- The Airbus Beluga XL, with a maximum takeoff weight of 227 tonnes, was specifically designed to transport massive components and cargo between various Airbus production sites.
- The Boeing 747-8, with a maximum takeoff weight of 448 tonnes, is an ultra-long-range double-deck widebody plane designed to transport hundreds of passengers over long distances.
- The Antonov An-225 Mriya is one of the heaviest and largest aircraft designs, boasting a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes.
Aviation innovators have thrilled humanity in the last 100 years by constructing sophisticated, large, energy-efficient aircraft models. These models are suitable for transporting passengers and bulky cargo for long distances.
The refined models have enhanced logistics, defense, and transportation worldwide and the limitless achievements in aeronautic advancement. This resourceful article explores the unique capabilities, features, and legacy of the 13 biggest planes ever built.
Read through to learn why the innovative giants of the aviation industry need applause. Moreover, you will appreciate the revolution of different aircraft categories, including experimental models, military planes, and big passenger jets.
13: Airbus Beluga XL — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 227 Tonnes
Airbus Beluga XL is uniquely created to transport massive components and cargo between the various Airbus’ European production sites. This model’s innovators borrowed many ideas from the A330-200 freighter model. Beluga XL incorporates a larger fuselage suitable for heavier and bulky cargo.
As one of the largest cargo planes ever designed, it has an optimal takeoff weight of about 227 tonnes. Therefore, it can accommodate about 51 tonnes of cargo for about 2,200 nautical miles. Beluga XL is one of the most outstanding achievements of Airbus’s production process.
In essence, it has eased the transportation of fuselage and wing components from one production site to another. All these capabilities come from the superior design, thanks to the great innovators who have refined the Airbus production process.
12: McDonnell Douglas MD-11 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 286 Tonnes
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 was built between 1990 and 2000 as a trijet commercial aircraft. With an MTOW of 286 tonnes, it could accommodate 410 passengers in its unique three-class configuration and fly up to 7,144 nautical miles without refueling. Powered by three advanced engines, MD-11 had a wingspan of approximately 169 Ft.
In addition, the MD-11 had three engines, two wing-mounted and one tail-mounted. It featured advanced features like a fly-by-wire control system and advanced engineering technologies to make the flight more stable and powerful.
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 produced 200 aircraft, replacing the popular DC-10 model. However, it was designed to be more energy-efficient and technologically superior to its predecessor.
Furthermore, its large cargo door made loading and unloading effortless. Unfortunately, stiff competition from Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 stopped its production. Both aircraft were more energy-efficient and technologically advanced than MD-11. All in all, MD-11 remains a staple among wide-body aircraft and other cutting-edge aviation achievements.
11: Airbus A350-1000 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 319 Tonnes
The Airbus A350-1000 is the largest variant of the A350 family, boasting a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 319 tonnes. In addition, it can carry 350 to 410 passengers in a three-class configuration and fly up to 8,700 nautical miles (16,110 km).
The A350-1000’s impressive MTOW is achieved through advanced materials and engineering techniques. The aircraft can reach its impressive MTOW, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, providing up to 97,000 pounds of thrust each.
In addition, the A350-1000 aircraft has been operational since 2018 and has quickly become a top choice among many airlines. Furthermore, this aircraft incorporates cutting-edge technologies. These technologies could include a fly-by-wire system, an advanced cockpit with large displays, and an improved air management system.
With a cargo capacity of up to 44,000 kg, it is perfect for transporting goods and equipment over long distances. Airbus A350-1000 is an amazing engineering feat that represents a long-range air travel future.
10: Boeing 777-300ER — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 351.5 Tonnes
Since 2004, pilots and passengers have preferred using the widebody and long-range aircraft model Boeing 777-300ER. Notably, the model is an improvement from Boeing 777 and has allowed many customers comfortable transportation for the long haul. As one of the largest passenger planes, it has an optimal takeoff weight of 774,600 pounds (351.5 tonnes).
Moreover, a Boeing 777-300ER with a well-configured interior can carry 396 passengers. Besides, the model flies for about 7,370 nautical miles without refueling, powered by two powerful engines.
Boeing 777-300ER has proved the undisputed engineering innovations within the modern aviation sector. Pilots, passengers, and investors in the aviation sector long for further improvements of the new and larger version.
