johnny gaijin wroteColonso those are my observations, comments/suggestions/etc would be appreciated.
This is of course all based off my personal experience playing the game with a couple friends, so it's not guaranteed or universally true:
Your problem seems to be that planes aren't going down fast enough, the game tends to result in planes being crippled rather than destroyed. You could try making a bad guy flee or land when he takes significant damage and award 1/2 a kill to the player who did the most damage.
Crimson Skies has a very fickle damage system. It's actually quite difficult to significantly damage a plane, as you have to get into a good position and penetrate their armour, but there's no guarantee you'll hit the same locations frequently (i.e. you might hit the tail one turn, port wing the next). However once you start doing that damage planes can be destroyed frighteningly quickly, so if you want to play fast games you need to maximise that damage.
I'd recommend taking lighter armoured bad guys. Warhawks are bruisers, they've got a lot of armour so it'll take ages for you players to chisel through them, also those quad .60s are also monsters so with a bit of luck they could shred one of your players. Less armour means that the players will starting hitting the internal components sooner (hopefully off their first salvo) so the bad guy's performance will suffer and they'll be easier to kill.
Also, make sure the players have plenty of firepower. I'd agree that the players should choose their own planes, but if they pick ones with .60 or .70 calibre guns they'll be punching into the bad guy's internal components much faster. Even if it's just one or two like the Avenger and Fury, it'll help.
Magnesium rounds are a lot of fun when they work, but I'd only take a couple on small calibre guns, because they have no penetration.
The game will start to go faster as you get the hang of it. Things like tailing and doubling down I find can be massive help as well, but they're more subject to play style. Finally if you haven't tried you could start using objectives other than kill the bad guys, that way shooting planes down is only a secondary consideration.