Which aircraft has saved the most lives?

Combat support flight

I was wondering which aircraft saved the most lives? Perhaps it is the C-130, Mi-8 or An-124 with their mass of humanitarian work? Or the many brave firefighters using aircraft around the world? Or the meteorological aircraft that have spotted extreme weather conditions? The aircraft that have mapped unexplored areas or spotted precious resources? Maybe it was the pesticide spraying aircraft that fought malaria or help crops? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Maxmwill

    That is a simple question that, like the fabled Hydra, has more heads than one can care to count, because there are so many places and so many different environments, as well as so many missions, that simply trying to decide which aircraft has saved the most lives would be akin to trying to count individual blades of grass, because besides the previous, there is also the factor of individual taste or preference. Perhaps one guy says that the Huey saved the most lives, because he used to fly medevac in and out of hotzones from Vietnam on until he retired. Another one might say that the Herky Bird. Or the Dauphin, or the Mi17, and on and on.
    And that’s just recent. There are also the aircraft which saved lives during Korea, the Bell 47(immortalized by the show M.A.S.H.), but the unsung Hiller H23 was used a lot more.

  2. atcDave

    An interesting and complicated question. I’m thinking a few factors could be the number of the type in service, the number of people saved at a single time, and the percentage of its time spent saving lives. Front runners would have to be C-47, C-130, Huey, Dauphin.
    Or we could get really philosophical and say B-29…

    My pick would be C-130.

      • Maxmwill

        Perhaps, if the planned invasion of the Japanese home island had taken place. Of course, if a complete blockade of the home island had been implemented instead, seeing as pretty much all infrastructure had been just about wiped out, the population, while certainly patriotic, were suffering deprivation, and about the only fuel left had been allocated to the Yamato, and even that was a half load of bunker oil, even all the cave factories turning out all manner of flying machine(with what raw material?), nothing actually material could have been accomplished, especially if the Allies had joined the US in the blockade.

      • atcDave

        Yeah that’s pretty much what I was thinking. But its more of a “greater good” sort of argument. A single catastrophic event that prevented a genocide.

        But obviously that’s not really in keeping with the spirit of the original question.
        C-54, C-119 or C-141 are good choices. But I’d still put my money on C-130.

      • Maxmwill

        Of course, there are the Mil helicopters. More specifically, the Mi 8s that were used to drop as much sand and lead on the reactor at Chernobyl, because they helped to avert an even worse catastrophe. And the pilots were true heroes, not the military type, but the kind who knew the risks, and yet flew in and out of the radiation cloud until the couldn’t any longer.

    • Maxmwill

      Don’t forget the C54 postwar(Berlin Blockade). And then there are other conflicts, or post conflict actions, natural disasters, as well as the factor of this aircraft or that aircraft being featured in a particular news item, which would put that flying machine on the public psyche, and with the passage of time, that story would grow out of proportion of what the particular airplane actually accomplished.

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