9: Airbus A340-600 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 380 Tonnes
As the largest model of the A340 series, A340-600 is also a marveling model designed in 2002. The model is suitable for long-distance lights, and four engines power it. A340-600 has an optimal takeoff weight of about 380 tonnes, making it one of the large models that have marveled at the aviation industry in the 21st century.
Since the plane has a well-configured interior, it can accommodate 475 passengers based on high-density seating. With four powerful and efficient engines, A340-600 can travel about 7800 nautical miles without refueling. Therefore, it is one of the ultimate choices for long-distance flights connecting nations and cities across the globe.
Although A340-600 is no longer included in the production list, its legacy in the aviation industry is undisputed. Both pilots and passengers love its sterling performance, marveling capabilities, and top-notch technology.
8: Lockheed C-5 Galaxy — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 381.02 Tonnes
Since 1970, the U.S. Airforce has enjoyed the rare opportunity to use Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the largest military transport plane. It is a strategic airlift that’s best suited for heavy and bulky troops, supplies, and equipment for the long haul. Therefore, it is preferred for critical national and overseas military operations.
C-5 Galaxy is ranked among the heaviest models. The model has a unique capability to accommodate a maximum takeoff weight of about 381.02 tonnes. Moreover, it covers more than 2150 nautical miles carrying 281,001 pounds. Four superior high-bypass turbofan engines power the model.
C-5 Galaxy also includes a special nose-loading door suitable for transporting bulky cargo. In addition, C-5 Galaxy has been an excellent discovery for easing military operations across the globe. The model has been associated with the success of many critical military missions worldwide. As a workhorse of military air operations, its legacy is expected to last.
7: Boeing Dreamlifter — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 396.89 Tonnes
Boeing Dreamlifter (747-400 Large Cargo Freighter) is another large plane designed for transporting heavy cargo. Typically, it has eased the transportation of bulky aircraft assemblies and components.
Dreamlifter design is an improvement of the extra Boeing 747, but it includes a larger fuselage to facilitate the transport of bulky cargo. More importantly, the model has a takeoff weight of about 364.24 tonnes, making it one of the largest planes designed for larger payloads in the aviation industry.
Amazingly, the Dreamlifter can accommodate about 113 tonnes of cargo and transport it for about 4,200 nautical miles without refueling. The model also has in-built four efficient and powerful engines.
In addition, it eases the loading and unloading of bulky cargo with its superior swing-tail cargo door. The Dreamlifter remains one of the most variable assets in the aviation sector.
It has eased the transportation of crucial components between the various production facilities worldwide. Therefore, it is one of the top-notch aviation innovations that have improved large cargo transportation.
6: Antonov An-124 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 402 Tonnes
Antonov An-124 Ruslan entered service in 1986, having been designed by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau. It is also a powerful large cargo airlift model best suited for heavy cargo. It usually transports bulky loads like heavy materials, supplies, and equipment globally.
One of the sterling traits of the An-124 Ruslan model is its optimal takeoff weight of 402 tonnes. This aspect affirms why it fits in the category of large cargo models. Generally, it can transport 150 tonnes for over 2,000 nautical miles. Powered by four energy-efficient and superior turbofan engines, An-124 Ruslan becomes the ultimate choice for heavy cargo.
This model also guarantees speedy loading and unloading, equipped with a rear loading ramp. Overall, the ability of An-124 Ruslan to facilitate transport across several sectors and industries makes it a unique military asset. And, ultimately, it is an excellent option for commercial operations.
5: Boeing 747-400ER — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 412 Tonnes
Boeing 747-400ER is another unique aircraft model with a widebody suitable for long-haul flights. The model made its maiden flight in 2000. Boeing 747-400ER is an improved model of the iconic 747 and is suited for carrying hundreds of passengers. Notably, it carries up to 624 passengers, based on the interior configuration — especially the class.
The large model also accommodates a maximum takeoff weight of 412 tonnes. Powered by four superior engines, the 747-400ER can cover up to 7,670 nautical miles without refueling. Consequently, the model is the ultimate choice for long-distance flights connecting cities and nations worldwide.
Both passengers and pilots prioritize 747-400ER’s unique design, specialized capabilities, and advanced technology. Therefore, it has left an undisputed legacy in the aviation sector.
4: Boeing 747-8 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 448 Tonnes
Boeing 747-8 is a double-deck widebody model created to transport hundreds of passengers over the long haul. It is an improvement over the iconic Boeing 747 and has been used for over one decade. Generally, it is large passenger series, with a maximum takeoff weight of 448 tonnes.
