The 10 largest cargo planes in the world

Some cargo jets have a greater capacity than others when it comes to carrying unusually large or heavy goods

AeroTime investigates these cargo giants to determine which aircraft can carry the most freight

Some of the enormous freight loads flown by larger cargo aircraft are space-bound vehicles and components

The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy is one such freighter that can carry these larger goods

This wide-body cargo aircraft is famous for its crucial role in the Apollo program and became the first and only plane in the world to fly Apollo IV rockets and other components in 1965

The Super Guppy was also widely used for flying spaceship components for NASA’s space missions

Most recently, in November 2019, the Super Guppy was involved in transportation on the Orion spacecraft from Mansfield Lahm Airport (MFD) in the United States

BlueBarronPhoto / Shutterstock

Operated by four crew members, the freighter is powered by four Allison 501-D22C turboprop engines, which allows it to develop a maximum thrust rate of 7,100 horsepower of each engine

The four-bladed turboprop can cruise at speed of 410 km/h (250 mph) and can reach a maximum speed of 460 km/h (290 mph) while flying as far as 3,211 kilometers without refueling

Regarding cargo capacity, the Super Guppy can carry as much as 24,000 kilograms (54,000 lbs) of freight with a maximum takeoff weight of around 77,000 kilograms (170,000 lbs)

To date, only a single Super Guppy remains in service with NASA

Martin / Shutterstock

Another large cargo aircraft is the A400m Atlas, which was introduced by Airbus in 2013

The aircraft is a popular option for cargo operations in Malaysia and eight European countries, including Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Tukey, Belgium, and Luxembourg

Four Europrop TP400-D6 turboprop engines provide the cargo jet with thrust equal to 11,000 horsepower

The aircraft can also fly as much as 37,000 kilograms (81,600 lbs) of freight and can carry 166 equipped troops as well as 66 stretchers accompanied by 25 medical personnel

But the aircraft still beats the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Transall C-160 in terms of its increased airlift capacity and range

The A400M  was originally built to replace these two older freight transport aircraft

SpaceKris / Shutterstock

Operated by three or four crew members, including two pilots (with an optional third) and a loadmaster, the jet is capable of reaching around 781 kilometers per hour (485 mph) speed with a range of 3,300 kilometers flying with a maximum load

As of May 2021, there were 100 Airbus A400M Atlas produced for freight operations

Adam Melnyk / Shutterstock

There is no doubt that the ‘white whale of the skies’, the Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), is one of the rarest and adored planes for plane spotters

Commonly known as Beluga, because it resembles the white Arctic whale, the super-sized transporter jet features one of the most voluminous cargo holds of any civil or military aircraft currently in operation

The A300-600ST can be praised for its spacious cargo hold, which equals 1,500 cubic meters (53,000 cubic ft), allowing the plane to carry as much as 47,000 kg (103,617 lbs) of oversized freight

The freighter is typically used for the air transportation of chemical tanks, various aircraft parts, and space rocket components

For instance, it is capable of flying a fuselage section of an Airbus A350 wide-body plane, wings of the Airbus A340 aircraft, as many as 36 cars, up to 671 passengers, or seven elephants

Beluga can be considered indispensable when transporting fragments of other aircraft

However, carrying certain freight, such as parts of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, is unattainable for this huge cargo airliner

The white whale is powered by two General Electric CF6-80C2A8 turbofan engines, each generating a thrust of 58,000 lbs, and can attain a maximum speed of 864 kilometers per hour (537 mph) with a range of up to 4,600 kilometers without the need to refuel

joerg joerns / Shutterstock

Flown by only two flight crew members, the Airbus A300-600ST retains the same flight deck as the A310 medium-to-long-range wide-body or the A300-600 mid-size wide-body aircraft, from which the white whale was modified to carry outsize cargo

In 1997, the aircraft set a world record for flying the most voluminous payload by plane when the freighter carried a chemical tank for a merchant’s vessel from Clermont-Ferrand (CFE) to Le Havre (LEH) in France

Then, in 2003, the cargo jet was awarded once again after it flew the farthest charter flight to date, during which Beluga carried two NHI NH90 helicopters and one Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter from Marseille (MRS), France to Melbourne (MEL), Australia

At the time, Airbus received a task to fly helicopters for the Aviation Airshow, which, excluding stops for refueling, was completed within 25 hours

Since 1994, when the aircraft took to the skies for its maiden flight, the A300-600ST has played a key role in its manufacturer’s Airbus production distribution and assembly network

Volar sin Parar / Shutterstock

The manufacturer has built only five units of the type and has already begun to phase in new-generation BelugaXL versions, which, in the future, will replace all five A300-600STs currently in service

The BelugaXL, the latest addition to Airbus’ transportation portfolio, was introduced in early-2020, as a promising replacement for its predecessor, the BelugaST

However, none of the potential aircraft, including the Antonov An-124, the Antonov An-225, Boeing C-17 or Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, and the A400M, suited Airbus plans

With a cargo hold volume of 2,209 cubic meters (78,000 cu ft), the Beluga XL can carry 50,500 kilograms (111,333 lbs) of freight up to 4,000 kilometer-long distances

Two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines each provide the cargo jet with 71,000 lbs of thrust

The colossal Beluga XL possesses a distinctive fuselage design due to the lowered cockpit and a specific cargo bay structure

Airbus launched BelugaXL operations in January 2020, with the expectation that a total of six new freighters would be in service by the end of 2023

First deployed in 1991, and in production until 2015, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is famous for its cargo systems

Boeing designed the aircraft to replace some duties of its predecessors, such as the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy

The Globemaster III is commonly used to perform strategic airlift missions, including medical evacuation, as well as transporting troops and freight across the world

The T-tailed aircraft is designed to carry large or heavy non-palletized outsize cargo totaling 76,657 kilograms (169,000 lbs)

The aircraft is capable of flying heavy freight, such as the 1 M1 Abrams tank, which is the main battle tank of the US Army, three Strykers, or six M1117 Armored Security Vehicles

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines, each amassing 40,440 lbs of thrust, the aircraft is widely used by operators across Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Its engine option allows the plane to reach a cruising speed of  830 kilometers per hour (520 mph) while flying as much as 4,480 kilometers without refueling

Jordan Tan / Shutterstock

Crewed by two pilots and a loadmaster, the Globemaster III is most notable for its design

Its propulsive lift system allows the aircraft to achieve safe landings on short runways

According to Boeing, the plane is capable of landing a full payload in less than 3,000 ft

In addition, the propulsive lift system, which uses the engine exhaust to generate lift, allows the aircraft to fly a steep approach at a relatively low landing speed

During the past three decades, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III has experienced regular use

Most recently, in  August 2021, the US Air Force transported 823 Afghanistan citizens from Kabul during a humanitarian mission, which established another record number of people carried by the aircraft

Throughout its production history, Boeing has built 279 aircraft of this type

First introduced in 1967 as the first wide-body military transport aircraft for the Soviet Air Force, the Antonov An-22 Antei currently holds the title of the world’s largest turboprop aircraft

Originally known as the An-20, the aircraft was built to increase the Soviet Airborn Troops’ capabilities to transport infantry fighting vehicles, BMD-1

To accomplish such a task, the manufacturer installed four of the most powerful turboprop engines at the time

The Kuznetsov NK-12MA turboprop engines have two large, four-bladed, 62-meter (20 ft) high-speed contra-rotating propellers, each powering the aircraft with a maximum thrust of 15,001 horsepower

The selected engine option allows the freighter to reach a maximum cruise speed of 460 mph for a maximum range of 10,950 kilometers when its payload reaches 45,000 kilograms (99,208 lbs)

So, why does the An-22 deserve to be included in our list celebrating the largest cargo aircraft?

Its enormous cargo hold capacity

The turboprop is capable of flying 80,000 kilograms (176,370 lbs) of freight as a maximum payload alongside a maximum of 29 passengers on board

The manufacturer completed the Soviet Air Force’s task and built the cargo hold capable of accommodating four BMD-1s, which is three more than its predecessor, the An-12, could carry

pomogator / Shutterstock

Antonov mounted 12 wheels, six on each side and in the middle of the An-22 fuselage, and fitted the aircraft with rugged landing gear

This ensured that the aircraft was capable of takeoff and landing from austere, unpaved, and short airstrips

The freighter’s specific design allows the rear cargo door to remain open while in flight in order to deploy paratroopers

