Extreme Logistics

Extreme Logistics: The Antonov 225

March 2, 2011
KEYWORDS aircraft / cargo / largest
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The world’s largest cargo plane has been at work for decades and remains an engineering marvel.


The Low-Down:

What weighs 175 tons, is almost as long as a football field and is named Mriya? The Antonov An-225, the largest and the heaviest air cargo jet plane in the world.

Although the An-225 was originally built in 1989 to service the now defunct Soviet Union Space Program, it has played a key role in extreme logistics.

The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1.3 million pounds and a wingspan of 291 feet. Even the Airbus A380 cannot compete when it comes to this monster’s payload.

To distribute the weight of the fully loaded, 6-engine aircraft, the An-225 is equipped with an unusually configured 32-wheel landing gear. Normally, only the nose gear of an aircraft is steerable. But, on the An-225 there are 20 steerable wheels: four in the nose gear and 16 at the rear of the 28-wheel main gear, making the aircraft highly maneuverable.

The An-225 is just as agile in flight thanks to its wide split-tail, which provides extra maneuverability when it carries large exterior loads.

On August 11, 2009, the An-225 set a record when it carried the heaviest single cargo item ever via airfreight-a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia that weighed a whopping 416,900 pounds.

Last June, the An-225 made history again when it flew two new 42-meter wind turbine blades from Tianjin, China to Denmark-the longest piece of air cargo ever flown.

Locomotives, 150-ton generators, and other huge pieces of equipment that were never considered candidates for air cargo have all been carried on the An-225.

The aircraft is also very important to aid relief agencies, given the huge amount of food and supplies it can quickly transport to natural disaster sites. wt

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