As lightweight composite materials and advanced aviation technology enable larger aircraft to take to the skies, it’s interesting to note that the largest airplane in the history of aviation, measured by maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is Ukraine’s Antonov An-225 Mriya. Designed in the 1980s by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau, the airplane took its first flight on December 21, 1988. It was featured at the Paris Air Show in 1989, as well as the Farnborough air show in 1990, where it demonstrated its capabilities by taking-off and landing with the Soviet Buran – an orbital vehicle similar to the renowned US Space Shuttle – on board.
The An-225 was specifically designed to transport the Soviet Buran spacecraft, and when the Soviet space program was abandoned in the 1990s the airplane was put into storage for a time, but later reinstated into service as a cargo jet. With its 46,000 cubic feet (1,300 cubic meters) of cargo space the An-225 is capable of transporting five military tanks, or 50 automobiles, over a distance of 3,000 miles. In September 2001, the An-25 took off carrying 4 battle tanks recorded at 253.82 tons, flying at an altitude of 6,600 feet over a distance of 620 miles at an average speed of 474.2 mph.
With a 640 ton gross weight, the An-225 it is acknowledged to be the heaviest aircraft in the world, and it has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.32 million pounds, or 600,000 kilograms. By comparison the Airbus A380 can take off carrying around 1.24 million pounds, the heaviest of all passenger aircraft.
The An-225’s first commercial flight was in January 2002, flying from Stuttgart, Germany, to Thumrait, Oman, where it delivered 216,000 prepared meals to American military personnel. It has since been employed in transporting emergency supplies to disaster struck areas, and delivering items such as locomotives, massive generators and a range of military supplies. It has transported the heaviest single cargo item ever airfreighted – a generator weighing 420,000 pounds to an Armenian power plant, as well as the longest piece of air cargo ever delivered – two 42-meter wind turbine blades from Tianjin in China to Denmark. In March 2012 it was used to transport equipment from Calgary in Canada to Nigeria that would previously have been sent by sea. The equipment was urgently needed to prevent dangerous gas flaring in Nigeria’s oil industry. The An-225 appeared in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records for 240 record-setting achievements. The An-225 is one-of-a-kind, with a second airplane started but reportedly never completed.
It was a day the entire team had been waiting for. The Antonov An-148 lifted off from a runway in Russia, and successfully performed the tasks required during its forty-one minute flight. On its maiden flight, the Antonov An-148 climbed to five thousand meters and maintained speeds of just less than five hundred and fifty-five kilometers per hour. This magnificent collaboration between Russia and Ukraine has produced a new aircraft that has already begun to make a massive impression on the aviation industry.
The Antonov An-148 aircraft is a jet aircraft that was designed by the Antonov Design Bureau, which is located in Ukraine. Construction took place at the VASO Aircraft Factory in Russia, combining the efforts of both teams, to be able to see the Antonov An-148 take to the skies. Production on the aircraft soon began and in June 2009, the An-148 began flying domestic flights for Aerosvit Airlines in Ukraine.
Its unique design, allows the Antonov An-148 to fly to airports few other aircraft would be able to. The twin jet turbine engines which are located under the wing of the An-148 drive the high wing monoplane into flight, and this unusual configuration offers protection to both the wing and the engines. The design of the wing along with the auxiliary power unit, also assists the aircraft to land at airports that are not as technologically advanced as those found in the bigger cities. Equipped with the latest navigational systems, fly-by-wire equipment and multifunctional displays creates a very reliable aircraft that is able to fly safely through a variety of weather conditions. Depending on the seat pitch installed in the Antonov An-148, the aircraft is able to accommodate between seventy to eighty passengers and two crew members. It has a cruising speeding of between eight hundred and twenty to eight hundred and seventy kilometers per hour and has a maximum take off distance of one thousand seven hundred and fifty meters. Orders for the new Antonov An-148 aircraft have come in from Cuba, Iran, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, confirming the success of the aircraft and the success of the designers and construction team.
Cargo aircraft refers to an airplane designed principally for use in carrying goods or freight, either for commercial use or military. Cargo aircraft may be classified according to its range, i.e. short-, medium- and long-range, with different sizes being utilized.
Features of cargo aircraft vary according to their purpose. Some cargo planes have been developed exclusively for use by the military, whilst others have been developed for commercial transport. A substantial number of cargo aircraft are modified airliners whilst others have developed from military transport airplanes.
The Antonov An-72 Coaler transport and cargo plane was developed for the Russian military, and some details about the airplane (including its original cost) remain unknown today. The first prototype of the An-72 was flown in 1977, and it was designed to replace the An-26 transport aircraft. In 1985, two versions of the An-72 airplane were ready to go into production. One version was the An-72, and the other, designed to handle harsh polar conditions, was the An-74. The An-74 is equipped with avionics that can endure extreme cold and the wings feature de-icing equipment. The plane has skis in place of wheels for landing on ice and snow.
The most unique feature of both the An-72 and the An-74 is the use of engine exhaust gases which are directed over the wing to boost lift and increase its Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) characteristics. This is possible because the two turbofan engines are placed forward and above the high mounted wings. Other factors contribute to its STOL capability, include slotted outboard wing flaps and leading edge flaps. As with many planes modified or designed for bush operations, the An-72 has heavy-duty landing gear and uses low-pressure tires. Combined, these features make the airplane capable of operating not only on short runways, but on those that are unpaved, icy, or snowy. Such conditions are not uncommon in military and remote operations, as well as in third-world countries where paved and maintained runways are not always available.
The An-72 continues to fly for the Soviet military and is part of several civil aviation companies’ fleets, including Aeroflot. The aircraft remains in active production. A rear fuselage loading ramp enables convenient loading of large-sized cargo and allows for airdropping. Additionally, passengers can ride in the folding side seats.
Maximum speed: 435.6 mph.
Cruising speed: 600 kilometers per hour, or 325 knots per hour.
Ceiling: 38,715 feet.
Range: 2,590 nautical miles.
Engines: Two Lotarev ZMKB Progress D-36 turbofans.
Crew: Two pilots and one fight engineer. Radio operator is optional.
Armament: Four 220 lb bombs, UB-23M rocket launcher, and one 23mm gun pod.
When European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. (EADS) first announced plans to manufacture the Airbus A380-800, it was projected to be the world’s largest passenger airline. Its freight-carrying offshoot, the A380-800F, would be second in payload size only to the Antonov An-225.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has hired a Russian company to haul oversized freight in the Antonov An-124, a Soviet-era aircraft, and the world’s largest jet. Volga-Dnepr, the plane’s manufacturer, is trying to raise the money needed to restart production of the aircraft which was halted in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time, only 56 of the An-124s had been completed.