Despite being a civilian super-heavy transport aircraft today, the Antonov An-225 Mriya has a NATO reporting name "Cossack". Its Russian "Mriya" is Russian for "dream" or "inspiration." The Antonov An-225 was designed and built in the twilight years of the USSR and first flew in 1988. It was built in Ukraine and today remains based there. It has the distinction of being the heaviest aircraft ever built.
The Antonov An-225 Mriya was designed as a strategic airlift cargo aircraft and also boasts the largest wingspan of any aircraft operational today. Today it stands (or flies) as a living reminder of the superb engineering of the Soviet Union and even their developed space program.
Here is what we forgot about the An-225 - the largest aircraft in the world.
8 Only One Ever Built
Only one An-225 was ever built. The program was canceled following the collapse of the USSR and all future aircraft were canceled - the An-225 itself was lucky not to be scrapped.
So today it flies in the sky alone and unique. It is one-of-a-kind — a very uncommon situation for a commercial aircraft.
7 It Has An Unfinished Sister
While the An-225 Miyra is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, it was never intended to be. It has a 60-70% complete sister who has been sitting unfinished for many years now since funds ran out following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Antonov has hoped to finish off this second airplane and has made sure the unfinished plane is taken care of. They have been adamant about not scrapping it. Although having sat there for so long, many of the parts and plastics probably perished and would need to be replaced.
6 The Sister May Yet Be Completed
There have been persistent rumors about the second aircraft being finished and being brought into service. In 2016 there were reports about Antonov completing this plane and commencing serial production with Chinese investment. However, the Russia-Ukraine conflict complicated the situation and nothing much has been heard of that since.
In 2021, there were more reports that Antonov would complete this second giant as they are still looking for investors to enable them to finish the project. The company said, “(it) is currently having active talks with several countries regarding the development of Ukrainian aircraft fleet” and also specifically mentioned the An-225. Time will tell if this behemoth will ever get off the ground.
5 It Carried The Space-shuttle
Perhaps one of the coolest things about this aircraft is that it was actually designed to carry the Buran-class orbiters (i.e. the Soviet space shuttle) as well as the Engergia rocket's boosters. One of the most iconic pictures ever from the Soviet space program is the Antonov An-225 carrying the Buran spacecraft.
In this role as space shuttle carrier, it was the Soviet counterpart to the American Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (a modified Boeing 747). The Soviet space launch site is in what is today Kazakhstan.
4 The Engines
The Antonov An-225 has six engines, but those engines are not the original Ivchenko-Progress engines it was produced with.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its engines were stripped from it and fitted onto the smaller and more numerous An-124s. The An-124 is another huge cargo transport aircraft built by Antonov and has had 55 units built.
3 Specializes In Heavy Lift Cargo
Today, the Antonov An-225 is a specialist super heavy-lift cargo plane that is hired to carry heavy or bulky cargo around the world. It is in such a specialist role that most of the time it just sits idle, not having any jobs to fulfill. So when it is hired it certainly isn't cheap.
The An-225 is a record-breaker. In fact, it has broken multiple world records, including the world record for the heaviest airlifted single item payload coming in at a hefty 189,980 kg or some 418,830 lb. Additionally, it has the record for the heaviest total payload ever having carried 253,820 kg or 559,580 lbs of cargo.
2 It Was Mothballed
The An-225 was mothballed during the 1990s following the collapse of the USSR and the chaos and severe economic contraction that followed. After some seven to eight years of being mothballed, it was given an extensive reconditioning overhaul and brought back into service.
Its overhaul was completed in 2001, and it once again became available for super heavy lifting. According to its mother company, Antonov, in September 2001 the "(An-225) Mriya set 124 world and 214 national speed, altitude, and weight-to-altitude records."
1 Based On The An-124
The An-225 is based on the An-124 which is also a large strategic airlift aircraft designed by the Soviet Union in what is today Ukraine. For thirty years the A-124 held the world's record for the heaviest gross weight production cargo airplane as well as the second in heaviest operational cargo aircraft - behind only the An-225 itself.
The An-225 has six engines the An-124 has four. In terms of production, the An-124 has been much more successful with some 55 aircraft being produced to the An-225 one (for now at least). Another fact about the An-124 is that it remains the largest military transport aircraft in service today.
In summary, the An-225 Mriya is the lone, one-of-a-kind king of the cargo skies.