It has been confirmed that the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225, has been destroyed in Ukraine.

The Antonov AN-225 Mriya – the only one in the world was based at Hostomel airport, near Kyiv. The Russian military attacked the airport during the invasion of Ukraine. In the fierce fighting that took place, the aircraft was destroyed.

This post shares everything you need to know about the AN-225 Mriya.

What is the An-225

The An-225 is an ultra-large strategic transport aircraft that held the record as the world’s largest aircraft before the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, when it was destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The An-225 was designed and built by the  Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine within the soviet union in the 1980s. The An-225 is the bigger brother of the Antonov 124. The NATO name for the An-225 is the Cossack.

Although only one An-225 was built, a second aircraft was under construction but was only approximately 65% complete by the time the build was cancelled in 2009. The cancellation was a financial one because of a lack of interest in the aircraft.

An-225 World Records

The world records held by the An-225 were many. The AN225 was the heaviest aircraft ever built in commercial service with an operating empty weight of 280tonnes.

The maximum take-off weight of the An-225 was 640tonnes with a cargo-carrying capacity of 250tonnes. The An-225 also holds the world record for the largest wingspan of any aircraft in commercial service.

Although the aircraft was damaged in the fighting, Antonov has said that they cannot determine whether the plane is beyond repair or not until it has been inspected.

Design and development on the An-225

According to Wikipedia, the An-225 was initially designed as a heavy transport to transport to move Energia rocket boosters & orbiters for the Soviet space program. The first of the AN225 was on 21st December 1988.

In terms of mission profile, the requirements were pretty much copy and paste of the United States Space Transport, which was an adapted 747 aircraft. The An-225 had a 200tonnes carry capability on its upper fuselage for space vehicle transport.

Propelling this magnificent aircraft into the air were 6 Ivchenko-Progress engines.

An-225 carrying Buran (1.01) in 1989
An-225 carrying Buran (1.01) in 1989 – By Vasiliy Koba – http://spotters.net.ua/file/?id=11327&size=large, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36873169

Airspace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) was interested in modernising and finishing the second An-225 for use as a transport for the Chinese space lift vehicles but was never completed.

An-124 Extension

The An-225 gets its roots from the smaller An-124. The An-225 based its design on the An-124 with extensions to the fuselage in front of and behind the wings.

The An-225 extended the wing root of the An-124 to give it the largest wingspan of any commercial transport aircraft. The An-124 only had four engines compared to the An-225 6 engines. The An-225 has a fly by wire tripled redundant hydraulic flight control system.

An-225 at Farnborough in 1990
An-225 at Farnborough in 1990 – By Anthony Noble – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Untitled-(Antonov-Design/Antonov-An-225-Mriya/0721841/L/, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17486672

To support and distribute the aircraft’s weight onto existing taxiways without needing to change the existing airport infrastructure, the An-225 had 32 wheels for its landing gear.

The nose gear of the An-225 could collapse, allowing more effortless loading for forward cargo. Some of these wheels are steerable to assist with manoeuvrability and loading. Provided the runway is 60m wide, the An-225 can perform a 180 turn.

The An-225 does not have a rear cargo door and ramp (compared to the An-124). This was to save weight on the aircraft. Characteristic to the An-225 is the twin vertical stabiliser design.

Antonov An-225
Antonov An-225 – By mark steven – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Antonov-Design-Bureau/Antonov-An-225-Mriya/2178900/L/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22569287

The reason for the twin tail vs single tail was to make sure that when the An-225 was carrying large external loads, the vertical stabiliser could still function aerodynamically and not be disrupted by the load it was moving.

Maximum take off weight improvement

The An-225 started off life with a maximum take-off weight of 600tonnes. Modifications to reinforce the floor would allow the An-225 to carry heavier cargo, increasing its maximum take-off weight to 640tonnes.

The 600tonne maximum take-off weight was a world record on its own before this was increased to 640tonnes. The closest competitor is the Airbus A380 (although not a freighter) demonstrated a landing weight of over 590tonnes during flight testing.

Three of six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines on the An-225
Three of six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines on the An-225 – By Matti Blume – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68602166

Howard Hughes Spruce goose had a longer wingspan and was heavier. The An-225 remains the undisputed king of heavy-lift transport.

In the late 1980s, as the need for space transport heavy-lift aircraft was winding down due to the changes taking place in the Soviet Union, Antonov Airlines was formed to provide commercial heavy-lift service based in Kyiv.

At the time, the An-124 and An-12 aircraft were doing the bulk of the work, but there continued to be a need for a heavier transport aircraft. The An-224 was sitting idle as there was no more space transport work to be carried out in the early 1990s.

An-225's main landing gear
An-225’s main landing gear – By Sergey Khantsis at English Wikipedia – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6223390

The aircraft was re-engined and put back into service with Antonov Airlines. The An-225 heavy-lift capability made transporting items previously thought impossible transportable by air possible.

The An-225 played a crucial role in humanitarian efforts, too, allowing a large amount of aid and supplies to be flown into a much needed troubled zone. The re-engined An-225 received certification on 23rd May 2001.

We cross our fingers and hope that this iconic aircraft will one day fly one day again.

If you have any questions about the An-225, please comment in the section below.

Sources

Antonov An-225 Mriya – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-225_Mriya

Antonov Airlines: No other name carries more weight – https://www.antonov.com/en/file/V5hQc2hGrJGRs?inline=1#:~:text=Powered%20by%20six%20turbofan%20engines,in%20the%20former%20Soviet%20Union.

Antonov An-225

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