The Antonov 225 Mriya is mostly known for its size. It is the largest aircraft ever made, with a wingspan size of a football field. By comparison, it dominates the double-decker Airbus A380 and still inspires crowds who watch its takeoff and landing. Antonov 225 Mriya, which means “Dream” in Ukrainian is a cargo aircraft that was designed by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukrainian SSR within the Soviet Union during the 1980s under the leadership of Russian engineer, Viktor Tolmachev.
Antonov 225 Mriya was an improved version of the successful Antonov AN-124 Ruslan (a four-engine cargo plane with similar deign of AN-225) which was originally designed to transport the spacecraft of the Buran class. In 1988, the first Antonov 225 Mriya aircraft was completed and decommissioned for eight years after successfully completing the Soviet combat missions. This was then refurbished and re-introduced and is in commercial service with overweight payloads operated by Antonov Airlines. Antonov Airlines is a division of Antonov Company, headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, which designs, develops, produces, and maintains the AN aircraft.
In the late 1970s, the need appeared to transport large and heavy loads from the assembly sites to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the vast spaceport in Kazakhstan’s deserts that was the launchpad for Yuri Gagarin’s groundbreaking 1961 space travel. As there were no aircraft capable of carrying it at the time, it was ordered that Antonov Company to build one aircraft to support the space mission.
The Antonov AN-225 was designed for the Soviet space program to airlift the booster of the Energia rocket and the Buran-class orbiters. It was designed as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T. The initial mission and objectives of the Antonov 225 Mriya was almost similar to those of the U.S. Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The Antonov 225 Mriya first flew with a 74-minute flight from Kiev on 21 December 1988.
Later AN-225 safely transported the Buran spacecraft to Baikonur on 21 December 1988, three years after the aircraft was made. The aircraft was on static display at the 1989 Paris Air Show and flew at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show during the public days.
To the date till now only 1 Antonov AN-225 is produced. The Antonov 225 Mriya has an 88.4 m wingspan with six engines powered by Progress D-18T and 16 pair’s wheels. The aircraft has a range of 15,400 km, reducing to 4,500 km when fully loaded. With the amount of weight, it can carry, it is quite a task to fly so far across the globe. The total length of the aircraft is 84 m with a height 18.1 m. It has a maximum payload weight of 250 tones, which is double the capacity of B747-800F.
Having been built during the Soviet era when aircraft technology was still under development, the old cockpit requires pilots and extra flight engineers to operate the aircraft. The cockpit panels are painted green in the typical Soviet-style, found on many airliners and cargo aircraft. The unique cockpit contains different parts and has an analog display rather than digital. The Antonov 225 Mriya has an automated fly-by-wire air starting system. The total fuel capacity of the aircraft is about 300 tons and burns 15.9 tons of fuel in an hour. The maximum speed of AN-225 is about 850 KM per hour.
According to aircraft engineers, the 16 pairs of landing wheels should be changed after every 90 landings. The wheels are specially made for AN-225 by the Yaroslavi Tyre plant. The cost of 1 tire is about $1000. The cockpit of AN-225 contains 6 seats and there are 18 seats for mechanics and engineers and 12 rears seat in the aircraft. The aircraft only need about 2490 m runway to take off and land. To become the Captain of Antonov 225 Mriya, a person should have flown Antonov AN-124 as Captain for 5 years.
Though the plane only makes a handful of trips a year it is not because of its age. It’s not often that a company needs the kind of heavy lifting that Mriya’s magnificent size allows. Operating Antonov 225 Mriya which generates invoices of around $30,000 an hour is also costly.
Second Antonov 225
Progress on the second AN-225 ended two years after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, despite intentions to manufacture yet another three aircraft. Unused parts have been stored in a massive warehouse since 1994. Today, the second Antonov 225 Mriya is believed to be 70 percent finished with all the key components of the superstructure including wings, fuselage, nose gear, and tail in place.
Around 2008 the second Antonov 225 Mriya was scheduled to be completed and then postponed indefinitely. In May 2011, the Antonov CEO reported that the completion of a second AN-225 Mriya transport aircraft with a carrying capacity of 250 tons requires at least $300 million, but if the financing is provided, its completion could be achieved in three years.
