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Everyone knows that airplanes transport people and cargo all over the world...but they can do a whole lot more. Check out these 12 strange uses for airplanes around the world.
Orbis operates the Flying Eye Hospital, a fully equipped mobile teaching hospital. On the outside, the plane is like most other aircraft, a refurbished FedEx MD-10. Inside, it's like no other airplane. It hosts an ophthalmic hospital and 48 seat classroom teaching facility.
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a project conducted by NASA and the German Aerospace Center to maintain an airborne observatory station. SOFIA is based on a Boeing 747SP that has been modified to include a large door in the aft fuselage that can be opened in flight to allow a 8.2 ft diameter reflecting telescope access to the sky.
Able to fly anywhere in the world, the observatory is able to get above most water particles in the atmosphere for more clear infrared imagery.
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) were two extensively modified Boeing 747 airliners that NASA used to transport Space Shuttle orbiters. One is a 747-100 model, while the other is a short range 747-100SR.
Antartica Flights operates one day sightseeing flights over Antarctica departing from Australia every summer. Taking around 12 hours, the flights are the easiest way to view the great white Continent. No passports are needed and you're kept warm with a glass in hand while a privately chartered Qantas 747 glides effortlessly over amazing scenery. Book your ticket here
There are dozens of aerial refueling aircraft used by militaries across the world. Their use allows for extended missions, especially in fighter aircraft that have limited range and endurance.
The Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post is a strategic command and control military aircraft operated by the United States Air Force. The E-4 series was specially modified from the Boeing 747-200B.The United States' four E-4s carry 13 external communications systems and are designed for missions lasting 72 hours. Their "hardness" features protect the crew from electromagnetic radiation and the effects of a nuclear blast.
In the summer of 2014, Ebola patients Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol became known for their flights across the Atlantic from Liberia (West Africa), to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The Gulfstream III operated by Pheonix Air, in conjunction with the US Military, has a full suite of disease containment and treatment equipment.
The DC-10 Air Tanker has been in service as an aerial firefighting unit since 2006. The turbofan-powered aircraft carry up to 12,000 US gallons of water or fire retardant in an exterior belly-mounted tank, the contents of which can be released in eight seconds. Three air tankers are currently in operation, with the call-signs Tanker 910, Tanker 911 and Tanker 912.
NASA operates a highly modified Douglas DC-8 as a flying science laboratory. The aircraft, based at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California, is used to collect data for experiments in support of projects serving the world's scientific community.
Data gathered with the aircraft at flight altitude and by remote sensing have been used for studies in archaeology, ecology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, oceanography, volcanology, atmospheric chemistry, cryospheric science, soil science and biology.
The Zero G weightless experience is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. For $4,950, guests experience 20-30 seconds of weightless flight during each of 15 maneuvers performed by the Boeing 727. Book your experience here
Virgin Galactic is developing commercial spacecraft and aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions, and orbital launches of small satellites. The White Knight Two (WK2) is a jet-powered cargo aircraft which is used to lift the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft to release altitude. It has a similar wingspan to a Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
The Four Seasons Private Jet, a modified Boeing 757, takes guests on luxurious worldwide tours. It's about as close to a flying hotel as you can get. With multiple routes and itineraries, this would be one awesome adventure. Book your trip today, starting at $106,000
What else? What are some other strange operations using airplanes? Tell us in the comments below.
Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, commercially licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and a commercial aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. Swayne's experience ranges from international flights in a King Air F90 to ferrying a 1943 Grumman Widgeon across the country. You can reach Swayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.