The World’s Largest Cargo Plane. The Antonov An-225

Source: Antonov Airlines

The Antonov An-225 “Mriya,” which is powered by six giant turbofan engines, is the world’s largest cargo plane currently in operation. The aircraft is not only a record-breaker, but it is also very attractive.

Here, we’ll take a look at the plane’s past as well as some main statistics.

What is the world’s biggest cargo plane?

The Antonov An-225 is a true sky giant, with a wingspan of 290 feet and a length of 275 feet (88 by 84 meters). When empty, this massive aircraft weighs about 285 tons, making it the world’s largest cargo plane.

This massive aircraft, known as the “Mriya” or Мрiя in Ukrainian (which means “dream”), has been in commercial operation since 2001.

When it first flew in 1988, the An-225 was about 50% bigger than any previous airliner.


Source: Antonov Airlines

Six massive Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines power the “Mriya,” each capable of pumping out over 51,600 lbs (23 tonnes) of thrust on takeoff.

This engine was chosen because of its high takeoff thrust, low specific fuel consumption, and high durability. They’re also simple to manage and emit minimal noise and pollutants.

The landing gear on the plane has a total of 32 wheels in 16 pairs. This allows the Antonov An-225 to turn within a 200-foot-wide (61-meter-long) runway.

Since the “Spruce Goose” is no longer in use, the Antonov An-225 is the world’s largest cargo aircraft.

With a wingspan of 383 feet and a length of 240 feet, the Antonov An-225 is dwarfed by the much bigger Stratolaunch (117 by 73 mt). The Stratolaunch made its first flight in 2019, but it has yet to be used regularly or for its intended purpose of transporting air-launched rockets and satellites.

Indeed, the existence had been in doubt for some time after Paul Allen’s death. However, the project is now under new management.

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Source: Antonov Airlines

The Antonov An-225 was designed and developed by the Soviet Union to replace the aging Myasishchev VM-T super heavy transporter. During the Cold War, NATO authorities codenamed it “Cossack.”

The plane was initially planned to carry the Energiya carrier rocket and the Buran spaceplane. It was an expansion of the Antonov An-124, which had already proven to be a powerful and huge aircraft.

The An-225 flew for the first time in 1988, completing a 74-minute flight from Kyiv. The Antonov An-225 was grounded for several years after the Soviet Union fell apart.

It was later acquired by Antonov Airlines (now simply Antonov), a Ukrainian firm that has since used it to carry bulky goods.

The “Mriya” is a famous aircraft among enthusiasts, and it frequently appears at airshows around the world.

Source: Antonov Airlines

The An-225 set the total world record for airlifting a single payload of 187.6 tonnes from Frankfurt Hahn airport in 2009 while serving as a commercial transporter.

A power plant generator was included in this payload. Many world records are still held by the plane (around 30 in total over a 30-year period).

“This incredible plane already holds several records, including that of the only plane to have a maximum takeoff weight of over 600 tonnes and the plane with the widest wingspan, at 290 ft (88.4 mt).” — According to Guinness World Records.

What is the total number of Antonov 225s in the fleet?

The Antonov An-225 is truly special. During the Soviet period, only one airframe was ever completed. A second plane was also requested, but it was never finished.

“The AN-225 is based on the AN-124 design and has similar loading capabilities (cranes, winches), but it has a longer internal cabin (142 ft vs. 120 (43 mt vs. 37 mt) and a higher payload” (250 tonnes versus 150 tonnes).

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“Since its maiden flight on December 21, 1988, the AN-225 has delivered heavy and outsize shipments all over the world,” Antonov says. It is expected to be operational until at least 2033.”

Source: Paul Nelhams/Flickr

The sister plane to the An-225 had a somewhat different configuration, but development was halted in 1994. The problem was due to a lack of support and interest.

In 2009, there was a small growing interest in finishing it, and it was taken up to around 60-70 percent completion. However, work was once again suspended.

Antonov agreed to finish the second airframe for the Aerospace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) in 2016, ahead of AICC’s expectations of starting series production.

After their supply chain dried up following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it was announced in 2018 that Boeing had made arrangements to assist Antonov Airlines in completing the second airframe.

Which plane is the largest in the world?

The Antonov An-225, as previously stated, is the world’s largest operational plane. However, there are a few larger planes available; the Stratolaunch and the Hughes H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” (larger wingspan but shorter) (bigger wingspan and longer).

Source: Natural RX/Wikimedia Commons

There are a few other air giants that are only somewhat bigger than the Antonov An-225. The Antonov An-124 is 240 feet long and 225 feet high (73 to 69 meters), the Boeing 747-8 is 250 feet long with a 225 foot wingspan (76 to 69 meters), and the Airbus A380-800 is 241 feet long with a 262 foot wingspan (76 to 69 meters) (73.5 to 80 mt).

What is the maximum payload capacity of the Antonov An-225 plane?

The Antonov An-225 sets several world records for airlifted goods, as we’ve already seen. However, it can also transport a large number of daily goods.

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Source: Antonov Airlines

The aircraft can carry a gross weight of 250 tons and has a total volume size of 1,200 cubic meters. The cargo bay of the Antonov An-225 is 142 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 14 feet high (43 by 6 by 4 meters) and contains an onboard crane that can lift 30 tons at a time.

Her massive cargo bay can accommodate up to 16 regular aeronautical containers, 50 trucks, or a single piece of cargo weighing up to 200 tonnes. It’s even possible to pressurize it.

It will, however, transport large items on top of her fuselage.

She doesn’t have a rear ramp or cargo door, so cargo is filled through her nose. In order to decrease her final weight as much as possible, these were omitted from the design.

A specially built retractable nosegear device allows the plane to kneel at the front. This encourages deliveries to move on into the freight bay, making loading and unloading goods much easier.

The “Mriya” also has a specially built twin-tail configuration, rather than the more conventional single vertical tail fin, which allows her to handle larger external objects more effectively if required.

Without a doubt, the An-225 is one of the most outstanding aircraft ever designed—possibly the greatest of all time.

With a service life expected until the 2030s, it’s only a matter of time before its sister airframe is finished.

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