Airborne Giant with 150 metre wingspan


June 4, 2004

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A concept aircraft under development at Boeing's Phantom Works R&D unit, the massive Pelican would have a wingspan of more than 150 m, carry up to 1400 tons of cargo - that's equivalent to 17 M-1 main battle tanks - would need 76 tires to cater for the weight and be almost twice as big as the largest aircraft currently in existence, the Russian Antonov An-225. The potential applications for such a huge vehicle capable of high-speed, long-range flights goes well beyond military cargo and troop deployment. The Pelican could be used as an airborne platform for re-usable space-vehicles and could also enter the commercial worldwide freight market currently dominated by shipping.

The aircraft would be designed to fly altitudes of only 20 feet above the sea in order to take advantage of the aerodynamic phenomenon called "ground effect" that reduces drag and greatly increases range and efficiency. The Pelican of the feathered variety employs this same technique.

The current giant of the skies - the An-225 plane was launched in 1988 as part of the Soviet Union's Buran space shuttle program. Only two of the aircraft were built and to give an indication of the scope of the Pelican concept, the 88.4 meter wingspan An-225 could carry a 250 ton payload - nearly five times less than is envisaged for the Pelican.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

Ha Ha!!! They r copying the Russian Ekranoplane which American intelligence never knew existed. In fact I wonder the Russians have not promoted this machine for short medium haul work. Great machine for sheltered waters. I would not like to cross the Atlantic in one.


John M

Looks like the Spurce Goose is Back.

Facebook User

Well An-225 is Ukrainian aircraft, was built in Soviet Ukraine and now I see it here in Kiev quite often. Its assigned airfield is Gostomel- few miles from Kiev.

Facebook User

Post lying. The Russians can not claim to be making the biggest lvtaka. AN - 225 manufactured in Ukraine.

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