While production of the Antei ended in 1975 with the final 66th aircraft delivery to the Soviet Air Force, three turboprops are still airworthy

photo vvl / Shutterstock

The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, or the Large Cargo Freighter (LCF), is a combination of two aircraft, the ever-versatile Boeing 747-400 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which continues to satisfy plane spotters and cargo operators alike

The history of the Dreamlifter, the world’s longest cargo aircraft, began in 2003 when the manufacturer realised that it needed to find a more time-efficient way to transport parts and components for the assembly of its 787 Dreamliner

Due to the length of time required to transport the Dreamliner’s parts by land or sea to the United States, air transportation seemed to be the most appropriate choice

Some of the Boeing 787 jet parts, such as wings, were too large for standard sea shipping containers

So, Boeing developed a new aircraft dedicated to oversize freight transportation

However, the manufacturer chose not to develop a completely new freighter

During the conversion, Boeing made multiple changes to the 747-400 fuselage to ensure it was capable of carrying the outsize cargo and, to simplify the cargo loading process, installed a large swing tail door so freight could be loaded through the rear door

Boeing has only converted four 747s into Dreamlifters

The first 747 Large Cargo Freighter took off in 2006

The manufacturer equipped the cargo jet with the same engine option as the 747-400

The Dreamlifter is powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, generating 63,300 lbs of thrust, which allows the aircraft to fly at a speed of around 878 kilometers per hour at maximum

The volume of the cargo hold is 1,840 cubic meters (65,000 cubic feet)

It has a maximum payload capacity of 113,400 kilograms (250,000 lbs), which is three times more volume of freight than a traditional 747-400F

If fully loaded, the plane, which is crewed by two pilots, is capable of flying 7,800 kilometers without a refueling stop

Heychli / Shutterstock

The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy was introduced in the United States during the 1970s

The aircraft was widely used to supply Israel with aid during the Yom Kippur War and is also well-known for supporting the US space program, where it carried various spacecraft components

One of the most notable facts about the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is that, during its operating history, the manufacturer refitted the aircraft multiple times to solve issues with its wings

According to the manufacturer, the Galaxy is powered by four General Electric CF6-80C2 turbofan engines with 51,000 lbs of thrust

Typically, it is controlled by a crew of seven people, including a captain, a first officer, two flight engineers, and three loadmasters

As for cargo capacity, the Lockheed C-5 is capable of carrying around 127,459 kilograms (281,000 lbs) of freight while reaching its cruise speed of 830 kilometers per hour (520 mph) flying as long as 4,260 kilometers fully loaded

131 Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft have been built

These are mostly used for serving the United States Air Force operations

The Antonov An-124 Condon, also known as Ruslan, was designed by a Ukrainian manufacturer in the 1980s

The An-124 used to hold the title of second heaviest operating cargo, following the An-225 Mriya, which was the first

But in 2010, the Boeing 747-8F freighter was introduced and beat the An-124 to first place

Powered by four Lotarev D-18T high-bypass turbofan engines, each of them giving the plane 51,000 lbs of thrust, the Condor uses an oleo strut suspension [a pneumatic air–oil hydraulic shock absorber, ed-] for its 12 pairs of wheels

The An-124 is capable of developing a maximum cruise speed of 537 mph flying as far as 11,500 kilometers with a payload of 40,000 kilograms (88,185 lbs)

The aircraft can handle a maximum takeoff weight of 402,000 kg (886,258 lbs) and is equipped with a high volume of cargo capacity to fly 150,000 kilograms (330, 693 lbs) of freight alongside 88 passengers in the upper deck, behind its wing center section, or 350 passengers on a palletized seating system

vicspacewalker / Shutterstock

Eight crew members are required on board to control this enormous cargo aircraft

This includes a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a chief flight engineer, an electrical flight engineer, a radio operator, and two loadmasters

The aircraft has frequently been used in missions for the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

The manufacturer produced a total of 55 An-124s and, by 2021, there are 26 An-124s left in commercial cargo service

In 1987, the An-124 became a world record holder after the aircraft flew 20,151 kilometers for 25 hours and 30 minutes without refueling and carrying a record takeoff weight of 455,000 kilograms (1,003,103 lbs)

Alex JW Robinsontter / Shutterstock

Alex JW Robinsontter / Shutterstock

The Antonov An-225 Mriya currently holds the title of the world’s largest cargo aircraft

