Top 10 Monsters of the Sky

Tupolev Tu-160


The Tu-160 is the largest combat aircraft and the largest supersonic aircraft ever built. This swing-wing strategic bomber was the last of its class and fulfills a similar role to the American B-1 Lancer. This bomber is still in use by the Russian Federation and has carried out attacks on ISIS targets in Syria.

Mil V-12


A truly astounding aircraft, the Mil V-12 is easily the largest helicopter ever built. With two tremendous rotors powered by four turbine engines, the V-12 was capable of lifting over 40,000 kilos of cargo. An unconventional success story, the V-12 performed above and beyond its design specifications and the prototypes set several world records for cargo lifting.

The Soviet Air Force did not pursue production of the aircraft because its intended mission of transporting ballistic missiles was no longer a priority.

Hughes XH-17


Conceived in the early 50s as heavy lifting helicopter for the US military, the XH-17 was a sight to see. A single 39.6-metre long rotor driven by tip jets rather than the conventional drive shaft allowed the XH-17 to lift more than 4,500 kg.

The unique drive system reduced torque but also degraded efficiency so much so that the helicopter could only travel about 40 miles on a single tank.

LZ 129 Hindenburg


No list of large aircraft would be complete without mentioning the single largest aircraft ever to fly. 245 metres tall and 40 metres high, the infamous Hindenburg was designed as a passenger airship for transatlantic flights. Almost everyone is familiar with the Hindenburg disaster, where the fateful airship caught fire while mooring, killing 36.

What many people do not know is that the Hindenburg was used as a tool of Nazi propaganda, broadcasting radio speeches and music and dropping leaflets across Germany.

Hughes H-4 Hercules


Also known as the Spruce Goose, despite its all birch construction, the H-4 was built during WWII as a transatlantic transport craft. Although it was not completed before war’s end and despite the fact that it only flew once.

The legendary Spruce Goose remains the largest flying boat ever built and retains the record for the longest wingspan of any aircraft ever, at 97.5 meters.

By Emory Chesley for War History Online