The Antonov AN-225 vs Airbus A380 – What Plane Is Bigger?

The A380 is known for its impressive size, range, and carrying capacity. But to call it the king of the skies would be a misnomer when the Antonov AN-225 exists. The Ukranian built freighter is so colossal that it puts most aircraft to shame… but is it better than an A380? Let us explore.

An 225
Is the An-225 bigger than an A380? Let’s find out. Photo: Yuri Beltyukov via Wikipedia

What is the Antonov AN-225?

The Antonov AN-225 was created in 1988 to carry the Russian version of the Space Shuttle. NASA was using the Boeing 747 at the time and thus Russia needed to find an aircraft that had similar properties. Whilst the space shuttle program did not move beyond the fall of the USSR in the turn of the 90s, the plane was less forgotten about. It sat around for a few years until returning to service in 2001 for active cargo duty.

You can read a full article about the Antonov AN-225 by fellow writer Tom Boon here.

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It has six engines and 32 wheels to support its huge wingspan of 290 feet. This is bigger than the A380 and does technically answer the question asked in the title. But bear with me, because does bigger mean better?

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225
A size comparison of the different aircraft. Photo: Clem Tiller via Wikipedia

Comparing the two aircraft

Naturally, the two aircraft have been built with very different purposes. The A380 is a large passenger aircraft made to connect two different distant hubs, but at the same time fly as fuel efficiently as possible. The Antonov AN-225 is designed to carry the heaviest cargo possible to a massive range, with no regard for fuel or costs. If you need to get something moved quickly, as Boeing did with their GE9X engines, then the AN-225 is needed.

Thus, with two different purposes, it might seem like we are comparing apples to oranges. But if we break down the two planes into their essential concepts (an aircraft transporting cargo) we can actually say which is better.

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Range

Let us begin by looking at the range of the two aircraft:

  • Antonov AN-225 can fly 4,500 km loaded, empty it can travel an impressive 15,400 km.
  • Airbus A380 can fly 14,800 km fully loaded with passengers. Qantas once flew an A380 almost 17,000 km with no passengers on board.
AN225 Range London
The AN-225 has an impressive empty range, covering most of the world’s land from London. Image: GC Maps

At first, it looks like the range of the Antonov is fantastic, but when you see that the Airbus is designed with an operational range that almost matches the empty weight of the Antonov, then there is a clear winner. There is no point in being able to fly across the world without being able to carry a full cargo load.

Winner: Airbus A380

Capacity

But which aircraft can carry the most goods to the destination? If it was a short trip under the range of the Antonov full load, then which aircraft would be able to carry more?

The An-225 has a cargo deck (essentially the entire plane) with a volume 1,300 m3 (46,000 cu ft). It has no upper end of payload weight, only world records such as 189t (418,830 lb) for a single object (a generator).

The Airbus A380 has a volume of only 175.2 m3 (6,190 cu ft), as most of the space is taken up by passenger seating. A rumored Airbus A380 freighter that was never built, would have had a payload of 150 t (330,000 lb), with a 5,600 nautical mile (10,400 km) range.

Thus even a freighter version of the Airbus A380 doesn’t come close to carrying as much.

An 225
The An-225 is bigger than an A380 but not as effective as transport. Photo: Getty Images

Bottom Line

The An-225 is the perfect cargo carrier… if money is no option. If you are willing to pay then it can take almost anything from A to B.

However, if you are flying regular long haul routes then it might be better to employ an A380 with the bigger range and better fuel expenditure. After all, the AN-225 can only carry (based off record attempts) an extra 30t more than the A380F.

Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.

What do you think? Have we missed something? Let us know in the comments.

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Vitalii

I’m sorry but when An-225 became “Russian” ?
exUSSR – yes, but An-225 has never been Russian

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-225_Mriya

Gerry S

More accurate description will be "Soviet built".

László

An225 airlifted total payload 253,820 kg.

Alain

Thank you for the information. But how many wheels does the A 380/ has? What of the cruise speed? When loaded and empty?

Shaun

You are comparing apples and oranges though. The AN 225 was built how long ago? The A380 has more efficient engines etc so to say it can travel further is not a true comparison. If the AN 225 was rebuilt using todays technology and engines it would most likely dwarf the A380 in range and carrying capacity.

cherwan

I TOTALLY AGREE, RUSSIAN CARGO PLANES ARE SUPERIOR, BUT MUTCHING, NAVIGATION AND SAFETY ASSURANCE.

Transworld

You have a hugely conflicting story line contrasting Apples and Pineapples along with some bad info. Other than being Aircraft and flying, the A380 and the AN-224 have nothing in common nor related to each other in any way. The AN-225 is awesome (got to see it): Its origins are as a military freighter via the AN-124 and then modified to the AN-224 to move the Soviet Burren Shuttle. It went on to outsize freight due to the features from the AN-124. As a Freighter its also not in the category of the A380F that was not built. A380F was… Read more »

Fred

What is the empty weight of these aircraft. I think weight is as important as size.

Ethan1565

How about availability? With the An 225 being only one plane and in demand, your gonna have to wait to get that huge object moved & it’s gonna be on there schedule & there non nagotiable price.

Ajitkumar

One can never discount Russian or USSR factor from the AN225 when discussed in broad terms because aircraft making with worldwide impact has been mostly American , European , Soviet Russia the Chinese and Brazilian and Japanese have yet to make their mark

Richard Otiso

And Canadian too -Bombardier

Luis

Not forgetting the Dutch who built the Fokker, great planes indeed. It’s a pitty they no longer seem to feature.

Shahnawaz patel

Why are the comparision?

David

Well, my initial reaction was that such comparison is worthless. The two aircraft are not in the same category even in the broadest sense. That reaction remains.

Luis

There are a few bits of interesting information in this article but honestly, the comparison between these two birdsmakes no sense at all.