- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

Boeing plans to build the world's largest airplane, capable of delivering a fleet of battle tanks directly into a war zone.
The aircraft, which has been named the Pelican, will have a wingspan of more than 500 feet and a wing area of one acre. A Boeing 747 has a wingspan of 195 feet.
Aeronautical engineers say the plane will be able to transport 14,000 tons of cargo more than 10,000 miles. The Pelican will be designed to fly 50 feet above the ocean, using the buoyant aerodynamic effect of flying close to the water to achieve maximum fuel economy.
U.S. defense chiefs believe that a fleet of Pelicans will enable them to deliver thousands of troops, tanks and aid anywhere in the world in a fraction of the time it takes cargo ships.
The Pelican will have the capacity to carry up to 17 main battle tanks, each of which weighs more than 50 tons. The largest military cargo aircraft now in service is the Russian Antonov 225, which has a range of 2,800 miles.
The Pelican would land and take off on civilian or military runways like conventional aircraft, but it would have up to 38 sets of landing gear and 76 tires to spread the weight evenly.
Powered by four advanced turboprop engines, it would be capable of cruising over land at up to 20,000 feet, although its maximum effectiveness would be over water.
Blaine Rawdon, the Pelican project manager, said: "It will be much faster than ships at a fraction of the operational cost of commercial airplanes. The ultralarge transport aircraft will be attractive to commercial and military operators that require speed. It will compete with container ships."
The aircraft evokes memories of the gigantic H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose seaplane designed during World War II by Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire industrialist and film producer.
Hughes built the H-4 after the U.S. war department lost interest in a plan for a flying boat that would carry bulky cargo or up to 700 troops alongside the "liberty ships" that were turned out rapidly to move supplies to Britain and elsewhere during the war.
In November 1947, thousands of people watched as the wooden eight-engined aircraft flew a mile across the harbor at Long Beach, Calif., at a height of 70 feet. The Spruce Goose never flew again.


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