The Antonov AN-225: Building the Biggest Aircraft In the World


Antonov-225 (Source: The National)

The An-225, affectionally dubbed Mriya, is a remarkable feat of invention and craftsmanship. It’s currently the largest cargo plane the world has ever witnessed. Not only this, but it’s also one of a kind too, with only one of these planes ever constructed to completion. Developed by the Soviets during the dwindling years of the Cold War, the innovative aircraft was the next stepping stone for the Russians during the space race.

Image: Daily Mail

Obviously, the aircraft is a big deal. But what are the capabilities and specifications of such a marvellous feat? What lies in store in the future?

Consequently, let’s take a look at how the AN-225 was built, what it was built for, and what implications might occur in the future… 

Specifications and Capabilities

The enormity of the An-225 isn’t exaggerated, coming in at 84 meters long and 175 tons in weight (when empty of cargo and fuel), with a wingspan of a staggering 88 meters. Not only this, but the aircraft is powered by six Ivchenko Progress D-185 turbofan engines – the only commercial freighter to be so. Where most cargo planes load and unload goods from the back, it’s the nose of the An-225 that opens instead, unfurling a ramp thereafter into the cargo bay that requires a minimum amount of manual intervention. The bay itself measures 43.32 meters long by 6.4 meters wide, dedicated entirely to cargo – a ladder is needed to enter the cockpit. 

For a sense of perspective, it has a maximum payload weight of a whopping 250 tons. It’s a juggernaut of the skies and a behemoth of transferring goods, dwarfing all its competitors with ease. It’s all undoubtedly impressive, even to the extent that renowned aircraft charters like Chapman Freeborn are astounded by it! 

The An-225 history is equally as compelling as the craftsmanship. It was originally designed to transport pieces of the Buran space shuttle, and thereafter enjoyed sporadic, but more varied uses. It became a cargo carrier plane after the USSR collapsed, and has even attracted crowds eager to glimpse the unique plane. Few planes are both so highly efficient and famed to the masses at the same time, meaning it can easily double as a tourist attraction, even featuring at The Paris Air Show in 1989. 

A Second Plane?

While only one plane has been built, another was commissioned to be constructed. However, the assembly was never completed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and consequently, the required funding necessary to see the build through. Additionally, 2014 saw Ukraine deal with revolution and plunge into chaos with Russia; causing the latter to lose a critical supplier in the way of the parts and equipment needed.

Construction has been halted in 1994. Still, with a growing interest in space travel and engineering feats, it’s possible that this resurgence will kickstart another wave of interest in completing the second plane. It’s already been estimated that the plane is 70% complete with all the essential components manufactured – now only the funding is required to go about putting the pieces together!