Antonov An-225 Mriya: The Plane With 32 Wheels
The Antonov 225 “Mriya” is the world’s biggest cargo plane that weighs around 285 tons when empty and is even bigger than the Airbus A380 airliner, the An-124, and the Boeing 747 Freighter. The sole purpose of the Myria is to carry cargo for large distances. It is powered by six Ivchenko Progress Lotarev D-18T engines, each of which can produce a maximum thrust of 229,500N, and is the heaviest aircraft ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tons.
The Antonov An-225 was designed to airlift the Energia rocket’s boosters and the Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program. It was developed as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T. The An-225’s original mission and objectives are almost identical to that of the United States Shuttle Carrier Aircraft which carried Space Shuttles and rocket boosters for NASA. The beast holds numerous records such as airlifting a total payload of 559,577 pounds which is the equivalent weight of 243 Cessna 172s at max gross weight. And that in 2009, the An-225 carried the heaviest single cargo item ever sent through the air: a 417,000-pound generator for a gas power plant in Armenia. The Antonov An-225 is a true monster of the skies.
In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union had a problem — its rockets were too big. In order to fit the huge rockets, the Soviet Union’s designers and engineers had to go big, and sure they did. With a wingspan of 290 ft and a length of 275 ft, makes the An-225 has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service. The wings are anhedral and the fuselage has barrel extensions added fore and aft of the wings. It also has split vertical stabilizers unlike any other aircraft that provide directional stability along the flight path and are much more effective at high angles of attack than conventional single or multiple vertical stabilizers. The An-225’s pressurized cargo is so huge that the Wright Brothers could have completed their first flight right inside the cargo space with space still remaining. The An-225 had several modifications in the coming years which increased speed, payload, and distance.
It is no doubt that this plane literally eats all the cargo up. From military tanks to trains, no object seems too big for the An-225. Need to FedEx a train across the globe? Check. 50 cars? Check. Wind turbine blades? Check. A military tank? Check. One huge airplane? Check.
The aircraft is fitted with a 32-wheel landing gear system. The nose landing gear features four wheels in the front fuselage section. The rear fuselage constitutes 16 dirigible wheels out of 28 tires fitted to the main landing gear. The aircraft can take a full turn on a 60m wide runway.
The Mriya’s cockpit is located above the main cargo bay to give the aircraft as much capacity as possible for freight. Having been built during the Soviet era when aircraft technology was still developing, the antiquated cockpit is cavernous and requires pilots and extra flight engineers to operate the plane. Four flight engineers, with two on each side of the cockpit, monitor the countless instruments and gauges to ensure the aging plane is functioning safely. The panels of the cockpit are painted green in the typical Soviet-style found on many airliners and cargo birds. The cockpit is unlike any modern airliner for obvious reasons but is still preferred by many for having manual controls, switches, gauges, buttons, and much more.
Here To Stay
Unfortunately, there is only one operational Antonov An-225 in the world. Today, the An-225 is still proving useful in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. On April 13, 2020, the old Soviet aircraft delivered 100 tons of medical supplies to Warsaw, Poland, becoming the largest air cargo transport by volume in history, even 31 years later, the An-225 is still breaking records. This colossal is here to stay with retirement planned by the 2030s. So next time your city’s airport is in luck to welcome the An-225, I suggest you don’t miss it as every year, hundreds of people travel the world just to glimpse one particular airplane.
- http://www.aerospace-technology.com – Antonov 225
- https://www.businessinsider.com/antonov-an-225-mriya-worlds-largest-cargo-plane-history-details-2020-4 (Cover photo)