The high flying fantasy ideas from fable and myth like: Roc from Sinbad’s tales, the Garuda bird from the Indian Mahabharata, Thunderbird from North America, the Brazilian Blue Crow and other high-flying nightmares or soaring benevolent gods and spirits were in only human imagination for many years.
(futuristic art by Harry Grant Dart)
Then after few years of only imagination the skies were filled with sputtering, creaking, and – for the most part – very unreliable aeronautical devices. Many should be credited for this along with Write Brothers like Gustave Whitehead, Alexander Feodorovich Mozhaiski, Clement Ader and some more.
Image from records shows first flights of Wilbur write in circular fashion.
The First World War was the reason of advanced science of flight and necessitated bigger planes and it then changed the aircraft from a killing and maiming hobby for the rich to a killing and maiming war machine.
By the records Russky Vitaz was the first four engine aircraft developed at that time and after many more improvements Igor Sikorsky’s Ilya Murometz was the monster plane. But Ilya Murometz failed to begin as a beast of the skies; rather originally designed as a luxurious passenger liner featuring electric lighting, heat, a bathroom, and even a glass floor, the bomber must have been amusing as well as terrifying to its wealthy passengers.
(images credit: histarmar.com.ar)
Tupolev ANT-20 “Maxim Gorky” was another modified version of such approach:
And then from early 1930s: Ka-7 was the Russian monster plan, which was named after engineer Kalinin.
(images via Modelist-Konstruktor, 1989)
The K-7 was a gigantic elliptical wing of extremely thick airfoil (span 53m, area 452m2) with two triangle section tailbooms, carrying tailfin and tailplane with control mechanics. The wing had almost strait center (width 6m, length 10m, height 2.33m) where rooms for payload and people was arranged. Elliptical consoles with 14 fuel tanks were attached to the centroplane. The center was covered with duralumin, consoles with fabric. There were no such a thick tubes to comply with requirements of central spar so it was made of two parallel tubes. The rest of wings frame also was made of welded steel tubes.
As the war was getting nasty the airplanes were getting bigger and bigger. Another outcome of this was Norman Bel Geddes Airliner Number 4, consisting of 9 decks of luxury hotel accommodation, bars and engine rooms:
This plane was so huge for that time that 606 passengers could sleep in comfort, and easily bringing them across Atlantic. It seems to be a logical development of 1910s British Airliner of the Future:
The “Freak of the Month” concept from Modern Mechanics, 1931 also can not be ignored:
(image credit: modernmechanix)
But if we get back from huge aviation concepts to reality, the elegant Handley Page HP42: a four-engined beauty with an impressive track record of no crashes while being used as an airliner for few years; can give us an exact idea about how safety at that time was never ignored.
The 1936 Boeing Stratoliner, which was also called as ‘the flying whale’ because of its chubbiness was another awesome and beautiful aircraft. This plane was not only huge but a state of the art, and what we enjoy flying today in pressurized comfort is because of technology premiered in the silver flying fish of the Stratoliner.
The Stratoliner was arguably the most advanced operational aircraft in the early 1940s, for it also utilized power boosted control surfaces and geared two-speed engine superchargers and it was the first practical step on the journey to safe high altitude passenger flight
Another aircraft both immense and legendary – The H-4 Hercules. Arguably the standard by which “huge aircraft” are measured –- as well as how “completely screwed up” is defined. Its one and only flight was in 1947, where it flew for around a mile, reaching altitude of 70 feet. Originally planned as the ultimate military transport, it is more commonly known as its hated — at least by its creator Howard Hughes — moniker, the Spruce Goose.
(image credit: Bettman/CORBIS)
The aircraft had originally been ordered by the US government during World War II as a giant cargo plane for the armed troops and tanks. Howard Hughes’s creation was the world’s largest plane at the time and is still the largest flying boat ever built. It also holds records for the largest wingspan at 97.5 meters, tallest airplane at 24.2 meters, and the largest aircraft ever made from wood.
Nazi’s Ugly Brute
Art and elegance may have been one of the early fatalities in the second world war, but striving to have the biggest (anything) certainly wasn’t.