The Ukrainian cargo aircraft, which is powered by six turbofan engines and equipped with 16 pairs of landing gear wheels, could be described as a relic of the Cold War The giant plane was built in the 1980s when the now independent Eastern European country was a part of the Soviet Union

The largest cargo aircraft of all time, which first took off in 1988, is well-known for its exceptional technical properties

According to the state-owned manufacturer, Antonov, the An-225 Mriya is capable of carrying ultra-heavy freights weighing 250,000 kilograms (550,000 lbs) internally, or 200,000 kilograms (440,000 lbs) on its upper fuselage, where the plane can fly as long as 70 meters (230 ft) long freight

The enormous cargo hold allows the aircraft to fly oversized cargo, including military tanks, smaller aircraft fuselages, trains, or around 3 empty Space Shuttles, or 2 blue whales

Additionally, the plane is certified to carry up to 868 passengers across its two decks

Popsuievych / Shutterstock

The aircraft is powered by six ZMKB Progress Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines, each producing around 51,590 lbs of thrust and helping to generate a cruising speed of 500 mph with a maximum speed of 530 mph

This allows the plane to fly a range that varies between 4,000 – 15,400 kilometers, or a maximum of 18 hours, without refueling

The An-225 Mriya is also notable for its maximum takeoff weight of 640,000kg (1,410,958 lbs)

In comparison, the largest passenger aircraft, Airbus A380-800, has a maximum takeoff weight of 575 tonnes

The Mriya also boasts the largest aircraft wingspan, which reaches 884 meters (290 ft)

If measured from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip, the six-crewed freighter is the size of a standard football field

Even though the aircraft is capable of flying exceptional sizes of freight, only a single Antonov An-225 Mriya has ever been built

In 1996, after serving the Soviet military missions for almost a decade, the giant joined the Antonov Airlines fleet for commercial oversized freight operations

OPIS Zagreb / Shutterstock

It was supposed to operate flights for the Soviet space program

Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the aircraft construction process failed and the unfinished airframe of the second An-225 was put in a storage facility in Kyiv, Ukraine

While there have been multiple attempts to resurrect production of the second aircraft, doubts remain about whether the aircraft can be built any time soon

Diesel Engines in Aircraft – Future or Fad?

There are jumbo jets, there’s Jet Blue – and then there are these gigantic cargo planes that blow the rest of the competition away with their sheer size, power, and carrying capacity

The first thing that probably comes to mind with large cargo planes like these is why anyone would ever need anything as big as one of these planes

B-52s and Jet Blues are big, but the biggest cargo jets on this list are several times larger than all of them

The largest cargo planes are called upon for everything from humanitarian aid to military support

As a result of those different jobs there are different types of cargo planes, and many of these cargo planes are considered in terms of how many troops and how much military equipment they can carry as well as raw carrying capacity

The United States and Soviet Union/Russia account for the majority of cargo planes on this list

What follows are the top 10 largest cargo planes of all-time

Kārlis Dambrāns Antonov An-225 Mriya open nose door

The biggest cargo plane of all-time, this Soviet-era behemoth was capable of carrying 650 tons

It holds the record for the single largest item carried as a payload at 418,834 lbs, and was the heaviest aircraft ever constructed

It also set the record for the most weight carried by a cargo plane at a whopping 280 tons, which is as much as 25 blue whales or 35 Space Shuttles – and you could probably guess which it was built to carry

It had a crew of six, was 84 m long, had a wingspan of 884 m (the largest wingspan of any operational aircraft), had a fuel capacity of more than 300,000 kg, and was powered by 6×Progress D-18T turbofans that could generate a cruising speed of 500 mph and maximum speed of 530 mph

Nevertheless, since the early 80s the Condor has been one of the biggest and most consistently-used cargo planes in use

The Condor has a crew of six (a pilot, copilot, navigator, flight engineers, and a radio operator) and can carry a couple of additional loadmasters

It measures 226 ft long, has a gross weight of 471,789 lbs, a maximum takeoff weight of 888,258 lbs, and has a cruising speed of 537 mph

This entry into the Antonov line was first introduced into the Soviet Air Force in 1967 and is still in use by Russia today

