Whether the motivation is economic in nature, for a functional purpose, or in the pursuit of glory, humanity has manufactured countless creative aircraft. We’ve compiled a list some of the world’s most ambitious aircraft. They may shock you. Are these planes mechanical masterpieces or duds? You decide.
Airbus A300-600ST Beluga
The Airbus Beluga is the ultimate oversized cargo plane carrier. This super transporter attracted its name because of its likeness to the beluga whale. The Beluga’s design enables it to carry other Airbus aircraft components with its 37.7 metre cabin height. Two pilots and one loadmaster ship these aircraft parts from different production sites across Europe to the final assembly lines in France and Germany.
In 1994, the first A300-600ST Beluga flew. In 1995, the European Aviation Safety Agency officially approved the Beluga for service. Four more Beluga’s were created at rate of one per year. Even after two decades, the fleet of five remains in operation. In 2014, Airbus revealed its future plans.
The company plans on the addition of five new A330-based BelugaXL aircraft to the overall fleet. These significantly larger aircraft are projected for active service in mid-2019.
Scaled Composites Proteus
Scaled Composites’ aircraft is named after the mythological Greek god – Proteus. The aircraft flew for the first time publically in 1998. The Proteus is an aircraft that adapts to a variety of missions. The Proteus is a high-altitude telecommunication relay aircraft with abilities including atmospheric research, commercial imaging, and surveillance.
The Proteus contained either two pilots in a pressurized cabin or remotely controlled from the ground. In 1999, NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program welcomed the Proteus. This NASA initiative utilized remotely operated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) technologies for civil use. In 2000, the Proteus set three world records:
- reached an altitude of 63,245 feet,
- continued horizontal flight for 62,385 feet,
- carried a 2,200 lb payload to an altitude of 55,994 feet.