10 of the world's biggest cargo planes

A look at huge, powerful and frequently ugly cargo carriers.
Pic 1: The one operational An-225 at RAF Brize Norton in 2007. Photo: RAF.
Pic 1: The one operational An-225 at RAF Brize Norton in 2007. Photo: RAF.
Pic 2: An A380 on show in Paris. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 2: An A380 on show in Paris. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 3: All aboard, train carriages are loaded on to a kneeling An-124. Photo: Bombardier Transportation.
Pic 3: All aboard, train carriages are loaded on to a kneeling An-124. Photo: Bombardier Transportation.
Pic 4: The first conversion of the 747 to the 747LCF appears from the ?chop shop? unpainted. Photo: Chang-Song Wang.
Pic 4: The first conversion of the 747 to the 747LCF appears from the ?chop shop? unpainted. Photo: Chang-Song Wang.
Pic 5: An MD-11F in FedEx livery. Photo: Arcturus.
Pic 5: An MD-11F in FedEx livery. Photo: Arcturus.
Pic 6: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sits in the cockpit of an IL-96-400T. Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 6: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sits in the cockpit of an IL-96-400T. Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 7: Inside, looking out of the AN-22 loading bay.
Pic 7: Inside, looking out of the AN-22 loading bay.
Pic 8: The IL-76 has taken on plenty of humanitarian roles. Photo: Tengku Bahar/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 8: The IL-76 has taken on plenty of humanitarian roles. Photo: Tengku Bahar/AFP/Getty Images.
Pic 9: A Eurocopter Super Puma heavy lift helicopter and emergency supplies is being unloaded from an Airbus A300-600 Super Transporter. Photo: AFP/AF
Pic 9: A Eurocopter Super Puma heavy lift helicopter and emergency supplies is being unloaded from an Airbus A300-600 Super Transporter. Photo: AFP/AF
Pic 10: An An-70 prototype on take off. Photo: Marianivka.
Pic 10: An An-70 prototype on take off. Photo: Marianivka.
Pic 11: Part of the International Space Station is visible in the cargo bay of NASA's 'Super Guppy'. Photo: Getty Images.
Pic 11: Part of the International Space Station is visible in the cargo bay of NASA's 'Super Guppy'. Photo: Getty Images.

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LogisticsMiddleEast has taken a few moments to compile a list of some of the biggest and most interesting cargo planes that have ever taken to the skies.

Ranked nominally by maximum take-off weight (MTOW), the list includes production aircraft, along with some bespoke creations and mixes converted airliners with aircraft built specifically for cargo roles.

LogisticsMiddleEast has avoided the inclusion of multiple variations of the same aircraft, but we welcome any tips from card-carrying plane spotters for cargo carriers we should have included. Enjoy these amazing aircraft:

  1. Antonov An-225
  2. Airbus A380F
  3. Antonov An-124
  4. Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter
  5. McDonnell Douglas MD-11F
  6. Ilyushin IL-96T
  7. Antonov  An-22
  8. Ilyushin IL-76 MF/TF
  9. Airbus A300-600 Super Transporter
  10. Antonov An-70
  11. … and an 11th that was too interesting to ignore, the B-377-SG/SGT Super Guppy.

 To view the associated images click on the image number.

1. Antonov An-225
MTOW: 600,000 kg
Top of the list is the Russian Antonov An-225. Looking like something out of an episode of the Thunderbirds, this massive beast of an aircraft was originally designed to piggyback parts of the Soviet space programme. The aircraft is powered by six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines and features seven pairs of wheels on each set of landing gear.



2. Airbus A380F
MTOW: 590,000 kg
The freighter version of the world’s largest airliner is a whopper and if a decent number are produced may stake a claim for the top spot, certainly among the mass produced aircraft. Operators will have a choice of Rolls-Royce Trent engines, or the GP7277 from the engine alliance of GE and Pratt & Whitney.



3. Antonov An-124
MTOW: 405,000 kg
Currently holding the title for the largest mass-produced cargo aircraft, the An-124 had 56 units built. It has seen recent service carrying aircraft parts and whole engines around for Airbus, Rolls-Royce and others. A notable feature is the aircraft’s ability to ‘kneel’ allowing for easier loading. It is powered by four Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofans.



4. Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter
MTOW: 364,235 kg
Also known as the Dreamlifter, the aircraft is a modified Boeing 747-400 and was developed to ferry aircraft parts - specifically for the troubled Dreamliner - from Boeing’s manufacturing plants to their final assembly location. Although the passenger version has three engine options, these cargo converts are all powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW4000 turbofans. The voluminous fuselage is 8.38 metres wide.



5. McDonnell Douglas MD-11F
MTOW: 286,000 kg
The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 is based on the successful DC-10 and is easily plane-spotted thanks to its third-engine located at the base of the vertical stabiliser. The MD-11F variant had 53 units built, between 1988 and 2000, and could be powered by GE or Pratt & Whitney engines.



6. Ilyushin IL-96T
MTOW: 270,000 kg
The freighter version of this Ilyushin-made wide-body aircraft is powered by four Aviadvigatel PS90 engines. It is notable for the modern avionics it was equipped with at the time of its design and is a shortened, long-range advancement of the Ilyushin IL-86.



7. Antonov An-22
MTOW: 250,000 kg
Once the world’s largest aircraft, it was initially designed as a strategic airlifter for military purposes, but at least one has since seen use as a civilian cargo transport with Antonov Airlines. It is the first turboprop-powered aircraft on the list and has the added novelty of its engines being the contra-rotating Kuznetsov NK-12s.



8. IL-76 MF/TF
MTOW: 210,000 kg
Another aircraft that started out in fatigues, the IL-76 was produced in substantial numbers and has been put to a number of interesting civilian uses. Among these is firefighting, with the aircraft being capable of carrying 49,000 litres of water in its water bombing configuration.



9. Airbus A300-600 Super Transporter
MTOW: 155,000 kg
Another specialist modification for moving big plane parts and other outsize cargo, this Airbus is also known as the Beluga. Based on the Airbus A300-600 wide body, the modifications didn’t noticeably increase the MTOW, showing it was developed for relatively light cargo. However, despite the width of the cargo bay, the Beluga can’t carry most fuselage parts for the A380. Power comes from two GE CF6 turbofan engines.



10. Antonov An-70
MTOW: 145,000 kg
In another Thunderbirds-inspired move from Antonov, this cargo carrying prototype is powered by Progress D-27 propfan engines. The aircraft has had a long and troubled development, which began in 1994 and continues today. Propfan engines offer fuel efficiency in a narrow ‘sweet spot’, but also generate more noise than comparable turbofan options.



… and an 11th that was too interesting to ignore
B-377-SG/SGT Super Guppy
MTOW: 77,110 kg
This frontrunner for the ugliest-aircraft-ever award was built directly on the fuselage of a militarised Boeing 377, the C-97 J Turbo Stratocruiser. Powered by four Allison 501-D22C turboprops, the specialist cargo carrier can’t lift the most, but is distinguished by its bulbous fuselage, which has a maximum interior diameter of 7.6 metres.

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