12 Generators, 12 Flights – Inside The An-225’s Biggest Challenge

The AN-225 is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, capable of moving things that no other cargo aircraft can. But even the Mriya is challenged sometimes, and stretched to its limit with the task it is required to undertake. Simple Flying caught up with Antonov Airlines to find out all about its most difficult mission to date.

An-225. Photo: Dubai Airports

The AN-225’s most difficult mission

The AN-225 Mriya is well known for being an epic load shifter of unrivaled proportions. Over the years, we’ve seen the aircraft moving everything from helicopters to record-breaking shipments of medical aid. Many of these missions have been one of a kind, setting new world records for exceptional cargo. But what was its most challenging flight to date?

Simple Flying asked the team at Antonov Airlines which operation stood out as being the most challenging. They told us,

“In June 2018, we were asked to transport twelve Heat Recovery Steam Generators from Chile to Bolivia. Transport by air was the only way for delivering of such cargo, weighing 160 tonnes each.”

AN-2252 12 generator shipment
The huge generators had to be shipped individually. Photo: Antonov Airlines

Operating on behalf of Hansa Meyer Global Transport, this was a mission and a half. The size and weight of each generator meant that even the giant AN-225 could not take more than one at a time. As such, the aircraft was drafted in to operate a series of 12 rotations, the longest succession of flights in the aircraft’s history.

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Not a straightforward operation

As with all best-laid plans, not everything always runs like clockwork. And when you’re dealing with a one-of-a-kind aircraft, moving a one-of-a-kind shipment, some hiccups are to be expected. The generator mission was no exception, as Antonov Airlines explained,

“We found there was an issue with cargo loadability. The lifting points at the upper corners of the cargo were too tall to allow it to fit in the cargo cabin.”

The AN-225 has one of the most flexible cabins in the business, with a staggering height of 4.4 meters (14 feet). But even that clearance wasn’t enough for the sizeable generators with their lifting points attached. So how to deal with the problem?

AN-2252 12 generator shipment
Removing the loading points allowed the generators to be rolled onto and off the AN-225. Photo: Antonov Airlines

Antonov Airlines explained that the specialist loaders on site worked with the customer to figure out a way to make things work. They told us,

“After plenty of constructive discussion with the customer, our team decided to devise a way to make these points removable, so it can be stowed on the aircraft, and then reattached at the other end for unloading using bolted connections. Additionally, on this project, our load planning team developed a special system for even weight distribution of the load across the aircraft floor.”

AN-2252 12 generator shipment
The challenging mission was a success! Photo: Antonov Airlines

As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, all the loading and unloading had to take place during daylight hours, as the airport did not have provisions for nighttime operations and flights. The airline even had to bring its own towing tractor from Gostomel Airport, Ukraine, over to Chile to load the generators, as there was no tractor on-site with the necessary power.

In the end, the AN-225 successfully completed the process a dozen times, making 12 trips between the airports to deliver the generators.