I saw on the Pima Air and Space Museum’s Facebook feed a photo of NASA’s Super Guppy N941NA. It is an unreal looking cargo airplane that NASA uses to transport large space craft components. This strange looking aircraft has a cargo hold that is 25 feet b 25 feet by 111 feet and can cary a load of 26 tons. NASA uses the Super Guppy with a special cradle to cary sections of the International Space Station.
World’s Biggest Cargo Airplanes
While the Super Guppy is ridiculously big, it is not the biggest cargo aircraft in the world. It’s only the second biggest. So here are the top 5 biggest cargo aircraft in the world. Below is a video from James Weatherly on YouTube.
This ridiculously big airplane has two sets of landing gear with 14 tires on each, It can cary 250,000 Kg inside, but like the Boeing 747 that used to transport the Space Shuttle, the Antonov can cary aircraft and rockets piggybacked on top. In fact, the Antonov was originally used to cary the Buran spacecraft, a Russian Space Shuttle clone that only flew once in 1988.
Fact: The AN-225 is 43.3 meters long. The Wright Brother’s first flight was just over 36 meters long. So this plane is longer than the first flight of an aircraft!
Aero Spacelines Super Guppy
Airbus at one point bought the rights to produce the Super Guppy, but the Super Guppy was based on a Boeing 337. So they have redesigned and put into production the Beluga as it’s replacement.
The cool thing about this cargo aircraft is the sweet down-swept nose and cockpit you can see in the image above, and the way the forehead of the thing swings up for loading as you can see in the image below where they’re swinging a helicopter inside.
According to the video below that shows how Airbus uses the Beluga to transport airplane wings from England to Germany, the Beluga has the biggest airplane door in aviation history.
Boeing 747-400 Dream Lifter
This gets the award for looking most like a balloon animal airplane. It’s a Boeing 747 with the top cut off and replaced with a new roof that gives it 3 times the interior volume. Boeing also developed this air freighter to transport wing and other airplane parts it manufacturers all over the world.
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
I had been seeing military cargo jets taking off and landing over the last month from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, where there is a local National Guard base and thought they were C-5s. My uncle tells me that what I’m seeing is probably a C-17, a smaller 4 engine cargo jet. Still, these are pretty darn big.
“With its tremendous payload capability, the large C-5 Galaxy, an outsized-cargo transport, provides the Air Mobility Command intertheater airlift in support of United States national defense. The C-5 is one of the largest aircraft in the world. It can carry outsized cargo intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances. Ground crews can load and off load the C-5 simultaneously at the front and rear cargo openings since the nose and aft doors open the full width and height of the cargo compartment. It can also “kneel down” to facilitate loading directly from truck bed levels.” [Wikipedia]
Here’s a 27 minute Air Force documentary on the production of the C5 Galaxy. I haven’t watched it all since it’s early afternoon and I don’t have time for a nap.
- Wikipedia List of Large Aircraft
- Wikipedia Cargo Aircraft
- Super Guppy
- Airbus Beluga
- Lockheed c-5 Galaxy
- Antonov AN-255
- Boeing Dreamlifter