Airspace Industry Cooperation of China (AICC) plans to modernize the second unfinished Antonov 225 Mriya and transform this into a commercial satellite air launch to orbit platform at altitudes up to 12,000 m. In August 2016, representatives from Ukraine’s Antonov and AICC, an import-export company operating out of Hong Kong, signed an agreement to recommence production of the AN-225, with China now planning to procure and fly the first model by 2019. Nonetheless, the aircraft is not available until the date today and there is no additional news about it.
Comparison with Lockheed C-5
The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is a large military transport aircraft that Lockheed first developed and constructed and is now being manufactured and improved by its parent, Lockheed Martin.
Several aircraft manufactures began to study heavy jet transport designs in 1961 to replace the Douglas C-133 Cargo master and supplement the Lockheed C-141 Star lifters. In May 1964, Boeing, Douglas, General Dynamics, Lockheed, and Martin Marietta brought forward concepts for the aircraft. After a downselect, the engines were given one-year study contracts for the airframe to Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed, along with General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Lockheed’s design featured a T-tail while Boeing and Douglas’ designs included standard tails.
On 2 March 1968, the first C-5A Galaxy was rolled out of the Marietta, Georgia, manufacturing plant and accomplished the first test on 30 June 1968. With comparison with Antonov 225 Mriya, C-5 is a cargo plane like AN-225 but smaller in size, cargo space, and length. But, C5 has a longer range and more height than AN-225. C-5 is equipped with the General Electric CF6 Quad engine where Antonov 225 Mriya is equipped with 6 engines. The total Cargo capacity of C5 is 140.5 tons where An-225 has about 250 tones.
Some Notable Work of Antonov AN-225
Antonov AN-225 departed Germany from Stuttgart to Oman on 3 January 2002 with 216,000 packed meals for the American army weighing 187.5 tons. This was the first commercial operation Antonov 225 Mriya has ever done.
The heaviest single-cargo object ever sent by air cargo was loaded onto the AN-225 on 11 August 2009. The consignment, a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia together with its loading frame, weighed at a record 189 tonnes, 16.23 m long, and 4.27 m wide.
In 2010, it transported 110 tones of equipment and supplies to the Dominican Republic to help with relief efforts in neighboring Haiti after a devastating earthquake.
On 11 June 2010, the Antonov 225 Mriya transported two 42.1 m wind turbine blades from Tianjin, China to Skrydstrup, Denmark, the world’s longest piece of air cargo.
In 2002, it brought children in Uganda 80,000 shoeboxes loaded with Christmas presents. And in recent years it delivered relief supplies to Mozambique, Saipan, and Guam after natural disasters.
An example of the cost of AN-225 transporting cargo was more than DKK 2 million (approx. €266,000) in 2004 for flying a chimney duct from Billund, Denmark to Kazakhstan. In 2016, AN-225 departed from Prague, Czech Republic with a generator of 117 tones to Perth which is about 14000 km and it cost about $3 million for transporting the cargo.
COVID and Present status
The Antonov AN-225 began a series of test flights from Hostomel Airport (Hub of AN-225 and Antonov airlines) near Kiev on 25 March 2020, after more than a year out of operation to install a domestic power management and control system.
AN-225 Mriya has received a new Ukrainian manufacturing remote control system for engines, new liquid crystal tools for engine work control, also manufactured in Ukraine, new modern LED lighting equipment with better features, more energy-saving and more dependable.
On 13 April 2020 AN-225 transported more than 100 tons of medical equipment including masks, PPE, and so on from Tianjin Airport, China.
Thus, the Antonov 225 Mriya has joined the Antonov Airlines fleet of AN-124-100 aircraft carrying out charter relief operations transporting medical cargo and supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic around the world. Antonov Airlines has transported more than 1400 tons of cargo from China to various countries in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East since the end of March.
As the AN-225 has proved that it played a vital role in the transportation of large and heavy cargo toward the globe. So because with only one aircraft in the world, if the aircraft has a serious problem, it will take a lot of time to be fixed such that the second Antonov 225 Mriya which is completed by 70 percent should be produced.
Fun facts of AN-225
- The AN-225 does have a fuel capacity of more than 660,000 pounds. This really is 14 times more fuel it can bring than a 737-800.
- The Antonov 225 Mriya itself set more than 200 world records including airlifting the heaviest freight throughout the world and the longest freight in the world.
- If successfully filled it will accommodate 3000 people. Legroom might just be a little tight.
- Gate dimensions of AN-225 as compared to Boeing 747, Hercules and Il-76.
- Antonov 225 Mriya sits rather than it flies, since it can not be affordable easily to operate.