The A380 may be the world’s largest passenger airplane but it has nothing on the Antonov An-225.
The Antonov An-225 is a beast. Known the world over for its impressive abilities, the aircraft has 6 engines and an impressive 32 wheels! This aircraft is truly one of a kind. Construction was attempted twice on a second aircraft, however, this remains at only 60-70% completion.
Being the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225 has some impressive characteristics to boast. The aircraft sports a wing span of 290ft. To put that into perspective, the Boeing 737 MAX has a wingspan of 118ft. In fact, you would need 56 Cessna 172 aircraft to match the wing area of the An-225. While the aircraft has a range of 4500km loaded, empty it can travel an impressive 15400km. From London that would get you almost anywhere except parts of Antarctica, East Coast Australia, and New Zealand.
A Little History
The An-225 was originally designed for one purpose. At the height of the cold war, Russia was developing an alternate the the US Space Shuttle, the Buran Spaceplane. They needed an aircraft large enough to carry this spacecraft, and thus the An-225 was born. It didn’t take long to test the aircraft, and the first flight occurred on 21st December 1988.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aircraft went into storage in 1994. In 2001, the An-225 was restored to a state fit for flight at significant cost. It then received its type certificate from the Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register in May of that year. The aircraft is registered in Ukraine as UR-82060, and is affectionately named Mriya. Since then the aircraft has gone on to carry a large plethora of different cargos.
Over the course of its life, the An-225 has carried a bunch of interesting cargo. Lots of this is actually record breaking. The first revenue flight of the aircraft occurred on January 3rd 2002. The aircraft was contracted to carry 216,000 ready meals from Stuttgart, Germany to to Thumrait, Oman.
In 2004, the An-225 carried a chimney from Billund in Denmark to Kazakstan for €266,000. In addition, the single heaviest cargo item ever carried by air was loaded onto the aircraft in 2009. A 189 tonne generator that was flown to Armenia. All of this came before the longest piece of cargo carried by air was transported in 2010, 2 wind turbine blades 138ft long were loaded onto the aircraft. The aircraft’s cargo bay is 142.2ft long, making it longer than the wright brothers first flight of 120ft.
The future looks positively bright for the An-225, it gets a steady stream of bookings, and is currently providing disaster relief in Guam. The aircraft costs $30,000 an hour to run, so is usually used for short notice missions where other aircraft won’t do. There is additionally potential for the second An-225 to be finished one day, and a Chinese company is reportedly looking to use that aircraft to launch rockets into space from 10km up.