The An-225 Mriya (Russian: Антонов Ан-225 Мрия, Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-225 Мрія, NATO reporting name: Cossack) is a strategic airlift transport aircraft which was built by the Antonov Design Bureau, and is the largest aeroplane ever built. The design, built to transport the Buran orbiter, was an enlargement of the successful An-124 Ruslan. Mriya (Мрiя) means "Dream" (Inspiration) in Ukrainian.
The Antonov An-225 is commercially available for flying any over-sized payload due to the unique size of its cargo deck. Currently there is only one aircraft operating but a second mothballed airframe is being reconditioned and is scheduled for completion around 2010.
The An-225 was designed for the Soviet space program as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T. Able to airlift the Energia rocket's boosters and the Buran space shuttle, its mission and objectives are almost identical to that of the Airbus Beluga and the United States' Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
The An-225 first flew on 21 December 1988. The aircraft was on static display at the Paris Air Show in 1989 and it flew during the public days at the Farnborough air show in 1990. Two aircraft were ordered, but only one An-225 (tail number UR-82060) is currently in service. It is commercially available for carrying ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to 250,000 kg (550,000 lb) internally or 200,000 kg (440,000 lb) on the upper fuselage. Cargo on the upper fuselage can be 70 m long. A second An-225 was partially built during the late 1980s for use by the Soviet space program. If the second An-225 is completed, it will be built with a rear cargo door and the tail will be redesigned as a single tail. It would then be more effective for cargo transportation. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the cancellation of the Buran space program, the lone operational An-225 was placed in storage. The six Ivchenko Progress engines were removed for use on An-124s, and the second An-225 airframe (nearing completion and awaiting engines) was also mothballed.
The An-225 is an extension of Antonov's earlier An-124. To meet the needs of its new role, fuselage barrel extensions were added fore and aft of the wings, which received root extensions. Two more Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines were added to the new wing roots, bringing the total to six, and an increased-capacity landing gear system with 32 wheels was designed. The An-124’s rear cargo door and ramp were removed to save weight, and the empennage was changed from a single vertical stabilizer to a twin tail with an oversized horizontal stabilizer. The twin tail was essential in order to enable the plane to carry very large and heavy external loads, which would otherwise disturb the aerodynamics of a conventional tail. Unlike the An-124, the An-225 was not intended for tactical airlifting and is not designed for short-field operation.
With a maximum gross weight of 600 tonnes (1,300,000 lb), the An-225 remains as the world's heaviest and largest aircraft, being even bigger than the current double-decker Airbus A380 even though Airbus plans to pass their current maximum landingwieght with 591,7 tons. The Hughes H-4 Hercules, known to most as the "Spruce Goose", had a greater wingspan and a greater overall height, but was considerably shorter, and due to the materials used in its construction, also lighter. In addition, the Hercules only flew once and never climbed above 21.3 m (70 ft), making the An-225 the largest aircraft in the world to take off multiple times. The An-225 is not only larger than the Airbus A380 airliner, it is also considerably bigger than the Antonov An-124, Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter, and Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the nearest equivalent heavy airlifters.
In September 2001, carrying a record load of 253.82 tonnes of cargo, the An-225 flew at an altitude of two kilometers (6,500 feet) over a closed circuit of 1,000 km (620 mi) at a speed of 763.2 kilometres per hour (474.2 mph).
In the late 1980s, efforts were begun by the Soviet government to generate revenue from its military assets. In 1989, a holding company was set up by the Antonov Design Bureau as a heavy airlift shipping corporation under the name "Antonov Airlines", based in Kiev, Ukraine and operating from London Luton Airport in partnership with Air Foyle HeavyLift.
As the Soviet space program was in its last years, the An-225 was considered and accepted to be the prime way to transport the Buran Shuttle. The Buran Shuttle was a spacecraft much like the United States' Space Shuttle.
The company initiated operations with a fleet of four An-124-100s and three Antonov An-12s, but by the late 1990s a need for aircraft larger than the An-124 became apparent. In response, the original An-225 was re-engined, modified for heavy cargo transport, and placed back in service under the management of Antonov Airlines.
On 23 May 2001, the An-225 received its type certificate from the Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register (IAC AR). The type's first flight in commercial service departed from Stuttgart, Germany on 3 January 2002, and flew to Thumrait, Oman with 216,000 prepared meals for American military personnel based in the region. This vast amount of ready meals was transported on some 375 pallets and weighed 187.5 tons.
Since then, the An-225 has become the major workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet, transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as locomotives and 150-ton generators, and has become a valuable asset to international relief organizations for its ability to quickly transport huge quantities of emergency supplies during disaster relief operations.
By 2000, it had become apparent that the demand for the An-225 had exceeded the airline's booking capacity, and in September 2006, the decision was made to complete the second An-225. Assembly is scheduled to be completed in 2010.
Beginning in June 2003, the An-225, along with An-124s, delivered over 800 tons of equipment to aid humanitarian efforts in Iraq.
The An-225 has also been contracted by the Canadian and U.S. governments to transport military supplies to the Middle East in support of Coalition forces.
Data from Vectorsite, Antonov's Heavy Transports
Published - July 2009
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