The Antonov AN-225 ‘Mriya’ is well known for holding the record as the heaviest plane in the world. But did you know it also set some 123 other world records during its lifetime? The giant plane has operated some giant missions; we talked to Antonov Airlines to find out more about the achievements of this beast.
A record-breaker from the start
Antonov Airlines is in a unique position in the world, in that it operates the only AN-225 Mriya aircraft. Certified in May 2001, the AN-225 has turned heads wherever it flies, exuding power and poise on all of its missions. So much power, in fact, that it destroyed a fence at RAF Brize Norton in the UK just this week!
With the capabilities to shift loads weighing up to 640 tonnes, the Mriya has been tasked with some of the most challenging operations in the world. So much so, it has singlehandedly set a bunch of new world records. Antonov Airlines told Simple Flying in an interview,
“The AN-225 has set 214 national and 124 world records, including the transportation of the heaviest payload ever airlifted, at 253,820 kg.”
Objects that were once impossible to move by air have been shipped in a matter of hours by the AN-225. Although we can’t list all 124 world records here, let’s take a look at some of the most eventful operations it’s been involved with.
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The heaviest loads in history
As soon as the Mriya was certified, it instantly broke two world records. First for being the aircraft with the heaviest MTOW in the world, and second for having the largest wingspan of any current aircraft. Since its launch, it has consistently broken records for multiple achievements.
Before the AN-225 arrived, Antonov Airlines made its way into the Guinness World Records in September 1993 for carrying the heaviest single piece of cargo in history. The airline’s AN124-100 flew a 124,000kg (264,555lbs) power plant generator from Dusseldorf, Germany, to New Delhi, India.
But that’s nothing to the Mriya. In August 2009, the AN-225 superseded this by tens of thousands of kilos. Antonov Airlines told us,
“The cargo was a generator and loading frame weighting a total of 187,600 kg was transported from Frankfurt, Germany to Erevan, Armenia.”
This record was for a single piece of cargo, but the AN-225 has shifted much higher total loads in its time. On September 11th, 2001, the aircraft set several world records at once, including one for carrying the heaviest payload in history. The commercial payload weighed in at 253,820kg (559,577lbs).
Accommodating the longest items
The AN-225 has been built to be incredibly flexible in terms of its cargo. The aircraft’s huge 84 m (275 ft 7 in) length is almost all cargo space, giving it an enormous capacity of 1,200 cubic meters. The cargo space is 43.35 m (142.2 ft) long, 6.4 m (21 ft) wide and 4.4 m (14 ft) tall, giving it the capacity to accommodate the biggest and most awkward of items.
It uses the same specially designed nose gear that the AN-124 does, which allows the aircraft to ‘kneel’ for easier loading and unloading. This makes it the aircraft of choice when something really long needs moving, as well as things that are very heavy.
Its lengthy accommodation won it another world record in 2010, as Antonov Airlines explained to Simple Flying,
“In 2010 the AN-225 carried the world’s longest piece of air cargo – two 42.1 m (137ft 9.5in) test wind turbine blades from Shijiazhuang, China, to Skrydstrup, Denmark.”
But not all the Mriya’s records are for big or heavy items, as the team at the airline explained,
“In 2012 the AN-225 broke another Guinness World Record for the highest altitude art exhibition, at 10,150 m above sea level. The airborne exhibition included 500 works of art created by 120 artists.”
The AN-225 continues to break records, even in these pandemic times. In 2020, it carried 1,000 cubic meters of boxes containing PPE – the biggest volume of cargo in history. Antonov Airlines noted that, in order to load such a large amount safely, the loadmasters had to disassemble the pallets and load up each box individually.
Did you know the AN-225 was such a record-breaker?