The Antonov An-124 Vs An-225: What Are The Differences?

Following the news that Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov is working on a new large cargo plane, we thought it apt to compare two of its largest existing aircraft. The An-124 ‘Ruslan’ and the An-225 ‘Mriya’ attract fascination from avgeeks wherever they go, with their sheer size turning many an eye. Let’s examine some of the differences between them.

Antonov An-225 Getty
The An-225 holds the record for being the heaviest aircraft ever built. Photo: Getty Images

Size matters

Both the An-124 and the An-225 are inarguably colossal aircraft. Indeed, the latter of these designs is known, among other things, for having the largest wingspan of any aircraft presently in active operational service. This measures an impressive 88.4 meters wide, and allows the aircraft to sport six Progress D-18T engines. The An-124 has just four.

While the An-124 still outranks most present commercial aircraft by wingspan, it is a full 15 meters narrower than its aforementioned counterpart. Overall, it boasts a wingspan of 73.3 meters. This gives a significant difference in wing area. The An-124’s wings cover 628 square meters, while the An-225’s are spread over a whopping 905 square meters.

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Antonov An-124 Getty
The An-124 is larger than many aircraft, but not the An-225. Photo: Getty Images

Similarly, at 69.1 meters in length, the An-124 is longer than many airliners, but still dwarfed by the An-225, which clocks in at 84 meters long. Interestingly, the smaller An-124 does have the edge when it comes to height. It measures a sizeable 21 meters tall, whereas the larger An-225 clocks in at 18.1 meters. For comparison, the Airbus A380 is 24.09 meters tall.

Performance

Both aircraft are designed to carry exceptionally large and heavy cargo payloads, but how do their performance specifications compare? The An-225 has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 640 tonnes, making it the world’s heaviest aircraft, as we have established. This comfortably outranks the An-124’s (already impressive) figures of 402 tonnes.

As far as the ranges of these aircraft are concerned, they depend on the aircraft’s payload. The An-225 can fly for up to 15,400 km (8,300 NM) with maximum fuel and a minimum payload, but this drops to just 4,000 km (2,160 NM) with 200 tonnes of cargo onboard.

An-225
The An-225’s MTOW is almost 60% higher than that of the An-124. Photo: Getty Images

Similarly, the An-124’s lightly-loaded ferry flights can be up to 14,000 km (7,600 NM) long. However, once again, this drops as low as 3,700 km (2,000 NM) with a maximum payload. Although its range is shorter, the An-124 is faster. It cruises between 800 and 850 km/h (430-460 knots), while the An-225 can only match the lower end of this spectrum.

Production history

One of the most significant differences between the aircraft that we are yet to cover is their production histories. Along with its size, one of the reasons that the An-225 draws such strong attention from both avgeeks and the general public is the fact that Antonov only built one example of this design. This rarity certainly increases its appeal for some.

Antonov did partially build a second An-225, which is believed to be as much as 70% complete. However, it seems unlikely that this will ever take to the skies, with the company’s CEO deeming such an idea as ‘economically unviable’ last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antonov An-124
Antonov produced 55 An-124s between 1982 and 2004. Photo: Riik@mctr via Flickr

On the other hand, the An-124 has become a more widely produced large cargo aircraft. Its production cycle spanned from 1982 to 2004, with Antonov making 55 examples of the plane during this 20-year spell. As such, it is a more common sight in the world’s skies, with its recent operations having seen it transport a variety of cargo all over the globe.

The type has had several trips to India this year, flying medical products, oxygen, and even a 54-tonne generator to the country. Elsewhere, it has taken five Black Hawk helicopters from Poland to the Philippines, parts of an Embraer Phenom 300 business jet to the US, and mining equipment to Brazil. On the whole, a tremendously versatile aircraft!

Do you prefer the An-124 or the An-225? Have you ever seen either, or even both, of them on your travels? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments,

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