Which commercial jet aircraft has the biggest wingspan in the world? And is it always a case that the bigger plane has the bigger wingspan? Let’s dive into the aircraft with the world’s biggest wingspan.
How do we measure wingspan?
To measure wingspan, we need to count each outermost point of wings (typically where sharklets sit), including the aircraft’s fuselage and across to the other side. We need to include wing sweep, as, without it, the numbers may be much higher.
Airbus A340-500 and Airbus A340-600
In the fifth and fourth biggest wingspan position in this list is the Airbus A340. It has a huge wingspan of 63.45 m (209 ft 5 in) that it uses to fly long-haul routes with four engines. It is the ‘second generation’ of Airbus aircraft that take this title, with the original A340 series having only a wingspan of 60.3 m (197.83 ft).
Airbus would sell the A340 to airlines looking for a Boeing 747 replacement, and it would be popular for the likes of Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines for its long-range. Speaking of the Boeing 747…
The latest version of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet series has a wingspan of 68.4 m (224 ft 7 in). This is almost 15% bigger than the original Boeing 747’s wingspan of 59.6 m (195 ft 8 in), used for the 747-100 through to the 747-300. The Boeing 747-400 had a mid-point wingspan between the two at 64.4 m (211 ft 5 in).
Alas, Boeing will stop producing the 747 in 2022, as today’s airlines are no longer interested in the type.
From here, we now get into the ‘danger zone’ of wingspan. Wingspans so large that aircraft can’t fit at normal airports (without modification), and even moving around on the taxiways, they are in danger of clipping other planes!
This aircraft, not yet in active service (although Boeing has built four prototypes), has an impressive wingspan of 71.75 m (235 ft 5 in). However, you might have realized that this is too big to fit at some airports with the paragraph written above. Thus, Boeing has allowed the wingtips to fold at the ends when on the taxiway or at the gate, allowing the 777X to fit the same (Code E) gates is the 777-300ER.
Technically, this aircraft’s smallest wingspan has with wings folded is 64.85 m (212 ft 9 in).
Currently, the Boeing 777X is under development and building up the necessary hours to be certified. The latest estimates are for an entry into service in 2022.
The commercial aircraft with the biggest wingspan is the Airbus A380 at 79.75 m (261 ft 8 in). It is so large that when it came to the market, many airports had to widen runways and taxiways to accommodate the A380 and develop special gates for the plane to board passengers in a realistic timeframe (three jetbridges, for example).
Many airports around the world can take the aircraft despite not being exactly rated for the type, such as Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
What do you think of this list? Have you flown on all of these aircraft (apart from the 777X)? Let us know in the comments.