10 facts about the world’s largest aircraft

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  • January 12, 2016
The Antonov AN-225 – the world’s biggest aircraft

Built in order to transport Soviet Union space shuttles, the Antonov AN-225 is the world’s largest aircraft to date, and with just one in existence, is a rare feat of gigantic engineering excellence. Oversized aircraft are simply fascinating, and it doesn’t get any bigger than the AN-225, also known as the Myria, so we’ve put together ten facts about this giant of aviation.

  • The team in charge of building the AN-225 were given just three years to build it. Construction began in 1985, with the finished product just about ready on time, with the aircraft making its maiden voyage in December 1988. The design process was also shortened due to the aircraft being based on its smaller sibling, the Antonov 124.
  • Within months of its first flight, it had broken over a hundred records, though to date has now set approximately 240 world records. These include transporting the world’s heaviest cargo (253 tons) and transporting the world’s longest cargo (42.1m).
  • Though the aircraft was not built to transport passengers, if converted, the AN-225 would have the capacity to transport around 1500 people – three times the capacity of the world’s largest passenger jet.
  • Built as part of the Buran space programme, there were plans to in fact build two of these aircraft, though the second remains only partially constructed. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, plans ceased to complete building the second, while the future of the first model was also in doubt. In the mid-1990s, the AN-225 was kept in storage with its unfinished counterpart, remaining there until the 2000s, when international need arose for the transportation of heavy equipment, including generators and equipment for aeronautical maintenance.
  • In order to operate, the AN-225 relies on six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines, with the landing system using 32 wheels.
  • With the help of a fuel tank which can hold up to 300,000kg of fuel, the Myria has a maximum speed of 850km/h.
  • The AN-225 has also been used in a number of humanitarian operations, including delivering generators to Samoa after it was struck by a tsunami, as well as transporting large machinery for redevelopment in Haiti, following its devastating earthquake.
  • The Myria cost roughly $300m to build – three times the amount it took to build its smaller counterpart, the AN-124 Ruslan.
  • Though the aircraft largely operates in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries, it has also visited several other countries not only for transportation but also for air shows, including the UK, Canada, France, China and Brazil.
  • The aircraft features an extremely spacious cargo compartment, with a length of 43.32m, width of 6.4m and height of 4.4m – enough to carry 16 aeronautical containers or 50 cars. It also takes around 10 minutes for the cargo loading ramp to raise and store itself following the loading of the aircraft.

Image: RHL Images, available under Creative Commons

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