Antonov An-225 Mriya was a strategic airlift cargo aircraft designed in 1980s by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was designed to support the 1980s Soviet Space Shuttle program. After the collapse of Soviet Union, the production of the aircraft was completed in Ukraine. It was the largest aircraft ever built. The aircraft also holds many World Records which include heaviest aircraft ever built and largest wingspan of any aircraft. It was originally developed as an enlargement of the Antonov An-124 to transport Buran-class orbiters, and only one example was ever completed.
The development of the first prototype began in early 1984 and its maiden flight took place in December 1988. It entered service in 1989. The modifications included the lengthening of fuselage and wingspan, addition of two engines, redesign of the tail with twin vertical fins, increase in the number of landing gear tires to 32 and the removal of the rear cargo doors. The aircraft initially had a maximum gross weight of 600t. Later it was increased to 640t by the additional floor area under a $20m upgrade program.
The development of the second prototype began in the late 1980s with the aim of achieving more effective cargo transport aircraft. The prototype was upgraded with a rear cargo door and a redesigned tail fitted with a vertical stabilizer. Its development was, however, debarred in 1993 due to lack of funds and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Following the cancellation of the Buran Space Shuttle Program, ADB placed the Antonov An-225 Mriya in storage during 1994-2000. The increase in demand for heavy freight transport aircraft resulted in resuming the development of second prototype in September 2006. The development was again deserted in August 2009.
The AN-225 Mriya was designed to carry load twice as much as a Boeing 747. With an overall size that stretched as far as a football field, and a maximum take-off weight of about 598 tonnes, it dwarfed the 747 in size and lifting capability.
The AN-225 had a total interior length of 141.2ft, interior width of almost 21ft and interior height of 14ft. The interior of the cargo holds comprised a main cargo deck. It had a built-in crane capable of moving a 33-tonne load, a side-cargo area for bulky items and tools for servicing the aircraft and an engineering bay large enough for four crew members. The cockpit was at the top of the plane and was only accessible via a retractable ladder.
The AN-225 featured an airborne cargo handling system and a cargo door fitted with a ramp to carry out loading or unloading missions quickly and easily. It also featured a fuselage barrel extension on the front and rear of the wings to increase the span. The load securing system attaches uniquely size cargoes to the upper fuselage section.
The aircraft featured an IFR compatible, all digital flight deck, which was able to accommodate six crew including a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator and two flight engineers. The flight deck was incorporated with automated navigation and flight control systems for quick analyzing and servicing.
The Antonov AN-225 Mriya was the largest cargo aircraft in the world and was the only aircraft that featured six turbofan engines. The size and weight of the Antonov AN-225 Mriya meant that it would need a serious amount of power to get it off the ground. So, the An-225 Mriya was powered by six Ivchenko Progress Lotarev D-18T, three shaft turbofan engines, each of which could produce a maximum thrust of 229.5kN. The length and width of the engines are 5.4m and 2.7m respectively. The height is 2.9m high. The dry weight is 4,100kg. The service life of engines is 24,000hours.
“The An-225 Mriya was able to fly at a maximum speed of 850km/h.”
It was fitted with a bucket-shape thrust reverser, a jet pipe, a drive box, an exhaust nozzle, a fan turbine, a combustion chamber, an intermediate drive, a fan stator blade, and fan wheel.
The aircraft was fitted with a 32-wheel landing gear system. The nose landing gear featured four wheels in the front fuselage section. The rear fuselage constitutes 16 dirigible wheels out of 28 tires fitted to the main landing gear. The aircraft was able to take full turn on a 60m wide runway.
The Length of the aircraft was 84 m (275 ft. 7 in), it has a Wingspan of 88.4 m (290 ft.), Height of 18.1 m (59 ft. 5 in) and Wing area was 905 m2 (9,740 sq. ft.)
The Empty weight of aircraft was 285,000 kg and it had a capacity of carrying loads of 253.820 tons of load and a maximum Take-off weight of 640,000 kg. It had a fuel capacity of more than 300,000 kilograms. The large, pressurized cargo compartment was able to carry wide variety of payloads. The length and width of the compartment were 43m and 6.4m respectively. Its height was 4.4m. The floor area and volume were 280m² and 1,300m³ respectively. The aircraft was able to achieve non-stop intra continental flight while accommodating 180t or 200t of payload. It was also able to perform intercontinental airlift of cargo weighing 150tons.
The An-225 Mriya was able to fly at a maximum speed of 850km/h. The cruise speed was 800km/h. The aircraft had a service ceiling of 36000ft.
The range of the aircraft varies between 4,000km and 15,400km.
- The airlifter holds the absolute world record for an airlifted single-item payload of 189,980 kg, and an airlifted total payload of 253,820 kg. It also transported a payload of 247,000 kg on a commercial flight.
- On 11 September 2001, carrying four main battle tanks at a record load of 253.82 tonnes of cargo, the An-225 flew at an altitude of up to 35,270 ft. over a closed circuit of 1,000 km at a speed of 763.2 km/h. The hire cost can be US$30,000 (GB£23,220) per hour.
- On 11 August 2009, the heaviest single cargo item ever sent by air freight was loaded onto the An-225. At 53 ft. 3-inch-long and 4.27 14 ft. wide, its consignment, a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia along with its loading frame, weighed in at a record 189 tons.
- On 11 June 2010, the An-225 carried the world’s longest piece of air cargo, two 42.1 m (138 ft.) test wind turbine blades from Tianjin, China, to Skrydstrup, Denmark.
On 5 February the aircraft was at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, where it underwent an engine swap. It was prepared for evacuation, scheduled for the morning of 24 February, but on that day, Russia invaded Ukraine, with the airfield being one of their first targets of Russian Military. A ban on civilian flights was quickly enacted by Ukrainian authorities. During the ensuing Battle of Antonov Airport, the runway was rendered unusable.
On 24 February, the An-225 was said to be intact. On 27 Feb 2022, a photo was posted on Twitter of an object tentatively identified as the An-225 on fire in its hangar. A report by the Ukrainian edition of Radio Liberty stated that the airplane was destroyed during the Battle of Antonov Airport. Later that day, a press release by Ukroboronprom (Antonov’s parent organization) confirmed that the An-225 had been destroyed by Russian forces Ukroboronprom said that they planned to rebuild the plane at the Russians’ expense. The statement said: “The restoration is estimated to take over 3 billion USD and over five years. Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine’s aviation and the air cargo sector.” The Ukrainian government also said that it would be rebuilt.
Author: Ali Hassan