircraft on December 17, 1903.

This was the official first flight by the Wright Brothers, which is why the Wright Flyer is considered to be a legendary plane. This canard aircraft paved the way for the rest of the planes that would follow to this day. A common nickname for the Wright Flyer is the Kitty Hawk, which was given to this canard plane due to the location it was first flown - Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Unlike many of the more modern canard planes that you can find, the Wright Flyer features a large canard wing and a smaller primary wing. Although the design of this original canard is quite primitive by today’s standards, it is widely considered to be a monumental achievement in the world of aviation.

Beech Starship (1986)

Private jets have implemented canard wings quite a bit and one of the most famous aircraft with this type of design is the Beech Starship. Beechcraft is widely considered to be one of the most reputable plane manufacturers of all time and they took a creative leap with the design of the Beech Starship.

The intention behind this aircraft was to create a corporate jet that was aesthetically pleasing to the eye and performed exceptionally in the sky. With a very reliable cruise speed and range, the Beech Starship became a very useful plane for business use and it stood out among a lot of the competitive planes that were released during its time.

This aircraft did not last long in Beechcraft’s lineup, unfortunately. Despite its progressive and forward-thinking design, the Beech Starship failed to replace Beechcraft’s traditional models. The company would soon revert back to tailplane aircraft, but the Beech Starship is still regarded by many aviation enthusiasts to this day as being a top-notch canard plane.

Piaggio P.180 Avanti (1986)

The 1980s are considered to be a golden era for canard aircraft, as some of the most notable planes with this design were released during this period. The Piaggio P.180 Avanti is a truly unique canard plane because it does not utilize its front wing in the same way that a traditional canard would.

Instead of the front wing controlling stabilization and pitch, the primary wings perform this function. This brings into question whether the Piaggio P.180 Avanti is a legitimate canard or not. Despite what some critics have proposed, the overall design still puts the Piaggio P.180 Avanti into the canard category.

The Piaggio P.180 Avanti is an Italian-made aircraft that has pushed the boundary of canards and private jets in general. Despite its unconventional design, the Piaggio P.180 Avanti was actually the fastest private jet of its time - with the potential of beating some of the world’s fastest turbojet aircraft on the market.

The primary intention behind this plane is for it to be used as a transport aircraft for corporate and business executives. With impressive range and speed, the Piaggio P.180 Avanti is regarded as being a superior canard aircraft that has stood out among other private jets.

Rutan Long-EZ (1979)

Planes designed by the Rutan Aircraft Factory have been recognized for their truly unique designs and one of the most notable models from the company is the Rutan Long-EZ. This aircraft was very forward-thinking during its release and a lot of pilots were desperate two get their hands on one - with it still being in demand to this day.

The Rutan Long-EZ is a two-seater aircraft with a small length of just 15ft and it looks like it is right out of a science fiction movie. This aircraft could not boast the fast speeds of some of the world’s best canards, but it could still out-maneuver virtually any competitive plane on the market during its release.

In addition to its superior performance capabilities, the Rutan Long-EZ is given a lot of praise for its futuristic design. For a plane that came out in the 70s, the Rutan Long-EZ deserves credit simply for ingenuity. One of the key distinctions that make this aircraft so significant is its canard wing, which was a key component of the plane's performance.

Eurofighter Typhoon (1994)

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a perfect example of how a modern canard can outmatch a lot of the competition in the sky. This fighter jet has superior maneuverability thanks to its canard wing, which makes it one of the most agile aircraft ever built.

With its first flight in 1994, the Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the most recent canard planes that was able to successfully leave a mark on the aviation industry. When this fighter jet was announced, it was directly competing with the F-15. The F-15 is a praised fighter jet but it often overshadows less conventional aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Despite the popularity of the F-15, the Eurofighter Typhoon can actually outmaneuver it in the sky. Competitive fighter jets at this time may have had better technology, but some pilots would argue that tech is not nearly as important as performance, which is where the Eurofighter Typhoon truly shined.

This aircraft was not only more agile than most fighter jets being used during its release, but it also had a better fuel economy. There are a number of key reasons why the Eurofighter was such a success - with the canard wing design being the biggest influence on its success.