Cargo planes are a special breed of planes designed specifically for moving big things from one part of the world to another. There are many cargo planes in the world, and this post will brief you on some of them.
Shipping companies like FedEx and UPS own many different types of cargo planes. One of the larger ones is the Boeing 747. When configured as a freighter, the Boeing 747-400 can hold about 26,000 cubic feet (736 m3) of cargo. That's about as much as five semi trucks can haul.
The 747-400 can hold 30 pallets of goods on the main level. The pallets are 96 by 125 inches (2.4 m by 3.2 m) and up to 120-inches (3.05-m) tall. For shipping horses, there are special containers called airstables that connect to pallets and fit in the cargo hold. On the lower level, the plane can hold another five pallets along with 14 specially fitted containers, each up to 64 inches (1.6-m) tall. All of these goods are loaded through hatches in the side of the plane.
Since there often isn't room to drive a forklift truck into the plane to load the pallets, the load floor is equipped with electric rollers. Once a pallet is pushed through the doorway, the electric rollers are used to move it to the front or rear of the cargo hold.
This is a class of plane designed purely for moving huge stuff. If you need to transport a helicopter, or even a plane, you need a super transporter. The Boeing Airbus Beluga is built with a huge cargo area located above the cockpit, allowing freight to fill almost the full length of the plane. The giant door on the front of the cargo hold opens wide enough to get completely out of the way.
This plane can haul about 47 tons of cargo. That's a lot, but not enough to transport, say, a tank. A tank can weigh 65 tons or more. For that, you need an even bigger transport plane. (Right above): A Boeing Airbus Beluga being loaded.
The largest cargo plane in the world
The world's biggest transport plane is the Antonov AN-225. With a cargo capacity of over 250 tons, this plane can haul not just one, but three or four tanks. The plane is actually a modified version of the Antonov-124, a smaller cargo plane.
This plane was originally designed to carry the Russian version of the space shuttle. Plans for the shuttle were put on hold, and the plane has been grounded since the early 1990s. The plane was recently restored, and it made its first test flight on May 7, 2001. Its wingspan is almost the length of a football field, and its cargo hold can fit 80 cars. The picture above right shows the Antonov 225 taking off.