Interesting Facts About Cargo Planes

Cargo planes are aircraft that are specially outfitted to carry shipments of cargo instead of passengers. Think of these planes as warehouses with wings. Some cargo planes are used by various world militaries, and others are for commercial (or civilian) use. Before the pandemic began in 2020, around 8 percent of all flights each year were classified as cargo flights.

Super Transporters

Some planes that are used to fly cargo have a truly huge capacity and are called super transporters. The Airbus Beluga XL, with its beluga whale-shaped fuselage, has the broadest cargo bay cross-section (26 feet 7 inches) of all existing cargo aircraft worldwide, according to Airbus. Another large cargo plane in the world is the Antonov An-255. This massive plane was first built to carry Soviet Union space program shuttles in the 1980s and can hold as many as 50 cars worth of payload. This plane most recently flew Covid-19 supplies between Europe and China. NASA is known to fly large cargo, and their preferred plane is the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy, which is shaped similar to an upside-down guppy fish. Even though newer planes are available, NASA continues to use the Super Guppy because it meets their needs so well, they decided not to upgrade.

Cargo Instead of Passengers?

Did you know that passenger planes can be converted to carry freight? In fact, according to the New York Times, with the reduction in passengers due to the coronavirus, several major airlines have since shifted to shipping cargo in passenger planes. This kept planes in the air and helped to make up lost revenue and continue business operations. The article showed pallets of cargo in rows, similar to passenger seating, overhead bins still in place.

The Boeing 747, a well-known plane for long passenger flights, has a nose cargo door for loading and unloading. When this cargo door is open, it looks like the entire nose of the plane is flipped upward. Not the view of the aircraft that you typically see it while boarding a flight. This plane, when outfitted for cargo only, can hold as much freight as five semi-trucks.

Supplying Military Missions

As mentioned earlier, militaries around the world use cargo planes to transport equipment like weapons, vehicles, and even troops to bases and equipment staging areas. The U.S. military forces are known to frequently use Lockheed's C-5 Galaxy and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. On May 8th, 2020, two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III's were flown from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to over 40 healthcare facilities in the Puget Sound area in Washington state. These large cargo planes took to the skies as part of a program called Air Force Salutes, which on this day, was thanking the front-line healthcare workers across the region fighting Covid-19 for their hard work.

Light Aircraft Cargo Planes

Some cargo planes are classified as light aircraft, like the Cessna 408 SkyCourier and the Caravan, and can be used to transport a smaller cargo load at a much lower cost than the large planes. These planes can also fly into more rural areas since they are lighter and don't require as much runway. Items shipped by express services may end up on a light aircraft cargo plane.

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