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.