Plane of the Week #14: Antonov An-225 Mriya

This week’s plane of the week is the Antonov An-225 Mriya.

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The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Ukrainian: Антонов Ан-225 Мрія), NATO reporting name: “Cossack”, (because they are boring)) is a strategic airlift cargo aircraft that was designed by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau in the 1980s. The An-225’s name, Mriya (Мрiя) means “Dream” or “Inspiration” in Ukrainian. It is powered by six turbofan engines and is the longest and heaviest airplane ever built with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tons. It also has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service. It’s wing span is shorter than that of the Spruce Goose, but that only flew once, while the An-225 flies all the time. The tail wing span is longer than the entire wingspan of a Boeing 737. The single example built has the Ukrainian civil registration UR-82060. A second airframe was partially built; its completion was halted because of lack of funding and interest.

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Initially, the main task of the An-225 was transportation of various parts of Energiya carrier-rocket and Buran space ship, which had been manufactured at the enterprises of central regions of the USSR, and final assembly should have been performed at Baikonour. Projected length of some of them reached 60 meters and diameter – 8 meters. Range of transportation was 1500-2500 km. Besides, depending to mission, performed on the orbit, Buran could only land in certain places. From those airports it was necessary to deliver it again to Baikonour, to the place of previous launch. Mriya with Buran on its external store performed 14 flights with total duration of 28 hours and 27 minutes. They had been performed from the airfields located in various climatic zones of the USSR: in Gostomel, Akhtoubinsk, Baikonour, Borispol, Vnukovo, Yelizovo, Ramenskoye, Chkalovskaya, Khabarovsk. However, after collapse of the USSR, financing of Energiya-Buran programme was terminated and the project stopped with only one Buran launched. In 2000, modernization of the An-225 was started. The aim was use of the airplane for transportation of commercial cargoes. The decision had been taken due to many applications sent to Antonov Airlines for transportation of cargoes heavier than the AN-124-100 Ruslan’s payload. Than Mriya passed certification tests and on May 23, 2001, Aviation Register of Interstate Aviation Committee and Ukraviatrans issued type certificates to the An-225. Since that till present, the airplane has been performing commercial transportations in the fleet of Antonov Airlines, transport subdivision of ANTONOV Company.

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The cargo compartment is pressurized to extend the aircraft’s transport capabilities. The airborne cargo handling equipment and also the design of the forward cargo door with a ramp ensure the quick and easy loading/unloading operations, although it takes ten minutes to raise or lower the ramp. The aircraft is capable to transport the unique cargo outside the fuselage when dimensions are larger than that of the cargo hold, like Buran. There is an appropriate load security system to attach this cargo to the fuselage.

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Mriya has made or broken 240 world records including transportation of the heaviest cargo with mass of 253 tons, the heaviest single piece of cargo weighing 1,867 tons, as well as the longest cargo having length of 421 meters. But the An-225 is mainly used for humanitarian missions. For example, in October, 2009 the An-225 performed several flights on delivery generators to Samoa. They were necessary for renewal of work of Satala electric station damaged by a tsunami. Only the huge cargo hold of the An-225 could accommodate ten 12-tons generators at once. It also delivered machinery to Japan in 2011 following the nuclear disaster at the Fukashima power plant.

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The single most amazing thing about this aircraft is its sheer size. It has a wingspan of 88.4 meters, a length of 84 meters, and a height of 18.1 meters, and a tail wing span of 32 meters, which is greater than the full wingspan of a Boeing 737. (31.09 m) It weighs 628,317 pounds empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,410,958 pounds. It has 32 landing gear, 16 of which are steerable, and yet fully loaded it can sink into the tarmac on hot days. It produces so much thrust from its six engines and stirs up the air so much when it takes off that planes behind it need to wait 15 minutes for the air to settle enough for them to take off. (This forces it to land at smaller airports where a 15 minute delay will not wreak as much havoc on people’s schedules.)

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The best parts about the An-225 are that there is only only one(though like I said, a second was partially built), and that it flies all over the world, so you may actually have a chance to see it at a medium-sized airport. It’s been to Minneapolis-Saint Paul to pick up air conditioning equipment, and to New York, where the singer Bono from U2 said it was bigger than a rock star’s ego, and many places in between and beyond.

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Just imagine if The United States copied this plane and made a weaponized version of it, like the AC-130. Or worse, if Russia weaponized theirs. Of course, it wouldn’t be very maneuverable, but with all that lifting capacity, you could put a couple tons of armor in it and it wouldn’t break a sweat.

Of course, it’s cool enough as it is, so why mess with perfection?

Takeoff: (from Minneapolis!) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T8a1A–C1T0

Landing: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cerAdT0qT2A

An hour long movie: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eNxTq9RrOs0

A shorter, official movie, I believe from TV: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4yqnDOxlNEk

Next week: if ever there were a famous Nazi fighter…

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Plane of the Week #14: Antonov An-225 Mriya

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