On Sunday, May 15, 2016, just before 12:00 P.M. local time, the Antonov An-225 Mriya landed in Australia. It was the first time it had come to Australia and aviation enthusiasts gathered in the tens of thousands to see its historic touchdown. The world’s largest plane arrival at the Perth Airport contributed to major traffic congestion, as one of the city’s major roads, the Tonkin Highway, became overloaded prior to the event.
The crowds eagerly waiting for the plane to arrive waited much longer than planned; as it was delayed by nearly two hours. The plane had scheduled stops to refuel across the Middle East and Asia. Its final leg was the 4,067 kilometer journey from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. The plane was carrying a 117-ton generator from Prague. In fact, it is the record-holder for carrying the most cargo weight ever by air.
What has captured the imaginations of many is the combination of its size and the variety of impressive cargo that it has transported. Its heaviest load was 253 tons, which according to Aviation WA president David Eyre was four Russian military tanks. Its longest load was a turbine blade that was 42 meters long. Eyre noted that it has carried disaster relief supplies for humanitarian missions, as well. Its ability to carry so much at one time has made it a valuable support when disasters strike.
The crowd gathered for its Perth arrival were there for different reasons. They began to arrive early in the morning, hoping to get a good view of the aircraft. There was a chain link separating them from the landing strip, but they pressed against it, as if wishing to see better would make the fence disappear.
The weather had not been good early in the day, with people waiting in the rain. But just hours before the Antonov landed, the skies cleared and sunshine prevailed. Many brought their young children to see the plane. Both parents and children alike had never seen such a huge airplane. It felt like the chance of a lifetime, and this brought a lot of excitement to the crowd.
Some enthusiasts had been chasing planes to watch them land for years. For them, this was not the first time to see a large plane. But, this one was rare, and they had not seen it yet. Some were surprised that its landing was graceful and not as loud as they had expected. Some compared it to the landing of a 747, and felt that this plane was not as loud. The expected level of sound was a key factor contributing to people’s curiosity.
Some people drove hours to get to Perth to see the airplane’s arrival. One woman drove for 7 hours to be able to see the spectacle. She had anticipated its amazing landing, and came to see an airplane that was bigger than she had ever seen before.
From the general public’s viewpoint, the Antonov, has an exciting presence. It has the largest wingspan of any plan operating, and it is the heaviest and longest aircraft that has ever been built. The plane has six engines, it has two tails, and it is impressive to see such a huge thing flying. It is capable of carrying more than 200 tons of cargo; with locomotives being some of the more mind-boggling items.
To keep things in perspective, the Mriya is smaller than the Hughes H-4 Hercules aka the Spruce Goose, but larger than the Airbus A380-800 and the Boeing 747-8.
- The Antonov was built to carry the Russian space shuttle “Buran”.
- Mriya means “Dream” in the Ukranian language.
- It was designed and constructed from 1984 to 1988.
- Its official class is described as a transport airlifter.
- When empty, without fuel, it weighs 175 tons.
- When fully loaded, with crew, it can hold up to 600 tons.
- Maximum take-off weight is 600 tons.
- It has a crew of 6.
- It is 84 meters long.
- It has a wingspan of 88.4 meters.
- Its wing area is 905 square meters
- It is 18.1 meters tall.
- Its cargo hold volume is 1, 255 cbm (L 43.35m, W 6.4m, H 4.4m)
- Its power plant is 6 X AMKB Progress D -18 turbofans, 229.5 kNeach
- Its flight range, with a 200-ton payload, is 4,000 km.
The Mriya’s Mission
The Mriya was created to complete a variety of missions. These include:
- Transportation of large, long and heavy cargoes weighing up to 250 tons
- Provide non-stop international airlift of cargoes weighing from 180 to 200 tons
- Complete intercontinental airlift for cargoes weighing up to 150 tons
- Transportation of single, large, heavy items weighing up to 200 tons on the external store
The Mriya served as the first stage in the aerial launch of the Energiya space ship, which propelled the Bouran space shuttle, weighing 170 tons into orbit. The Mriya was put to work transporting various parts of both the carrier rocket and the space ship. Some of these parts had projected lengths of 60 meters and diameter of 8 meters. The transportation range was also a lengthy 1500 to 2500 km. The orbiting space shuttle, Bouran needed delivery from various landing spots, so Mriya was initially required to provide transportation within the system.
Mriya supported Buran for 14 flights, totaling 28 hours and 27 minutes. The two, in tandem, traveled from various climatic zones in the USSR, including Akhtoubinsk, Baikonour, Borispol, Chkalovskaya, Gostomel, Khabarosvsk, Vnukovo and Yelizovo. When the USSR government collapsed, funding for the space shuttle program utilizing Bouran, Energiya and Mriya was terminated.
The Mriya underwent a modernization project beginning in 2000. The goal was to prepare the airplane for transporting commercial cargoes. Antonov Airlines needed an aircraft which could carry heavier loads than its current planes could handle. The Mriya passed certification testing and was certified to perform commercial operations on May 23, 2001. It is now an integral part of the Antonov Airlines commercial fleet.
Mriya is capable of carrying many large cargoes. Some examples of its capacity include:
- Sixteen standard UAC -10 aeronautical containers
- 50 cars
- Single item cargoes up to 200 tons
- Dump trucks, generators, turbines such as Belaz, Euclid, Kamatsu and other similar brands
The Mriya’s cargo compartment is pressurized. The forward cargo door is designed for quick loading and unloading. Unique cargoes fit outside the fuselage. The cargoes can be secured to the fuselage.
Mriya holds 240 world transportation records for the heaviest cargoes.
Mriya also has performed several delivery flights on humanitarian missions:
- Delivering generators to Samoa’s Satala electric station damaged by the tsunami
- Delivering construction machinery including bulldozers, loaders, truck and tractors to Haiti after the massive earthquake
- Delivery of humanitarian cargoes, generators and supplies to Japan, under order of French government
- Delivery of support supplies contracted by Canada and the US governments to coalition forces in the Middle East
In 2009, the aircraft was upgraded to extend its lifetime by 25 years. Researchers hope to use Mriya as part of commercial space launches of useful cargoes. The Mriya may serve as the first stage delivery aircraft in a complex commercial launch system. The hope is that both manned and unmanned flights will eventually deliver useful cargoes into orbit.
Because the Mriya can transport items previously thought impossible to deliver by air, the plane has been used extensively. One sample cost for one delivery from Denmark to Kazakhstan was approximately €266,000. The Mriya costs $250 million. There are two AN-25 aircraft in the Antonov fleet.
Though the Ukraine is close to bankruptcy, Antonov has kept up relationships with Russia and has propelled the Ukraine into leadership in terms of the world’s cargo planes. It’s reputation for the best cargo planes on the planet is owned by Antonov, and for this reason the company is able to command high prices for its chartered cargo services. The company may have recently sold two Mriyas to China. But, regardless of how many aircraft it may or may not have sold, its dominance in the heavy duty cargo transport field remains secure.