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trailer world Issue One 2012

    Issue One 2012  33 The Antonov-124 – known as the Rus- lan – has in the past twenty years become a familiar workhorse in the air cargo industry, carrying loads of up to 120 tonnes or 36 metres long. But there are some loads that are too big even for the AN-124 – giant wind turbine blades, gas generators – and for these only the AN-124’s big brother, the AN-225 will do. Longer than AN-124 (with a cargo compartment of 43 metres versus 36 metres) and able to carry up to 250 tonnes, the AN-225 Mriya -which means “Dream” in Ukranian - is the largest aircraft in operation in the world. The one and only The word “unique” is one that is over-used these days, but in the AN-225’s case it is literally true. The aircraft was commissioned from the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukraine in the 1980s to carry Buran, the Soviet space shuttle, and related rocket boost- ers and space station components for the Energia space programme. Two aircraft were planned, but only one had been completed before the En- ergia programme was cancelled due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. That aircraft first flew on 21 December 1988, and - with the Buran space shuttle on its back – appeared at the Paris Air Show in 1989. But by 1994 it had been mothballed, with its engines and other parts cannibal- ised for use on AN-124s. The commercial success of the AN-124 made Antonov realise the potential of the AN-225, however, and with funding de- rived from the AN-124 business, the air- craft was brought back into service. It flew again on 7 May 2001, and received its cer- tification at the Paris Air Show the same year. The first commercial flight of the AN- 225 was in December 2001 from Stuttgart to Oman. Apart from breaks for planned maintenance, it has remained in service ever since, and has brought the benefits of air car- go to a whole new category of shippers. Expensive flight, but helps save costs Valery Kulbaka, commercial director for Antonov Airlines, says customers have various different reasons for using the AN-225. Sometimes it is because they are moving one single large item that is too big for other aircraft, but sometimes the AN-225 is preferred because it can move several smaller items in one load, rather than requiring several char- Despite the aircraft’s immense size, this oversize load only fitted with 30 milimetres clearance. Photos:MichaelPenner,AntonovAirlines Air