It can accommodate 605 passengers based on the internal configuration. Powered by four powerful engines, it assures pilots and their passengers of uninterrupted flight of 8,000 nautical miles. Therefore, it is best suited for long-distance routes.
Boeing 747-8 is better than Boeing 747 and other earlier versions because of fuel efficiency and improved technology. Consequently, it has become a critical asset in the aviation sector. As an aviation innovation marvel, Boeing 747-8 enjoys a great legacy as an energy-efficient and spacious passenger model.
3: Airbus A380-800 — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 575 Tonnes
Since 2007, Airbus A380-800 has remained the largest double-deck widebody aircraft globally. Pilots and innovators in the aviation industry consider it the ultimate choice for larger passenger long-distance flights. Notably, A380-800 carries 853 passengers at total capacity, based on the interior configuration.
A380-800’s optimal takeoff weight is 575 tonnes. In addition, the model also features inbuilt four powerful Roll-Royce engines with a thrust of 70000 lbs. Therefore, A380-800 guarantees passengers and pilots an 8,200 nautical miles flight without refueling.
The A380-800 also reduces carbon footprint and assures efficiency, thanks to noise-reducing and supplicated engine technology and advanced aerodynamics. The energy efficiency and spacious feature explain why the A380-800 model is a preference of many pilots and passengers.
Ultimately, the spaciousness and quiet cabin explain why passengers and pilots prefer this large model.
2: Stratolaunch — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 590 Tonnes
Stratolaunch is an aviation marvel that has revolutionized ionized spacecraft. In essence, it serves as a reliable mobile launch pad for modern satellites. It also ranks among the biggest models ever designed by aerospace innovators. Stratolaunch features a wingspan of 385 feet and a unique twin fuselage innovation.
With a maximum takeoff weight of 590 tonnes, it can transport about 227 tonnes to an altitude of 35,000 Ft. for launch. Typically, with a range of approximately 3,700 kilometers (2000 nautical miles) and powered by six powerful jet engines, Stratolaunch dominates the spacecraft category. Space explorers now use this aviation marvel to launch satellites into orbit.
Besides, the model has also made it easy for space explorers to carry rockets from the air to space. Stratolaunch offers more cost-effective and efficient spacecraft alternatives. Finally, this model has enhanced high-speed test flights that are best suited for space explorations.
1: Antonov An-225 Mriya — Maximum Takeoff Weight: 640 Tonnes
Antonov An-225 Mriya was designed in the 1980s by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau. It also ranks among the heaviest and largest plane designs. As a heavy model, An-225 has an optimal takeoff weight of 640 tonnes.
Consequently, it can carry up to 250 tonnes of payload for about 2,160 nautical miles. Powered by six turbofan engines and a comprehensive six-wheel landing gear system, An-225 is an incredible aviation asset. The model affirms the prowess of modern aviation innovators.
Concisely, it has a length of 275 Ft. and a wingspan of 290 ft. The presence of An-225 in commercial cargo transportation missions affirms its sterling legacy in bulky payload aviation services.
Summary of the 12 Largest Planes Ever Built
|Rank||Maximum Takeoff Weight|
|1. Antonov An–225 Mriya||640 Tonnes|
|2. Stratolaunch||590 Tonnes|
|3. Airbus A380–800||575 Tonnes|
|4. Boeing 747–8||448 Tonnes|
|5. Boeing 747-400ER||412 Tonnes|
|6. Antonov An-124||402 Tonnes|
|7. Boeing Dreamlifter||396.89 Tonnes|
|8. Lockheed C-5 Galaxy||381.02 Tonnes|
|9. Airbus A340-600||380 Tonnes|
|10. Boeing 777-300ER||351.5 Tonnes|
|11. Airbus A350-1000||319 Tonnes|
|12. McDonnell Douglas MD-11||286 Tonnes|
|13. Airbus Beluga XL||227 Tonnes|
Largest Planes Ever Built: Further Reading
If you’re passionate about aviation and want to learn more about some of the biggest planes ever built, there are plenty of resources online. In this section, we’ve curated a list of further reading materials to take you deeper into these incredible aircraft’s history, design, and capabilities.
- The 6 Most Expensive Planes Ever Built – Gain insight into the most expensive planes ever constructed, their features, capabilities, and intended uses.
- List of All the 36 Supersonic Planes We Know About – Discover the supersonic planes designed, developed, and flown to date, including their manufacturers, speeds, ranges, sizes, and other specifications.
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