All airplanes look alike, right? Wrong! Today’s airplanes are anything but common and boring, because there are, in fact, numerous planes that are weird-looking, oddly shaped, or downright ugly. Indeed, these are eye-catching airplanes that you are sure to remember. If you’re curious about some of the worlds weirdest planes ever built, read on.
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Most people think airplanes only come in a few standard designs, but this is anything but correct. A lot of older planes, not to mention military planes, are shaped oddly or come in sizes that are smaller or larger than usual.
This makes them one-of-a-kind airplanes that are certain to turn heads and make you notice them. These odd airplanes are now found in a variety of places, including Air Force bases and museums all over the world.
That doesn’t mean that all unusual airplanes are out of commission, because many of them are still being used today for a variety of purposes. In addition, the characteristics that make a certain airplane weird or odd vary and can refer to their shape, size, or even their function.
However, one thing is certain – there is no shortage of weird-looking airplanes in the world today, so if you’re curious about these planes and want to judge for yourself why they are labelled as odd or unusual, this is your lucky day.
1. The Spruce Goose Airplane
This plane is officially called the Hughes H-4 Hercules and was built by the Hughes Aircraft Company. Built during World War II out of wood because of the shortage of wartime materials such as aluminum, it was nicknamed the Spruce Goose and flew only once in the year 1947. It was built to carry 700 passengers, and it was the largest flying transport ever built.
With a wingspan that was longer than a football field, the Spruce Goose was actually a flying boat and could hold up to 150,000 pounds total, including two 30-ton M4 Sherman tanks. It was also known to some as The Flying Lumberyard, and today it sits in the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
2. The Pregnant Guppy Airplane
With its bloated look and fish-like appearance, it is easy to see how this aircraft got its nickname. Only one Pregnant Guppy was ever built, but it flew for 15 years from 1962 to 1977. It is a very large, wide-bodied cargo plane that was used most frequently by NASA to transport components of the Apollo moon program.
The Pregnant Guppy did a great job of ferrying many other outsized cargo items, not just those needed to be transported by NASA, and it even inspired other airplanes into existence, most notably the Boeing Dreamlifter and the jet-powered Airbus Beluga airplanes. It was built by Aero Spacelines and had a maximum loaded weight capacity of 141,000 lbs. and a maximum flying speed of 320 MPH.
3. Northrop Tacit Blue Airplane
Instead of a rounded shape like most commercial airlines today, the Northrop Tacit Blue had a more rectangular shape, and only one of them was ever built. It was developed by the U.S. Air Force in 1982 and at the time, it was considered some of the best technology on the planet. The Air Force wanted a low observable surveillance aircraft that likely wouldn’t be intercepted by radar and, therefore, could be successful near the front lines of battle with a high likelihood that it would survive.
The Tacit Blue had several nicknames, including the Alien School Bus and the Whale, and it had a gross weight of 30,000 lbs. Its maximum flying speed reached 290 MPH and it was over 50 feet long. It is currently housed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.
4. Kalinin K-7 Airplane
The Kalinin K-7 airplane definitely deserves to be on the list of odd airplanes because it looks more like a tank than it does an actual plane. With a wingspan of more than 170 feet, this plane is also called the Russian Flying Fortress, and it was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. It is so large that it looks as though it can never fly successfully, but at one time it actually did!
The K-7 needed a flight crew of at least 11 members to be flown successfully and its maximum flying speed was a mere 140 MPH. Still, it could carry 120 passengers, 15,000 lbs. of mail, or 112 fully equipped paratroopers. Its design was indeed unusual because it contained six tractor engines in the front and a single engine in the rear of the plane.
5. The Flying Pancake Airplane
Okay, this one is really weird because it looks like a giant stingray, but it was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II and boasts a wingspan of more than 32 feet. Officially known as the Vought XF5U airplane, the Flying Pancake had a maximum speed of 550 MPH and a maximum take-off weight of nearly 18,780 lbs., which is quite impressive.
This airplane needed only one pilot and could hold two 1000-lb. bombs, six .50 machine guns, or four 20-mm cannons. It had vibration problems that haunted it until the end, and it was so sturdy and well-made that a wrecking ball had to be used to destroy it. There is, however, an earlier prototype of the plane currently in the Smithsonian.
6. The Dreamlifter Airplane
Officially called the Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter (LCF), this airplane has a very wide body and boasts the world’s longest cargo loader. It started when manufacturers made major modifications to the Boeing 747-400, and even though there have only been four of these planes made, Boeing still uses them to deliver aircraft parts from suppliers all over the globe.
Fairly new to the aircraft world since its first completed plane in 2006, the Dreamlifter is more than 235 feet long and has a cruising speed of 474 knots, or Mach 0.82. It can hold a crew of two people and has an impressive 211-foot wingspan.
7. The Super Guppy Airplane
This plane is another jewel made by Aero Spacelines, and it is a big cargo plane with a large, wide body. The alien-face plane is still in operation today and is used mostly to ferry oversized cargo components. Only five of them were ever made, but the plane played a very important role during the Apollo program because it carried a complete S-IVB stage, the third section of the Saturn V rocket.
In fact, the Super Guppy is the only plane that was large enough to assist in the Apollo program, with a wingspan of more than 150 feet and a length of nearly 144 feet. Its maximum take-off weight is more than 170,000 lbs., and it can operate at close to 290 MPH.
8. The Airbus Beluga Airplane
Since it resembles a Beluga whale in its shape and size, the Airbus A300-600ST – AKA the Beluga – is essentially a version of the Airbus A300-600 wide-body aircraft but has been modified to carry aircraft parts and cargo that are either extra-large or awkwardly shaped. Its maiden flight took place in the fall of 1994, and roughly 60 times per week, it carries Airbus components that are ready for assembly to various cities in Europe.
The Beluga definitely deserves a place on any list of odd airplanes, yet it is a highly functional and reliable plane. It is more than 56 feet high and roughly 184 feet long, and it has an impressive maximum take-off weight of more than 340,000 lbs.
9. The Horten Ho 229 Airplane
Because it was designed with the purpose of making it more difficult to detect by radar, the Horten Ho 229 plane has a flat, disc-like shape and started as a German fighter/bomber plane late in World War II.
Unfortunately, it only flew as a prototype and, therefore, never actually made it to war. However, it is an impressive plane because it can carry two 30-mm MK 108 cannons with ease.
With a wingspan of more than 55 feet, the Horten Ho 229 plane accommodates one crewperson and is more than 24 feet long. It can climb at 4,300 feet per minute and can fly at speeds of more than 600 MPH.
10. The Boeing X-48 Airplane
A brand-new plane currently under construction, the Boeing X-48 airplane has a very unusual wing shape and a wingspan of 21 feet. There are three versions of the plane – the X-48A, which has already been cancelled, the X-48B, and the X-48C. It is being developed as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to investigate the many characteristics of blended wing body (BWB) aircraft.
Considered one of the many odd airplanes mostly because of its current sleek, modern design, the Boeing X-48 plane has a gross weight of 500 lbs. and can fly at roughly 135 MPH, and since its very first flight it has proven to be perfect for studying varying aspects of flying an airplane, including engine yaw control and much more. So far, the plane’s capabilities have proven very promising.