The Antonov An-225 is currently the largest plane in the world. The Ukrainian cargo plane transports the heaviest and largest goods from continent to continent.
In the 1980's, the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov developed the so-called "Mrija" (in English: dream) as a transporter for the Sovjet orbiter "Buran". The An-225 was supposed to bring the 105-ton obiter into space by piggyback service. In order to be able to carry the "Buran" without any problems, the engineers decided upon six engines and two rudder assemblies at the elevator unit.
The maiden flight took part in December 1988. In March 1989, the An-225 set 106 weight, distance and altitude records within the flight test, as for example the record for the highest flying weight of 507 tons. In May 1989, flight tests with the "Buran" began. Until 1994, the pair was the sensation on air shows around the globe. After stopping the "Buran" programme for economic and political reasons, also the An-225 came to a preliminary end. In April 1994, the "Mrija" was temporarily decommissioned.
The Antonov Airlines company, owner of the "Mrija", quickly recognized that the large aircraft could also be useful in civil aviation. In 2001, the An-225 obtained all necessary authorizations and insurances for the international air cargo service. Since then, it has been transporting special cargo in charter traffic all over the world. Gigantic wind power stations, huge generators or 80 cars at the same time – that is no problem for the Antonov. The maximum take-off weight is 600 tons. Even if the range will decrease relatively. Without cargo the "Mrija" is capable of flying 15,000 kilometres, whereas the range is creases to 2,500 kilometres with full load.
For loading the "Mrija" it extends the integrated nose ramp, on which forklifts and trucks can enter. The loading capacity amounts to 1,220 cubic meters and 250 tons of cargo load. The cargo compartment is 43 metres long, 6.5 metres wide and 4.5 metres high. The crew cockpit is located above the nose ramp. The crew of seven consists of pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator and a radio operator. Behind the cockpit there is the cabin for 70 passengers.
Until now, the An-225 is a unique piece. Until now, the airline company lacked the money for building further units. In 2016, the Antonov Airlines and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China stipulated the construction of a second aircraft. As from 2019, the giant is even supposed to be built in series and sold to logistics companies all over the world.
Antonov An-225 versus Airbus A-380 – a comparison
Length: 84 m / 73 m
Wingspan: 88 m / 80 m
Height: 18 m / 24 m
Wing area: 905 m² / 846 m²
Empty weight: 175 t / 275 t
Maximum weight: 600 t / 569 t
Payload: 250 t / 66 t
Speed: 850 km/h / 960 km/h
Range (max.): 15,400 km / 15,200 km