The greatest fighter pilots in aviation history – 24/7 Wall St.

Critical failure but popular success, the film “Top Gun” illustrates what seems to be an undeniable truth, fighter pilots are a breed apart. They are highly motivated risk takers, with athletic prowess and quick intelligence. Often they are arrogant of Tom Cruise. (If you are a fan, these are the biggest and best tom cruise movies.)

And they win wars. 24/7 Wall St. looked at various historical sources to determine who the greatest fighter pilots of them all were, considering only each country’s top ace in each war. Our ranking is based on the number of “kills” or “victories” – the recorded number of planes shot down, and an ace is a pilot who achieves at least five kills in a day.

Because these numbers were sometimes exaggerated by pilots or their hero worshippers, or were otherwise undocumented, we relied exclusively on official estimates from government sources.

Click here to see the greatest aces in aviation history

Of the 25 fighter pilots in this ranking, each had a distinctive style of attack – and often a distinctive look. Manfred von Richthofen, the legendary “Red Baron”, for example, had the planes of his fighter wing painted in bright colors, making his team famous as the “flying circus”.

Some of the aces here returned to the skies undeterred after being shot, and others managed to avoid being hit at all in their hundreds of missions. Six of them died during the war, including the Red Baron. Most of the surviving aces couldn’t stay out of the sky after their wars ended. Seven went on to pursue military careers and four flew planes for a living – more including those who continued flying after retiring from the military. Tragically, seven of the 25 died in plane crashes after their war service. (Here are 50 of the most decorated war heroes in American history.)

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