Douglas, the P-51 (especially the P-51D with the bubble canopy and the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine) is considered by most aviation historians the "greatest" fighter plane of all time. So, that's a given. And it's my fave WWII fighter as well. As for sexy looks, I also like the Vought F-4U Corsair.
And bomber? Again, everybody's favorite is the B-17 (especially the later versions). But I really like the B-29 Superfortress too. (I also had an uncle who was a B-24 Liberator pilot -- he was shot down behind enemy lines.)
My dad was very fond of P-47s and P-51s as he was a B-17 pilot and appreciated the fact that these 2 fighters had the range to escort the bombers for the entire mission. His preference between the 2 was the P-47 as it could take direct hits on the radial engine jugs and keep right on flying.
He also much preferred the B-17 to the B-24, which he also flew on occasion. The B-17 was easier to fly and more reliable. A lot of B-24s were built by Ford Motor company at Willow Run and to this day he won't consider purchasing any Ford product.
Another of his favorite airplanes was the Goonie Bird, or C-47 military transport version of the DC-3. He flew them in the Berlin Airlift, which he much prefers talking about over the bombing missions.
He stayed in the Air Force until 1962, flying behemoth B-36s and B-52s thru the 50s and early 60s.
As for me, my favorite WW-II fighter is the P-38, just 'cause its so damn pretty, and my favorite heavy bomber is a tossup between the B-17 and B-29.
I guess I'd have to go for the P-51 and the B-29. I've been in the only remaining B-29 (FIFI) that still flys (wished I could have been in it when it was flying). Pretty impressive.
On a sad note, at a WWII airshow this past weekend at my hometown airport, one of the four remaining P-51C types (the sort the Tuskegee airmen flew) and one of two that is flight-capable crashed and was destroyed. The pilot survived but died the next morning.
I really liked the lines of the great MESSERSCHMITT 109. It was my very first model airplane in a crummy 1:72 scale. Worked on it for good 2 weeks and hand painted it myself(couldn't afford them fancy airbrushes) in all its camo glory. I used to be able to "recite" its specs by heart back then... As for the bomber,I prefer the Northe American Aviation B-25, Mitchell. They kick ass during the Doolittle Raid....and also had a model of it....
My father was a navigator flying B-25s out of Guadacanal, so that was the model I grew up with. He also appreciated the P-38s that escorted them (and he built an incredible model of one that amazed me as a young boy).
The P-38's just scream performance, even when sitting on the tarmac.
The Messerschmit (sp?) ME-262 was easily the coolest fighter of the war, it was literaly a decade ahead of its time. Swept wings, powerful jet engines, sexy lines.
My favorite bomber is the B-24, and the reason is that it was rugged enough to bring my uncle Joe, who was a side and belly gunner (and a Hero), back after taking a tremendous hit on his very first mission over Germany. At a recent family reunion he told me the story, a massive flak hit, fortunately on the top of the wing, didn't bring his plane down. He loved those planes, he saw them take lots of hits and fly back (of course he also saw many of his comerades fall as well).
The IL-2 Stormovik was a hell of a plane also. Like a flying tank.
The worst disaster of the war has to be the awful Helldiver dive bomber. Those things were terrible.
Revolutionary as the Me 262 was, the plane had a lot of deficiencies:
1. The jet engines had an expected lifetime of only 10 hours.
2. The plane flew poorly at low altitude.
3. It manuevered poorly, especially since the plane lacked decent air brakes. A number of 262's were shot down because they couldn't out-turn a Mustang or later-mark Spitfire.
4. The MK 108 cannon on the plane was very prone to jamming.
In my opinion, the best piston-engined fighter of World War II is easily the P-51 Mustangs that used the Packard-built Merlin engines. The plane was amazingly fast (especially at high altitude), manuevered well, and of course had the range to escort bombers from England to Berlin and back.
For a bomber, I like the Avro Landcaster--they were able to adapt the plane to carry unusual bombloads like the Tallboy and Grand Slam deep-penetrator bombs.