Antonov Reactivates The AN-225 As Some AN-124s Remain Grounded

Antonov has brought back the AN-225 after Volga-Dnepr was forced to ground its fleet of AN-124s. With a shortage of heavy-lift planes affecting the commercial cargo market, Antonov will reactivate the AN-225 Mriya to complement its fleet of seven AN-124s, which remain operational.

Antonov Reactivates The AN-225 As Some AN-124s Remain Grounded
The mammoth AN-225 is back in operation after a spell of maintenance. Photo: Getty Images

Return of the AN-225 Mriya

Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines grounded its entire fleet of AN-124s in late November after a runway accident earlier in the month. One of its AN-124s suffered uncontained engine failure before making an emergency landing. Without Volga-Dnepr’s planes, the cargo market is experiencing a severe shortage of aircraft with heavy-lift capacity.

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The AN-225 will conduct time-critical cargo operations to fill in for Volga-Dnepr’s grounded fleet. Photo: Getty Images

The AN-225 will now attempt to fill the void left by Volga-Dnepr’s decision. With unrivaled cargo capacity, the AN-225 suddenly finds itself in hot demand. The plane has already been busy this year, conducting multiple cargo trips in the fight against COVID-19. Andriy Blagovisniy, commercial director of Antonov Airlines, told AircargoNews,

“Taking into consideration the current very limited availability of AN-124 aircraft on the market, we are giving priority to time-critical cargo and to give additional lifting capacity, we will enter our AN-225 aircraft into commercial operation after running routine maintenance.”

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Antonov will continue to fly AN-124s

Despite the safety concerns surrounding the AN-124, Antonov Airlines remains bullish and will continue to operate its fleet of seven AN-124s. Volga-Dnepr’s decision means 50% of the world’s operational fleet of AN-124s is now grounded, severely impacting heavy-lift cargo capacity globally. Antonov Airlines went on record saying it,

“… maintains high standards of flight safety and ensures the proper maintenance and airworthiness of its fleet… Antonov Airlines plans further operation of its fleet of AN-124-100 aircraft and to continue business as usual.”

Volga-Dnepr An-124 Getty
Volga-Dnepr has grounded its fleet of AN-124s pending an investigation. Photo: Getty Images

In response, Volga-Dnepr executive Konstantin Vekshin claims Antonov Airlines “needs to follow our example under the circumstances”, but ultimately conceded the final decision was up to Antonov. Antonov’s fleet of AN-124s was already fully-booked until the end of December, leaving many of Volga-Dnepr’s customers out of options.

What makes the AN-225 special?

The AN-225 Mriya is the largest aircraft ever built after its construction by Antonov in the 1980s. The plane is powered by six turbofan engines and has an MTOW of 640,000KG (1,410,958 lbs). This legendary aircraft – registration UR-82060 – is the only plane of its kind, although a second AN-225 was partially built before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The world’s largest aircraft is the only one of its kind ever built. Photo: Antanov Airlines

Wherever the AN-225 goes, it draws huge crowds looking to set eyes on the flying behemoth. In terms of its utility, the AN-225 is unique as its sheer capacity enables missions that no other cargo plane could manage. The plane broke two world records in the space of a week earlier this year, carrying the most substantial cargo on April 14 and eclipsing its own record less than a week later.

Have you ever spotted the AN-225? Let us know in the comments.