Antonov An-225 Mriya: The Biggest Plane Ever
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Antonov An-225 Mriya: The Biggest Plane Ever

The Antonov An-225 has been the largest plane in existence since 1988, but it has recently been dethroned by Airbus' new model in its stretch and cargo versions: the A380.

The Soviet Union had a difficult time keeping up with the economic potential of the Western world, so it often failed to keep up to the massive defense spending and economic exploits of the United States. After Sputnik and Yuri Gregarin gave Russia some initial space victories, the superpower was quickly unable to marshal enough economic resources to compete with the West. One exception, however, was the An-225, a super-heavy cargo plane constructed in the Ukraine that dwarfed all other aircraft formerly created. The An-225 Mriya (translated: "Dream") was created in mind for the Buran space program, and is pictured here with the Buran shuttle piggybacked upon it. In this fashion, it was similar in role to the Boeing 747, which was designed to carry the Space Shuttle. Its takeoff weight, however, can reach a maximum weight of 1.3 million pounds, which dwarfs the maximum takeoff weight of the 747 at 900,000 pounds. The Mriya also has an impressive array of 32 wheels to carry the immense cargo potential of the aircraft.

Since the end of the Cold War, the singular example of the An-225 has been contracted out to the highest bidder for extreme heavy cargo lifting operations. The third link below posts a rough schedule of the aircraft's operation, as it flies around the world to various locations to ferry cargo that smaller planes are incapable of carrying. The aircraft can be found flying to locations as far afield as Qandahar Airport in Afghanistan, the continental United States, Hawaii, and Fort-de-France, Martinique, where the aircraft was delivering generators for Hurricane Dean relief. Interestingly, while the aircraft is certainly the heaviest on record and boasts the largest cargo-carrying capacity, it is not the tallest, nor does it have the largest wingspan. Both of these distinctions belong to the abysmal multimillion dollar failure of the "Spruce Goose", a wooden creation by eccentric inventor Howard Hughes designed to carry approximately 750 battle-ready soldiers. The Goose flew once for approximately one mile, and then was retired and never flew again.

The An-225 has a cult following amongst aviation enthusiasts, and YouTube amateur video footage can be seen of the gigantic aircraft taking off from various airports. Its unique large twin vertical tail design and six-engine configuration make it extremely recognizable. The recent movie "2012" featured the aircraft in the midst of the scenes of carnage and chaos carrying a number of exotic automobiles. The Mriya has already been dethroned by a new giant, however: the Airbus A 380, which in cargo and stretch versions can exceed the maximum take-off weight of the An-225. The stretch version is able to seat an unheard-of 900 passengers in economy configuration. A number of airlines are interested in the new aircraft, which will boast a greatly decreased fuel usage per passenger over all other airliners, and will hopefully translate into a reduced cost per passenger at ticket booths.

SOURCES

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buran_on_An-225_%28Le_Bourget_1989%29_1.JPEG

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/design/q0188.shtml

http://www.air-and-space.com/Antonov%20An-225%20Mriya.htm

http://www.airliners.net/aircraft-data/stats.main?id=389

http://stagev4.airbus.com/en/aircraftfamilies/a380/a380f/specifications.html

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Comments (4)
Spottert

I spotted the beast in Amsterdam!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pvgg/2642314900/

Peter

Nice article, I also found another page about the http://www.buran-energia.com/mriya-antonov/mriya-desc.php">Mriya here: http://www.buran-energia.com/mriya-antonov/mriya-desc.php

Excellent and well presented article.

Thank you!

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