Thursday, March 1, 2012

World’s Largest Aircraft: Antonov An-225 Mriya

Antonov An-225 Mriya

WhenTalking| Bigger than a Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. Longer & heavier than the Hughes H-4 “Spruce Goose.” The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Dream) is a strategic airlift cargo aircraft developed by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukraine.  The plans were first laid out in the early 1980’s and the first operational flight occurred on December 21st, 1988. Only one aircraft has been built; a second craft was partially constructed but never finished.  The An-225 requires six turbofan engines to keep its payload in the air.

The Antonov An-225 was originally designed to function as a Russian Space Shuttle carrier aircraft, assisting the Buran space shuttle of the Soviet Space Program. Known for its immense carrying capability, the An-225 can carry 550,000 lbs. internally or 440,000 lbs. on the upper fuselage. Initially plans were to build several An-225s, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 saw the cancellation of the Buran space program and the Antonov contracts.
 By 1994, the lone Antonov An-225’s future was in doubt.  The engines were removed and it was placed in storage along with the second, unfinished An-225.  In 2000, the need for strategic heavy equipment lifting brought the An-225 back into service. By 2006, demand was great enough to warrant plans to finish the second An-225 but numerous delays left the aircraft unfinished in 2009.

So just how substantial is this aircraft? It requires six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines to fly. The landing system has thirty two wheels.  The maximum gross weight is 640 tonnes (1,410,000 lbs.). The largest single piece of airlifted cargo ever recorded was on an Antonov An-225: a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia which was 53.2 ft long, 14 ft wide and weighed 416,900 lbs.

The Antonov An-225 is still in use today.  Even the United States contracts the An-225 for military transport.  From chimney ducts to generators to tanks to wind turbine blades, the Antonov has carried just about every large object that has required a transcontinental move.