If you’ve never heard of the Antonov AN-225 ‘Mriya’, this is widely regarded as the biggest commercial airplane in the world. This behemoth of a plane has undergone several modernisations during the course of its life, with the original military design having been completed back in 1988 in the old Soviet Union.
In 2018, Mriya took off from Gostomel Airport (GML) in Kiev for its first commercial flight since its latest upgrade, before successfully landing at Leipzig Airport (LEJ) without any issue at all.
But what exactly sets this aircraft apart from its rivals, and how has it evolved since its inception in the late 1980s?
The AN-225 – A Brief History
Initially designed as part of the Soviet space program, the AN-225 flew for the first time in 1988.
However, it was set aside for nearly a decade following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, but subsequently revived for the purpose of delivering oversized cargo and participating in relief efforts following natural disasters all around the world.
Since the turn of the century, the aircraft has certainly been involved in a number of high-profile cargo missions, with Prague workers having previously loaded the Mriya with a generator weighing a staggering 130 tons for delivery to Australia.
Chapman Freeborn have also completed a successful trip with the Antonov AN-225 in partnership with Air Cargo International (ACI).
This mission saw and even greater load shipped across the globe, as five giant compressors weighing a cumulative total of 140 tons was transported from South Korea to France.
This represented the first time that the world’s largest fixed-wing aircraft had been used for an operation to EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, although it’s unlikely to be the last given the potential applications of the AN-225.
What Makes This Aircraft so Special?
As we’ve already said, the AN-225 has benefitted from significant upgrades and modernisation over the course of the last two decades.
The latest iteration saw the integration of a new navigation system and upgraded electronics, with these innovations adding greater functionality to the aircraft (they were also tested fully during a test flight over Kiev on March 19th, 2018).
However, much of the aircraft’s unique specification has remained largely unchanged since its original design, with its six jet engines offering incredible power and capacity.
To put this into context, most airliners are powered by just two or four jet engines, so the AN-225 really stands out as a true giant in the industry.
The plane’s wingspan also measures a gigantic 290 feet (88 metres), which is longer than five, 53-foot semi-truck trailers set end-to-end.
The aircraft also boasts a maximum total weight takeoff of 640 tons, which is more than twice as heavy as the Statue of Liberty. There are even 42 tyres in total, which will help the aircraft to land safely whilst protecting the cargo stored on-board.
In short, this incredible plane remains the biggest and most recognisable in the world, and it continues to add greater functionality as it benefits from ongoing upgrades.