Top 10 Worst Planes of WW2

by FliteTest | May 7, 2018 | (9) Posted in Just Fun

Everyone knows the best aircraft to come out of WW2, but what were the worst? To find out, let's base this on some criteria: 

The aircraft on this list must have:

  • Been produced as part of a series (no prototypes)
  • Served in some sort of operational squadron
  • Seen some action

With that laid out, here are, quite simply, some of the most atrocious aircraft of the war. 

1. Breda Ba.88 Lince

This Italian ground attack aircraft should, in theory, have been pretty good at its job. The prototype had been very promising, yet with the added weight extra structure and operational equipment installed, the airframe became extremely heavy. Many simply refused to take off! Due to this, the aircraft was rather embarrassingly demoted to the role of a grounded decoy to protect airfields - What an indignant end to be considered so useless!

2. LaGG-3

The Soviet LaGG was perhaps the worst fighter of the war. It is, therefore, surprising that 6,528 of the things were built between 1941 and 1943. It was made almost entirely of laminated plywood, which wasn't so bad, but it also turned out to be extremely heavy and cumbersome. The handling was dreadful, so much so that the pilots nicknamed it the 'morticians friend'. Many defects were rectified in the much improved LaGG 5.

3. L.W.S.6 Zubr

This one wins the prize for the hands-down ugliest plane of the war. Looks aren't everything though - this Polish aircraft was also absolutely terrible in almost every other respect. For instance, when the prototype flew on its first demonstrative flight in 1936, it crashed killing the crew. This wasn't enough to stop it being pushed into service where it was found to be hard to fly and useless in its bombing role. Almost all were destroyed on the ground by the invading German army during the invasion of Poland in 1939. 

4. Fairey Battle

The statistic that nearly 100 of these British planes were shot down in just one week in 1940 should tell you something about the Fairey Battle's suitability as a combat aircraft. Its large airframe was towed along by a single Merlin engine, the sort used by the Spitfire and Hurricane. This simply did not give out the necessary power to outrun or outmanoeuvre attacking BF 109 E's during the Battle of France. Its redeeming quality of easy flying characteristics meant that it was retired to be used as a trainer in 1940. 

5. Blackburn Botha

This was the British general reconnaissance plane that was dreadful at general reconnaissance. The Botha's cockpit was absolutely tiny and had virtually zero visibility, much to the annoyance of its pilots. The aircraft was demoted to a trainer where it's appalling stability got it into a number of fatal accidents. Cramped, turbulent and hopeless at its job, the Blackburn Botha was, in a nutshell, utterly rubbish. 

6. Messerschmitt Me-210

The Me-210 was a good idea in concept. It was a twin-engined interceptor fighter with some impressive tech like remote gun turrets. Unfortunately, the type was extremely unpopular with pilots. This was because the plane suffered from terrible stalls and spins. The chief test pilot said that the 210 had "all the least desirable attributes an aeroplane could possess." - not a great reference to have! Eventually, this plane became the Me-410 which solved many of its problems. 

7. Me-163 Komet

Although technologically a success in many ways, the rocket-powered Me-163 was pretty much a failure for the amount of effort put into its design. It was also unbelievably treacherous to fly. A great number of pilots were lost due to the innate dangers travelling at the 600mph+ combined with an unpowered landing. It's not the worst plane on this list by any means, but the 163's shortcomings and inherently perilous nature made it one of the worst planes to fly. 

8. Brewster Buffalo 

Famously outclassed by superior Japanese fighters at the Battle of Midway in 1942, the Buffalo might have made an adequate WW2 fighter if it hadn't been so out of date. This aircraft had good flying tendencies and, personally, I think it looks like a pretty characterful little fighter. This didn't cut much ice in 1942, however, earning it the nickname of 'Flying Coffin' by American pilots. 

9. He-162

Much like the Me-163, Germany's last-ditch attempts to swing the tide of the war by producing revolutionary new fighter jets were a little desperate. For this reason, the aircraft they designed, such as the Heinkel 162, had many flaws. It's engine only lasted 10 hours before needing to be rebuilt and early versions started to disintegrate after their acidic glue began to destroy the wooden airframe. The 162 was also difficult to fly meaning that it needed experienced pilots, many of whom were killed in accidents. Let's just say that you wouldn't want to take a ride in one of these. 

10. Saro Lerwick

The Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick was an RAF flying boat designed for coastal operations in the English channel. Unfortunately, it was a flawed design. Out of the 21 built, 10 were destroyed in accidents. Ordered off the drawing board (meaning there were no proof of concept prototypes) the Lerwick had atrocious handling both in the air and on the sea. It stalled all over the place and was extremely difficult to get pointing in the direction you wanted to fly in. By 1943, there were none left.

Have you got any dishonourable mentions? Leave a comment below!

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of

Instagram @jameswhomsley


Air-headed Aviator on May 7, 2018
A great dishonorable mention includes another Brewster Aircorp work: The SB2A Buccaneer. The plane on arrival was considered by both the British and Americans as unfit for combat, suffering from the same problem of over weight and underpowered, also being a little fragile at that. It stands out since unlike the Buffalo which found use with the Fins, it laid fame only as a target tug or “Hack”.
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Ka_Mal on May 7, 2018
Several LWS-6 Zubr aircraft were destroyed during German air raids on Polish airbases. Several machines were taken over by Germany. Paradoxically, the Luftwaffe training units used the LWS-6 Zubr for longer than Polish aviation, because until 1942, among others, in a pilot school without visibility in Schleissheim. It does not change the fact that the plane was unsuccessful.
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Tord on May 8, 2018
The Brewster Buffalo had a kill rate of 32:1 (one Brewster lost to every 32 Soviet aircraft) against the Soviet finest, thus not that bad, but perhaps the Finns had better training than the US pilots?! Finland also has Me-109s, but they were not quite as successful, for some reason.
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JamesWhomsley on May 8, 2018
Fair enough, you make a good point! I guess the Buffalo makes this list exclusively based on its performance in the USAF. Technically the war against the Soviet Union was first the Winter War and then the Continuation war and was separate from the wider conflict - that's how I'm trying to get away with it ;)
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lr on May 12, 2018
As I recall, the Finns were using a lighter version of the plane and that made a significant difference.
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The different designer on May 9, 2018
Personally, I think the Heinkel He 177 Greif (Griffon) was one of (if not the worst) aircraft of WW2. It's a shame really as the design had so much potential. Simply put, the bureaucracy of the RLM (German air ministry) doomed the plane. The machine was huge ( having a wingspan slightly greater than a Lancaster), but the RLM decreed it must be capable of dive bombing! As a result with all the excess strengthening the plane became really overweight. But perhaps the greatest flaw was the engine installation. Unusually, two engines drove a single propeller, but this led to frequent engine fires and mishaps. The unfortunate crews who had to crew the thing referred to it as the flaming coffin!
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lr on May 12, 2018
Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Rudy Opitz talk about flying the Me-163. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I seem to recall that it basically flew well, but that the takeoff with a dolly and the landing with explosive, corrosive fuel and oxidizer on board were problematic. Also that the short duration of the rocket was a problem. But at this date I can't recall which information came from who, when. It might not all be per Mr. Opitz.
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Ju388 on October 19, 2018
Where as the Buffalo had varied and disasterous career with the U.S. the RAF and momentarily the Dutch. The Finn's loved the denavalized examples. I would have to put a vote in for another Brewster product, the Buccaneer. I have seen in print this gem being declared a disaster. I think between the missteps of the Buffalo and the Buccaneer Brewster ran afoul of some congressinal investigation and was shut down.
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Top 10 Worst Planes of WW2