Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe biggest plane in the world is the Antonov An-225, a Russian aircraft originally designed to transport the Buran space shuttle from its landing site back to the launch complex – the vast Baikonur Cosmodrome.
With the Buran space program temporarily frozen, the biggest airplane on the planet is busy transporting a wide variety of large and heavy cargo. In one of its most recent flights, the An-225 was used to transport oil drilling equipment for a Tanzanian oil company.
Its exceptionally spacious cargo deck allows it to hold voluminous and massive payloads that no other aircraft can accommodate. The plane’s cargo volume can reach up to 1,300 m3. To support the total weight of the plane, including cargo, the An-225 runs on 24 wheels.
The biggest plane used for transporting passengers is the Airbus A380, a double decker capable of carrying about 853 passengers. This passenger capacity is only possible if the plane is configured for an all-economy accommodation. Seating configurations vary among airline companies so seating capacity is not usually a benchmark for a plane’s carrying capacity.
Readers belonging to older generations might be wondering what ever happened the Boeing 747. This is not surprising, as the Boeing 747 held the title as “the largest passenger plane” for an impressive 37 years. A modified 747-100SR was even used to transport American space shuttles just like the An-225.
Stretched variants of the Boeing 747 and the Airbus 380 allow these planes to accommodate more cargo than they were originally designed for.
The maximum takeoff weight of the Airbus A380 is 560,000 kg, while the Antonov An-225′s maximum takeoff weight is 600,000 kg. To take off on that maximum allowed weight, the biggest plane in the world has to make a takeoff run of no less than 3.5 km.
The Airbus A380 has a total length of 73 m, a wingspan of 79.75 m, and a height of 24.1 m. The Antonov An-225, on the other hand, has a total length of 84 m, a wingspan of 88.4 meters, and a height of 18.1 m. The reason why the A380 is taller is because it is, as mentioned earlier, a double-decker.
Want to see the biggest airplane in the world in action? Check out the movie “2012″, where a CGI version of the An-225 makes an appearance.
Here are the links of two more articles from NASA:
Russian Space Program
History of Remote Sensing: In the Beginning; Launch Vehicles
Here are two episodes at Astronomy Cast that you might want to check out as well:
The US Space Shuttle