The Antonov An-225 is a one-off airlift cargo aircraft built by the Ukrainian Antonov aircraft corporation. She is famous for her massive size and ability to carry oversized payloads. The single AN-255 that exists has set a number of impressive world records, which are mostly related to her massive size.
There is a second airframe that is 60% complete with hopes that it will go into service in the future.
The An-225 is a development of the already huge An-124. She was created to airlift the Buran class space shuttle for the Soviet space program, although she only carried out this role for a short while.
First flown in 1988, she soon made several stops around the world at various airshows for crowds to marvel at her engineering prowess – no one had ever seen something quite so big on the ground or in the sky.
Two airframes were ordered but only one was ever finished due to technical and budget constraints. She is able to carry 550,000 lbs (250,000 kg) and cargo loads that no other aircraft could thanks to an upper cargo deck size of 230 ft (70 m) in length.
But this was not Mryia’s original mission. In 1994, after the collapse of the USSR and the cancellation of the Buran program, she was placed into storage.
Seven years later, she returned to service as a cargo aircraft even bigger than the An-124 was required. Transporting cargo is big business.
The An-225’s Design
Essentially the An-225 is a heavily modified An-124. Fuselage extensions were added in front and behind the wings and root extensions were added to increase the wingspan to generate additional lift.
Her dual rear stabilisers were necessary to save weight, and to allow the aircraft to carry large external loads. With a conventional rear stabiliser, external loads would disturb the airflow around it.
The most instantly recognizable feature is the six Progress D-18T turbofan engines. Each produces 51,500 lbs of thrust. These six engines can launch the An-225 into the sky at over 500 mph (800 km/h) even with a total take-off weight of almost 1,500,000 lbs (640,000 kg) – yes you did read that right.
Due to her sheer length of 275ft 7in (84 m) – that’s longer than the Wright brothers first flight, by the way – Antonov needed a way to ensure ground maneuverability was high. She had 32 wheels and some of them are steerable so that she can turn around within 200 ft (60 m).
On top of this, the nosewheel can “kneel” so that cargo can be loaded/unloaded with ease.
The An-225 is operated by Antonov airlines and is used to move cargo all over the world. The company effectively rented the aircraft out to whoever needed to move something large by air.
She holds several world records including the largest single item payload of 418,830 lbs (189,980 kg) – this was a generator for a gas power plant.
She also holds the record for the heaviest total payload of 559,580 lbs (253,820 kg), which was in 2001 when she carried four main battle tanks into the air and up to 35,000 feet (10,750 m).
AKS was intended to be a development on the An-225 – a crazy project that never actually saw the light of day.
The idea was a twin fuselage design consisting of two An-225s with a Tupolev OOS air-launch-to-orbit spaceplane suspended between them.
There were multiple engine configurations proposed, including one that used 40 of the Progress D-18T engines. It would have weighed over 1,350,000 lbs (615,000 kg) empty and had a wingspan of over 500 feet (153 m).
In March 2022, the AN-225 was sadly destroyed during the fighting in the Russo-Ukrainian War. However, this has yet to be officially confirmed by Antonov.
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Capacity: 253,820 kilograms (559,580 lb)
Length: 84 m (275 ft 7 in)
Wingspan: 88.4 m (290 ft 0 in)
Height: 18.1 m (59 ft 5 in)
Empty weight: 285,000 kg (628,317 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 640,000 kg (1,410,958 lb)
Cargo hold: 43.35 m (142.2 ft) long × 6.4 m (21 ft) wide × 4.4 m (14 ft) tall or 1,300 m3 (46,000 cu ft) volume
Powerplant: 6 × Progress D-18T turbofans 51,600 lbf (229.5 kN) thrust each
Maximum speed: 530 mph (850 km/h)
Cruise speed: 500 mph (800 km/h )
Range: 15,400 km (9,600 mi) or 4,000 km (2,500 mi) with 200 tonnes payload
Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)