In other cases, it was used to support Soviet military interests, such as supplying the Syrian-Egyptian side during the Yom Kippur War They are planned to remain in use until 2033

The Antei has a crew of five or six, a carrying capacity of 176,370 lbs, measures 190 ft long, has a wingspan of 211 ft 3 in, and is powered by 4xKuznetsov NK-12MA turboprop engines, which gives it a maximum speed of 460 mph

One of the most important jobs of these large cargo planes can be carrying the Space Shuttle and other space-bound vehicles and components

The most famous and effective of these have been the Space Guppy, which since 1965 carried Apollo IV rockets and other components for the Apollo program

In November 2019, a Super Guppy was used to transport an Orion spacecraft

The Super Guppy has a crew of four, measures 143 ft long with a wingspan of 155 ft 3 in, can have a maximum takeoff weight of 170,000 lbs, is powered by 4×Allison 501-D22C turboprop engines, has a cruising speed of 250 mph and maximum speed of 290 mph

Editorial Team Airbus Beluga

In the battle between Jet Blue and Airbus, the latter has built a couple huge cargo planes, including this one

“Beluga” is the Russian word for “whale,” which should give you an idea of this cargo plane’s size, which fittingly enough was designed in 1995 to replace the Super Guppy

long, and it has a weight capacity of 103,617 lbs, but a maximum takeoff weight of 341,717 lbs

It is powered by 2×General Electric CF6-80C2A8 turbofans and can attain a maximum speed of 537 mph

Editorial Team Airbus A400M Atlas

Another entry into the large cargo plane industry by Airbus, the Atlas is operated by several countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as Turkey

In 2019, it was deployed as a tanker to refuel German aircraft involved in the fight against ISIS

The atlas has a crew of three or four, has a weight capacity of 81,600 lbs, can carry 116 paratroopers in a military capacity, is 148 ft long, has a maximum takeoff weight of 310,852 lbs, and has a maximum speed of 552 mph

Editorial Team C 5M Super Galaxy unloading

However, there have also been issues during its operational history, with 169 fatalities resulting from multiple crashes

One of the most notable things about the Galaxy is the fact that it has been particularly amenable to refits and variations over the course of its decades-long operational history

These refits have often been focused on addressing problems with its wings and adapting it for military transport use

The Galaxy has a crew of four to seven (made up of a pilot, copilot, flight engineers, and loadmasters), is 247 ft 1 in

long, has a gross weight of 840,000 lbs and maximum takeoff weight of 920,000 lbs, and has a maximum speed of 532 mph

8 Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules

8 Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules

Over 400 Super Hercules models have been made, and they have been in use by 17 countries

The US Air Force and Marine Corps used the Super Hercules a lot in both Iraq and Afghanistan

NATO used it in the Libyan Civil War This model has seen so much use that it has surpassed more than one million hours in the air

The Super Hercules has also been modified for use in firefighting

The Super Hercules has a crew of three, has a cruising speed of 400 mph, a maximum speed of 417 mph, and when outfitted for military use can carry 92 troops, 64 airborne troops, 2 to 3 Humvees, and 1 Kodiak Light Armored Vehicle

UR-SDV UAE Air Force – Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

First deployed in 1991, the Globemaster III has seen lots of use over the past three decades, during which time it has broken 13 records, including its payload-to-altitude ratio

Britain’s Royal Air Force Globemaster IIIs alone had amassed 40,000 hours by 2008

The Globemaster III was deployed for service conveying troops and equipment into Afghanistan and Iraq during US involvement in the region

In 2004, a Globemaster III involved in the transportation of President Bush to New Mexico was so heavy that it cracked the asphalt, damaging the runway

The Globemaster III has a crew of three, is 174 ft long, has a maximum speed of 670 mph, has a carrying capacity of 170,900 lbs, and in terms of military carrying capacity can carry 134 troops or 102 paratroopers, and vehicles such as 1 M1 Abrams tank or 3 Strykers

Several of the biggest cargo planes over the years have been variations on the ever-versatile Boeing 747, and this is a perfect example of one

Boeing completed all four Dreamlifters by 2010

Causes such as this demonstrate how large cargo planes can provide a boost to humanitarian efforts

long, a wingspan of 211 ft 5 in, 545 mph, and a maximum weight capacity of 803,001 lbs

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