The world’s largest cargo aircraft | The AN-225 Mriya

Chapman Freeborn is no stranger to seriously weighty cargo charter projects utilising large heavy-lift cargo aircraft, from B747Fs to IL-76s to AN-124s. However, one Soviet-era freighter tops the list – the Antonov An-225 Mriya.

Below, Gerhard Coetzee, Air Cargo Charter Manager for Chapman Freeborn Africa, details some of the facts and figures about this impressive aircraft.

With a maximum payload of over 250 tons and a cargo hold capacity of 1,100 cubic metres, the world’s largest cargo aircraft is the Antonov AN-225.

With a cruise speed of 500mph and a range that enables it to fly for 18 hours without refuelling, the AN-225’s outstanding freight capabilities are still second to none. Measured from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip, the AN-225 is almost the size of a football field. Its six ZMKB Progress Lotarev D-18T turbofan jet engines give sufficient thrust to enable Mriya (Russian for ‘dream’) a max take-off weight (MTOW) of 700 tons. The thrust required to get a plane this size off the ground is huge – in the AN-225’s case a jaw-dropping 51 590 pounds.

Chapman Freeborn has been involved in some seriously large projects utilising the AN-225’s unmatched payload capability, including 232 tons of oil and gas equipment to Abu Dhabi and 140 tons of compressors from South Korea to France. We even oversaw the first ever flight of the AN-225 into South America.

The AN-225’s pressurised cargo compartment is massive with a length of 44.32m, a width of 6.4m and a height of 4.4m.

Even the landing gear on this large aircraft is impressive with 32 wheels to evenly distribute the Antonov AN-225’s weight.

The Antonov AN-225 as a satellite launcher

The largest cargo plane in the world is now back in the space game – helping China to launch its satellites. The Airspace Industry Corporation of China (AICC) has inked a deal with Antonov that will see the design and development of a new type of AN-225 that will have greater lifting capabilities. The Chinese plan to use the AN-225 to carry satellites (on its back) and launch from seven miles (12 000m) into space. The satellite launch industry is worth more than $200 billion, a space race the Chinese are keen to profit from.

Antonov AN-225 Specifications

  • Official Name: AN-225, Mriya
  • Wingspan: 290 ft.
  • Length: 275 ft. 7 in.
  • Height: 59 ft. 8½ in.
  • Cargo Hold: Length: 141 ft.; Width: 21 ft.; Height: 14 ft. 5¼
  • Engines: Six ZMKB Progress Lotarev D-18T turbofans each producing 51,590 lb. of thrust
  • Crew: 7
  • Max Takeoff Weight: 1,322,750 lb.
  • Max Payload: 551,150 lb.
  • Cruising Speed: 497mph
  • Max Speed: 528 mph
  • Range With Max Payload: 2,813 miles
  • Range With Max Fuel: 9,625 miles

Gerhard Coetzee is responsible for African cargo charter operations at Chapman Freeborn Airchartering.

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