To call the Messerschmitt Me 321 big is like calling 1939 to 1945 unpleasant. Created originally as a glider, the Gigant could haul an insanely large amount of cargo. And an insane bunch of soldiers: 130 plus hardware … 23 tons of hardware.
Because the Gigant was so huge, getting the damned thing into the air was, at best, problematic. First it was towed up with a pair of Heinkel 111 bombers, which was alternatively unsuccessful or disastrous. Then they tried fusing two 111s together to make a Frankenstein’s monster of a machine –- almost as bestial as the Gigant itself. Finally the Luftwaffe stuck engines on the Me321, which made an ugly brute even uglier but at least it got off the ground.
Heavy Bombers of the (Potential) Doomsday
On the other side of the war was an eagle, a silvery steel bird of prey: the huge and beautiful B-29 Superfortress. Although getting the immense B-29 up to its ceiling of 40,000 feet was a struggle, once it got up there nothing could reach it or, at 350 mph, catch it. Even if something managed to come close to it, its formidable defenses could cut any threat to shreds. Featuring many impressive advancements, and some frustrating problems, the plane was kept on active duty long into the Korean war.
With the advent of jet power, aircraft designers began to think really big. Think of your average doomsday film and you immediately picture the roaring ascent of smoke-blasting, eight-engined, B-52 bombers. But before B-52 there was another huge American bomber: Convair B-36 “Peacemaker”:
Like the B-29, the B-52 “Stratofortress” was an aeronautical powerhouse, a heavy-lifting behemoth. And like the B-52, it was kept in service until … well, they are still being used today.
(image source: US Air Force)
Heavy bombers transforming into LEGO pieces in the minds of dazed Cold War engineers:
Arthur Kimes writes to us: “Soviets also proposed to stick together a bunch of big airplanes to make a REALLY huge one. Kind of like a Lego dream come true: In the early-mid 1950s the USAF had a plan to link 3 B-36s (wingtip to wingtip) to have a extended range delivery system. When this behemoth got close enough to the Soviet Union each would drop off a parasite fighter-bomber (probably the F-92 – which also was never built) and the released FBs would make a high-speed dash and drop a bomb on their targets. The B-36s would split up and return, the F-92s would have to try and find a friendly airfield in Turkey or something like that.”
(image source: TM, 1975)
“When you consider the B-36 is still the largest bomber ever built, the idea of 3 of them flying joined at the wingtips is astounding.”
Now few Ugly Monster Airplanes:
Here is another Monster plane Aero Spacelines Super Guppy which is similar to some freaky Monster Movies from late 1970s in look wise. This was a load carrier; basically was build to carry components of other airplanes from one site to other if needed.
Here is a Super Transporter Airbus A300-600ST:
VM-T “Atlant” is a Russian Monster plane which was used in Buran and Energia space programs was basically a carrier plane and was meant to carry a load which can be heavier than its own weight:
Transporting a fuel tank for the second stage of Energia rocket:
(image source: “Cosmonautics – A Colorful History” ed. by Dr. Wayne R. Matson)
Nuclear-Powered Lockheed Mothership
In 1970s Lockheed proposed a Monster concept “Nuclear-Powered Lockheed Mothership”. If you can see other small planes are attached to its wings, and yet still flying successfully in the skies. This concept plan was so huge that if it is landed on water would look like a Titanic Plane.
Today’s Monster Planes
In 1960s C-5 Galaxy is introduced to the world and it was the monster plane at that time. It was so huge that it can carry 180,000 pounds: 90 tons easily. You can imagine how big it is.
(image credit: Pervez Iqbal)
Antonov An-225 is the biggest plane. It is a 6 engine monster which can carry maximum of 3 whole aircraft museums if needed. A total weight of 550,000 pounds can be carried by Antonov An-225.
(image credit: Dmitry Pichugin)
(image credit: Radek Oneksiak)
(image credit: airliners.net)
The current leader in passenger aviation is Airbus A-380. The below image shows its size and its comparison with other planes in the airport.
Now we have completed our fantasy dreams and have these machines; airplanes so big that they are even bigger than human ancient and magnificent dreams like Roc, the Garuda bird, the Thunderbird, Blue Crow.
(image credit: Sven De Bevere)