You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Unusual and record-breaking planes: Six incredible planes you'll never fly on

Traveller logoTraveller 16/02/2017 Craig Platt
The Airbus Beluga, named for its similarity in shape with the beluga whale. © Airbus The Airbus Beluga, named for its similarity in shape with the beluga whale.

In the past 10 years, travellers have become increasingly interested in the type of plane they fly on to reach their destination. Competition between the big two aircraft manufacturers, America's Boeing and Europe's Airbus, has seen great leaps forward in plane technology.

The launch of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, the biggest commercial aircraft to fly, in 2007 and the carbon-fibre and cutting-edge technology found on board the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which took off on its first commercial flight in 2011, are just two of the highlights of the past 10 years.

But there are other cool aircraft out there that airline passengers will never get a chance to fly on. Here are six of them – plus their closest commercial equivalents you can board.

The Airbus Beluga

This bizarre-looking plane is named for its similarity in shape with the beluga whale – both are white with large, bulbous heads. The Beluga, technically called a A300-600ST Super Transporter, has the largest cargo hold of any non-military aircraft flying today. Airbus has five Belugas, which are used for transporting parts of other aircraft, such as fuselage sections, wings and tails for A320s and A330s, along with parts for the new A350.

The closest equivalent: The Airbus Beluga is a modified A300, so if you find yourself on board one of those, that's the same plane without the bulbous head. However, very few airlines still fly A300s and Airbus has introduced an even larger Beluga, the XL, based on an Airbus A330.

© Chilkoot/Getty Images The Boeing Dreamlifter

Boeing's version of the Beluga is the Dreamlifter, a modified 747 jumbo jet that, as the name suggests, was created to carry parts of the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has four of the large transport aircraft. The modified 747s are considered ugly in comparison to the sleek lines of a normal jumbo jet. Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Scott Carson reportedly apologised to the creator of the 747, Joe Sutter (who passed away in 2016), telling Sutter he was "sorry for what we did to your plane".

The closest equivalent: The Dreamlifter is a modified 747 jumbo jet. Although 747s have fallen out of favour in recent years, you can still fly on them with many airlines, including Qantas.

© Shutterstock Antonov An-225 Mriya

Built by the Soviet Union, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is the largest, heaviest aircraft to fly. The Mriya regularly makes appearances at airshows around the world, including Australia's biennial event at Avalon in Victoria and a visit to Perth. The plane can carry 640 tonnes and is powered by six engines on its wings. Its wingspan of 88 metres is the largest of any plane flying today. Initially a military aircraft and now flying under the Ukraine's flag, since the early 2000s the Mriya has been available for commercial transport.

The closest equivalent: You may never get to fly on the world's largest plane, but you can fly on the world's largest commercial plane: the Airbus A380.

© Rex Images The Concorde

There is a small chance you might have been one of those who flew on the Concorde, the supersonic jet designed for Atlantic crossings between the US and Europe, during its time in service. The Concorde first flew in 1969 and entered commercial service in 1976. It flew the trans-Atlantic route, New York to London in about three hours, until 2003. But the end of the Concorde era is generally considered to have happened three years earlier, after a fatal crash involving an Air France Concorde in 2000. You can still get on board a Concorde, albeit one that will remain stationary, at several aviation museums around the world.

The closest equivalent: If you're super rich, or have a friend who is, you might be able to take a flight in a private jet that can approach near-supersonic speeds. The Cessna Citation X+ is the fastest private jet available at present, with a top speed of mach .935, or 1150km/h.

© Getty Images The Spruce Goose

A famous project of eccentric American entrepreneur Howard Hughes (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Aviator) the Hughes H-4 Hercules, AKA the Spruce Goose was a giant of its time. Built as a transport plane for World War II, the aircraft wasn't finished until after the war was over. Featuring the longest wingspan of any plane, the Goose was made of wood (birch, not spruce) due to the shortage of aluminium at the time. The plane never got beyond the testing phase and only flew once – a short flight of about two kilometres with Hughes at the controls. You can now find it at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, in the US.

The closest equivalent: You won't find any large planes made of wood these days, but you will find them made out of materials other than aluminium. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner became the first airliner to be made of carbon fibre when it entered service in 2011. More than 40 airlines around the world now fly Dreamliners, including Jetstar and Air New Zealand. Qantas will take delivery of its first 787 in 2017.

© Rex Images The private superjumbo

The aviation industry was abuzz a few years ago when interior designs for a private A380 superjumbo circulated. Believed to be the interiors for the VIP Flying Palace purchased by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 2007, the illustrations showed five master bedrooms with separate bathrooms, a concert hall, multiple dining rooms and even a throne. But, alas, the ultimate luxury plane never took to the skies. The prince's finances took a turn for the worse and the plane was put up for sale, with the interiors reportedly never installed. In fact, according to Forbes, the plane is still sitting at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, unfurnished, despite being sold in 2010 to an undisclosed buyer.

The closest equivalent: When it comes to luxury on an A380 superjumbo, it's hard to go past Etihad's The Residence. The three-section private cabin for two passengers features a lounge area, a bedroom and a bathroom with shower. There is also an on-board butler solely to service these guests, trained by the Savoy Butler Academy in London, part of the Savoy Hotel. It is at the front end of the aircraft on the upper deck. The Residence is available on Etihad A380 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Abu Dhabi, but a one-way trip will set you back about $30,000.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon