The Antonov An-225, originally developed specifically to transport the Buran+spaceplane+, was an enlargement of the successful Antonov An-124+. The first An-225 was completed in 1988 and a second An-225 has been partially completed. The completed An-225 is in commercial operation with Antonov Airlines+ carrying oversized payloads. It holds the absolute world records for an airlifted single item payload of 189,980 kilogram+s (418,834 pounds), and an airlifted total payload of 253,820 kilograms (559,577 pounds).Link: An-225 (An-225-100) "Мрiя" ''Russian Aviation Museum'', 20 October 2001. Retrieved: 31 October 2010. It has also transported a payload of 247,000 kilograms (545,000 pounds) on a commercial flight.
The An-225 first flew on 21 December 1988 with a 74-minute flight from Kiev. The aircraft was on static display at the Paris Air Show+ in 1989 and it flew during the public days at the Farnborough air show+ in 1990. Two aircraft were ordered, but only one An-225 (registration+ CCCP-82060 later UR-82060) was finished. It can carry ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to internally, or on the upper fuselage. Cargo on the upper fuselage can be long.
A second An-225 was partially built during the late 1980s for the Soviet space program+. The second An-225 included a rear cargo door and a redesigned tail with a single vertical stabilizer. It was planned to be more effective for cargo transportation. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the cancellation of the Buran space program, the lone operational An-225 was placed in storage in 1994. The six Ivchenko Progress+ engines were removed for use on An-124s, and the second uncompleted An-225 airframe was also stored. The first An-225 was later re-engined and put into service." Link: Antonov An-225 Mriya (Cossack) Heavy Lift Strategic Long-Range Transport" ''Military Factory'', 23 August 2012. Retrieved: 6 September 2012.
By 2000, the need for additional An-225 capacity had become apparent, so the decision was made in September 2006 to complete the second An-225. The second airframe was scheduled for completion around 2008, then delayed. By August 2009, the aircraft had not been completed and work had been abandoned.Link: "World's largest aircraft, An-225, emerges to set new lift record". Flight International, 17 August 2009. In May 2011 Antonov CEO is reported to have said that the completion of a second An-225 Mriya transport aircraft with a carrying capacity of 250 tons requires at least $300 million, but if the financing is provided, its completion could be achieved in three years.Link: "$300m needed for completion of An-225 transport, says Antonov CEO" According to different sources, the second jet is 60–70% complete.
Based on Antonov's earlier An-124+, the An-225 has fuselage barrel extensions added fore and aft of the wings. The wings also received root extensions to increase span. Two more Ivchenko Progress D-18T+turbofan engine+s were added to the new wing roots, bringing the total to six. An increased-capacity landing gear+ system with 32 wheels was designed, some of which are steerable, enabling the aircraft to turn within a wide runway. Like its An-124 predecessor, the An-225 has nosegear designed to kneel+ so cargo can be more easily loaded and unloaded. The An-124’s rear cargo door and ramp were removed to save weight and the empennage+ was changed from a single vertical stabilizer+ to a twin tail+ with an oversized horizontal stabilizer+. The twin tail was essential to enable the plane to carry large, heavy external loads that would disturb the airflow+ around a conventional tail. Unlike the An-124, the An-225 was not intended for tactical airlifting+ and is not designed for short-field operation+.
Initially the 225 had a maximum gross weight of but the aircraft underwent modifications from 2000 to 2001, at a cost of US$20M, with a reinforced floor that increased the maximum gross weight to .Forward, David C: ''Antonov's Dream Machine'', p. 23. Airways magazine, June 2004Spaeth, Andreas: ''When size matters'', p. 29. Air International magazine, December 2009Gordon, Yefim; Dmitriy and Sergey Komissarov: "The Six-Engined Dream", page 76. ''Antonov's Heavy Transports: The An-22, An-124/225 and An-70''. Midland, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-182-2.
Both the earlier and later takeoff weights establish the An-225 as the world's heaviest aircraft, being heavier than the double-deck Airbus A380+ even though Airbus plans to surpass the An-225's maximum landing weight with for the A380. The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter+ has a bigger cargo hold at 1,840m3 (65,000 cubic feet). The Hughes H-4 Hercules+, known as the "Spruce Goose", had a greater wingspan and a greater overall height, but was 20% shorter, and due to the materials used in its construction, also lighter. In addition, the Spruce Goose flew only once, making the An-225 the largest aircraft in the world to fly multiple times.
As the Soviet space program was in its last years, the An-225 was employed as the prime method of transporting the Buran Shuttle+.
In the late 1970s, efforts were begun by the Soviet government to generate revenue from its military assets. In 1989, a holding company was set up by the Antonov Design Bureau as a heavy airlift shipping corporation under the name "Antonov Airlines+", based in Kiev+, Ukraine and operating from London Luton Airport+ in partnership with the Air Foyle HeavyLift+.
The company initiated operations with a fleet of four An-124-100s and three Antonov An-12+s, but by the late 1990s a need for aircraft larger than the An-124 became apparent. In response, the original An-225 was re-engined, modified for heavy cargo transport, and placed back in service under the management of Antonov Airlines.
On 23 May 2001, the An-225 received its type certificate from the Interstate Aviation Committee Aviation Register (IAC AR). On 11 September 2001, carrying 4 main battle tanksLink: An-225 (An-225-100) "Мрiя" ''Russian Aviation Museum'', 20 October 2001. Retrieved: 31 October 2010. at a record load of of cargo, at a speed of .
The type's first flight in commercial service departed from Stuttgart, Germany+ on 3 January 2002, and flew to Thumrait, Oman+ with 216,000 prepared meals for American military personnel based in the region. This vast number of ready meals was transported on some 375 pallets and weighed 187.5 tons.
The An-225 has since become the workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet, transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as locomotives and 150-ton generators. It has become an asset to international relief organizations for its ability to quickly transport huge quantities of emergency supplies during disaster relief operations.
The An-225 has been contracted by the Canadian and U.S. governments to transport military supplies to the Middle East in support of Coalition forces. In November 2004, FAI+ placed the An-225 in the Guinness Book of Records+ for its 240 records. An example of the cost of shipping cargo by An-225 was over 2 million DKK+ (approx. €266,000) for flying a chimney duct from Denmark+ to Kazakhstan+ in 2008.Link: Steelcon News. steelcon.com. Retrieved: 13 June 2010.