Antonov AN 225 Original article.
Man has wanted and has made tiresome struggle to fly since the first sight of birds flying across the sky effortlessly. And after the invention of the flying machine, came the long and still ongoing process of achieving speed and bigger machines maintaining safety. And all of these factors meet at the Antonov An-225 Mriya, the giant of the skyline. There simply isn’t anything like this that does exist. It can carry enough food and relief items to avert a famine or bring expeditionary force into the combat zone. Yet, the sole purpose behind the creation of the Antonov An-225 Mriya wasn’t hostile or humanitarian. The An-225 was built to transport heavy and oversized machineries and parts of various shuttles dedicated to Soviet Union’s space program in the chilly times of the ‘Cold War’. As history serves, the nickname given to the Antonov An-225 Mriya given by the Soviets was ‘Dream’, relating to its initial purpose.
And till today, the Antonov An-225 is serving the same purpose, of course, as a commercial transporter. From relief items or food to chimney ducts, to war tanks, to helicopters, to turbine blades, to large generators, the An-225 can and has carried almost anything with enormous size and ultra heavy weight requiring a transcontinental move.
The Antonov An-225 Mriya serves as a cargo aircraft for heavy duty strategic airlifting. The Antonov An-225 was designed in the 1980s by the Antonov Design Bureau of the Soviet Union, currently a Ukrainian company. Till now, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is considered as the largest airplane on the planet. Antonov An-225 is also the heaviest airplane gaining 640 tonnes, the maximum takeoff weight recorded. Also, in terms of the wingspan during operational services and counting the length, it’s the biggest and heaviest aircraft available. The only plane built so far now is serving under a Ukrainian operator.
The Antonov An-225 is the enlargement of another successful Antonov aircraft, the Antonov An-124. Originally, the development was made maintaining the special specifications required for transporting the Buran spaceplane. The first ever An-225 was completely built in 1988. Building process of another An-225 is ongoing. The running An-225 serves commercial operations under the Antonov Airlines transporting oversized payloads. The aircraft holds world records for airlifting a single item payload weighing 189,980 kilograms or 418,834 pounds along with the record of airlifting a total payload weighing 253,820 kilograms or 559,577 pounds
The design of the Antonov An-225 aimed the safe airlifting of the Buran space shuttle along with for the Energia rocket’s boosters for the Soviet space program. The Antonov An-225 came and replaced the Myasishchev VM-T.
The very first flight the An-225 took lasted for 74 minutes. The flight started from Kiev on the 21st December, 1988. In 1989 the aircraft took part in a static public display campaign at the Paris Air Show and in 1990, it also flew multiple times during the Farnborough air show. Two An-225 were ordered, but the company was able to deliver only one. The plane can carry oversized and ultra heavy freight weighing up to 250,000 kg or 550,000 lbs internally or 200,000 kg or 440,000 lbs on the upper fuselage. Cargo items long up to70 meters or 230 ft is allowed on the upper fuselage.
The second An-225 was completed partially in the late 1980s. Later the work stopped leaving the carrier completed about 60% – 70%. In 2006, announcement had come form the manufacturer hoping to complete the second An-225 by 2008 and again the project was abandoned due to financial problems. The manufacturer has asked for finance to complete the aircraft within 3 years.
Design and Specs
Based on the designs of Antonov’s earlier An-124 aircraft, on the An-225, fuselage barrel extensions were added to both fore and aft of both wings, providing the wings root extensions for increasing span. Then, 2 more (1 on each wing) ‘Ivchenko Progress D-18T Turbo Fan’ engines were attached to the newly built wing roots, totaling to a number of 6 engines. Also, a new landing gear system was developed combining 32 wheels ensuring increased capacity to take overload. A few are steerable for turning the plane on 60 m or 200 ft wide runways. Similar to its predecessor, the An-124, An-225’s nosegear can be kneeled, making the loading and unloading process really easy. To save weight, the rear ramp along with the cargo door was removed. The empennage system was changed to the oversized horizontal stabilizer mechanism set in the twin tails rather than the single vertical stabilizer mechanism. The twin tail mechanism is necessary for carrying big and heavy external loads, which would disturb and cause malfunction to the conventional tail aerodynamics. The An-225 designs didn’t aim for tactical airlifting operations or short field operations, like the An-124 had served.
Initially, the maximum gross weight of the An-225 was 600 t or 1,300,000 lbs. But, after a year long modification process from 2000 – 2001 costing US $20M, the An-225 got a new reinforced floor increasing its maximum gross weight count to almost 640 t or 1,400,000 lbs.
The An-225 is the heaviest aircraft till now, considering both the early and alter take-off weights. It’s heavier than Airbus’s double-deck- Airbus A380. Even after Airbus’s intention to surpass the record landing weight made by the An-225. Boeing’s new 747 Dreamlifter possesses a bigger cargo holding covering 1,840m3 or 65,000 cubic feet. Also, Howard Hughes’s H-4 Hercules, also, going by the name, “Spruce Goose”, boasted a greater wingspan. The H-4 Hercules was also greater in terms of overall height. But it was 20% shorter than the An-225. It was lighter due to the materials used to build it, especially; wood, instead of Aluminum. Also, the H-4 Hercules flew only once, crowning the An-225 as the largest airplane on the planet to take successful flights multiple times.
The An-225’s pressurized cargo holding covers 1,300 m3 or 46,000 cu ft of area. The cargo holding area is 4.4 m or 14 ft high, 6.4 m or 21 ft wide and 43.35 m or 142.2 ft long- in reality, longer than the very first flight the Wright Flyer had taken.
General characteristics of the Antonov An-225 Mriya in short:
Crew number: 6 persons
Length: 84 m or 275 ft 7 inches
Wingspan: 88.4 m or 290 ft
Height: 18.1 m or 59 ft 5 inch
Total Wing area: 905 m2 or 9,740 sq ft
Empty weight: 285,000 kg or 628,317 lbs
Aspect ratio: 8.6
Max take-off weight: 640,000 kg or 1,410,958 lbs
Fuel capacity: 300000 kg
Power-plant: 6 * ‘ZMKB Progress D-18 turbofans’, each providing 229.5 kN (51,600 lbf) thrust
Cargo holding volume: 1,300 m3, length- 43.35m, width- 6.4m, height- 4.4m
Performance specs of the Antonov An-225 Mriya in short:
Maximum speed capacity: 850 km/h or 528 mph
Cruising speed capacity: 800 km/h or 497 mph
Range: 15,400 km or (9,569 mi; 8,315 nmi) ensured with maximum fuel and estimated range carrying maximum payload: 2,500 miles or 4,000 km
Wing loading: 662.9 kg/ m² or 135.8 lb/ sq ft
Service ceiling: 11,000 m or 36,089 ft
Weight/ Thrust: 0.234