May 17, 2022

Back to the Antonov AN-225: the best of Ukraine

DALLAS In the 1980s, Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov Design Bureau was commissioned to produce an aircraft that could carry the Russian space shuttle Buran for the Soviet space program.

The Antonov AN-225 Mriya (Dream) was built for this task. It was built to replace the MyasishcheVM-T, which was a four-engined T-tail aircraft.

There were only two VM-Ts ever built, and they operated from 1982 to 1989. In that year, the Antonov 225, the largest aircraft in the world, would become their replacement.

Both planes began operating for the Soviet space program, ferrying rockets and other large space vehicles to and from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, home to the Soviet space program.

PHOTO: Dmitry Pichugin

The first flight of the Mriya

The first flight of the Antonov AN-225 took place on December 21, 1988. It took off from Kiev for a 74-minute test flight. The following year, the aircraft was presented at the Paris Air Show on static display and then at the Farnborough Air Show in 1990, where it flew on public days.

Two AN-225s were initially ordered. However, only one aircraft was fully built. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the second aircraft was only partially built and then put into storage.

PHOTO: Sergei Kustov

A new life as a cargo plane

During the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the only operational AN-225 was stored in 1994, where its six Ivchenko-Progress D-18T turbofans were removed for use on the smaller Antonov 124 aircraft.

However, soon after it became clear that a larger cargo aircraft than the Antonov 124 was needed for more abnormal cargo loads, the first operational Antonov 225 was re-engined and returned to commercial service.

On May 23, 2001, the AN-225 received its type certification from the Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register (IAC AR), and later that year, in September, the type flew a record load of four tanks main fighters at a weight of 253.82 tons.

The juggernaut retained its 1980s-style cockpit, but received some upgrades, such as new autopilot and navigation systems, to keep up with the ever-changing aviation industry and allow it to fly in IFR conditions. (instrument flight rules) modern.

Antonov Airlines UR-82060 Antonov An-225 Mriya. Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways

A one-of-a-kind show

Every time the 225 flies, airport crowds gather in the thousands just to watch the plane arrive or depart due to its immense size and uniqueness, especially since there are none only one.

However, in August 2016, representatives of the Antonov Design Bureau and the Airspace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) signed an agreement to resume production of the AN-225 and fly the first model in 2019, but unfortunately , due to the ongoing Ukraine-Russia. conflict, the required parts were not available at the time. However, they could be produced in China instead.

The aircraft was licensed to carry cargo loads up to a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 640 tons up to a distance of 15,400 kilometers, or 8,351 nautical miles, with a service ceiling of 36,000 feet. (ft).

The 225’s Progress D-18T turbofans, sometimes known as Lotarev D-18Ts, produced 51,670 pounds of thrust and weighed 4.1 tons each. These particular motors are manufactured by Motor Sich in ZaporizhiaUkraine.

I’ve only seen the Antonov 225 once myself, that was in 2013 at Manchester Airport (MAN), UK, and in my opinion the photographs don’t do it justice the size of this plane.

When the AN-225 visited MAN, it passed the largest mass-produced passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, which looked tiny compared to the Antonov equipment.

The AN-225 continues to be one of the greatest feats of engineering in the aviation industry, which makes its loss, without diminishing the significance of the lives lost, more dismal during the current invasion of the Ukraine by Russian forces.

Antonov Design Bureau UR-82060 Perspective of the Antonov AN-225 engine. Photo: Christian Winter/Airways

The Battle of Hostelel

Earlier this week, the Antonov 225 Mriya was destroyed by Russian forces in Ukraine. The Mriya was the largest aircraft in the world, the only one of its kind ever built.

Russia attacked Ukraine on Thursday morning last week. The invasion began with missile strikes in major cities on Ukrainian infrastructure, followed by a ground invasion from Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern borders.

Antonov Air Base in Hostomel, which was attacked by Russian helicopters and paratroopers on Thursday night in what is now called the Battle of Antonov Airport, aka the Battle of Hostomel, was the one of the first major hotspots. At the time, Russian Ka-52 and Mi8 helicopters could be seen heading towards the airport on the outskirts of Kiev in videos posted on the internet.

Since the news broke, more images have surfaced showing huge smoke billowing from Mriya’s hangar, followed by footage showing the aircraft badly damaged. The Mriya was destroyed.

Photo: Antonov Design Bureau

Will there be another?

While Antonov only built one AN-225, a second airframe is still intact and owned by the company near Kiev, Ukraine. The second airframe was partially built for the Soviet space program in the late 1980s, but was never completed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the cancellation of the Buran (Russian space shuttle) program .

In 2021, Antonov’s parent company UkrOboronProm announced it was looking for a foreign investor to help launch the project, with Turkey in its sights. However, the status of the project remained unknown.

In response to the downing of the AN-225, UkrOboronProm issued a statement saying, “The Russians are destroying the An-225 ‘Mriya’. It will be restored at the expense of the occupant.

Featured Image: Antonov Airlines (UR-82060) Antonov An-225 Mriya. Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways. History updated by Helwing Villamizar. For more information on the AN-225, visit Chapman Freeborn.