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International Forwarding Association Blog » Air freight in Europe » Types of Aircraft Shipping Cargo and Types of Loads

Types of Aircraft Shipping Cargo and Types of Loads

Planes carry different types of cargo to multiple destinations across Europe, including busy airports such as the Frankfurt Am Main Airport and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Planes Shipping Cargo

The main types of planes that carry cargo include Boeing 737, Airbus 340, Airbus 320, and Boing 747. Boeing 737 has an operating range of up to 4,650 km and is fitted with 2 central cargo bays. This plane has a capacity of 2 tons and a volume of 13 – 15 m3. It is considered small aircraft compared to other types. Airbus 340 is another type that is used for air freight in Europe, and it is mainly used to transport bulk and large cargo.


The loading doors are found at the rear and front to load containers and pallets. Airbus 340-300 has a maximum capacity of 16 tons, a range of up to 15,000 km, and 4 turbines. Boeing 747 carries both cargo and passengers and is also fitted with loading doors for containers and pallets. Boeing 747-300 has a capacity of 13 tons while Boeing 747-200 has a capacity of 12 tons. Airbus 320 can be used to transport lines of pallets and has a smaller capacity than other types of aircraft (1.5 tons).

There are also airplanes that carry cargo only, examples being Boeing 747 F Freighter, Boeing 747-400 ERF, Antonov 225 Mriya, and Airbus 300-600 ST. Antonov 225 Mriya is the world’s largest cargo plane which can carry up to 80 vehicles and has a capacity of over 250 tons. Airbus 300-600 ST is another plane designed to transport large and oversized cargo. Thanks to its size, it can be even used to transport a plane or a helicopter.

This aircraft has a capacity of 47 tons. Boeing 747-400 ERF has a capacity of 112 tons and is equipped with 6 seats to accommodate persons who accompany the freight. Boeing 747 F Freighter looks like a standard passenger aircraft but is designed to transport cargo only. This plane can transport loose bulk, pallets stacked on the bottom, and containers and pallets on the main deck. The maximum capacity of Boeing 747 F Freighter is 107 tons.

Types of Cargo Shipped by Air

The main types of goods that can be transported by air include special and general air cargo. Special cargo includes over-dimensional and heavy weight items, dangerous goods and hazardous materials, and temperature controlled goods. Other types of special cargo are human tissue samples, organs, and remains, fragile and high value items, and live animals.

General cargo is also transported by air, including electronics, hardware and machinery, and consumer and retail goods. Toys, clothing, and textiles are shipped by air as well. IFA members partner with multiple carriers to ship both special and general air cargo, including chartered and scheduled shipments and express airfreight.  Cargo is transported on different types of aircraft, including combi, cargo, and passenger aircraft.