Since the dawn of flight, the desire to build bigger and bigger aircraft has been a constant – and resulted in a string of ever-increasing craft pushing the limits of technology.
World War I saw designers create aviation’s first giants – multi-engined bombers that flew hundreds of miles beyond the front. Between the wars, flying boats like the Dornier Do X and airliners like the USSR’s ANT-20 reached sizes undreamed of only decades before. The latter, weighing over 50 tonnes at takeoff and with a wingspan of 207 feet (63 metres), had its own printing press, movie theatre and photo lab.
The advent of the jet engine allowed aircraft to become bigger and heavier – resulting in planes like the Airbus A380, a double-decker capable of carrying more than 850 people into the air, and the Antonov An-225 transport, a freighter which can haul 250 tonnes of cargo into the air and is longer than the Wright Brothers’ first flight.
Here is our selection of some of aviation’s biggest giants.
(Convair B-36 picture from Clemens Vasters on Flickr)