In April 1986, Antonov Company received a request from the Government of the USSR for the transportation of a wheel of a hydro turbine, measuring some 6 m in diameter and weighing 80 tons. The wheel had to be urgently delivered from Kharkiv in Ukraine to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for construction of the Tash-Kumyr Hydroelectric Power Station. Although the aircraft was not equipped with a loading system at that time, the government’s task was successfully completed. It was the first time that outsize and super-heavy cargo was transported by air. After the flight, the development of specialised loading equipment for the AN-124 aircraft began. Thanks to this equipment, the transportation of super-heavy single pieces and new world records in airlift have continued.
The AN-225 was originally developed to transport the Energiya carrier-rocket and Buran space shuttle between space facilities in the former Soviet Union. It made its first flight on December 21, 1988.
The AN-225 entered commercial service in 2001. Since then, it has operated flights all over the world carrying cargoes such as electrical transformers and mobile power generators. It also continues to support worldwide peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
The aircraft’s service life has been extended, meaning that the AN-225 will remain in operation until at least 2033.
Based on Antonov's AN-124 design, the AN-225 saw fuselage barrel extensions added fore and aft of the wings. The An-225 also uses the AN-124-100’s nose gear, which allows it to ‘kneel’ so that cargo can be easily loaded and unloaded. However, unlike the AN-124-100, which has a rear cargo door and ramp, the AN-225’s empennage design was changed from a single vertical stabilizer, to a twin tail with an oversized, swept-back horizontal stabilizer. This twin tail enabled the aircraft to carry large, heavy external loads, which would normally disturb the airflow around a conventional tail.
The AN-225’s cargo compartment can be pressurized, extending the aircraft’s transport capabilities. Its onboard cargo handling equipment, plus the design of the forward cargo door and its integral ramp, also ensure quick and easy loading/unloading operations.
The AN-225 is called ‘Mriya’, meaning ‘Dream’ in Ukrainian. It has 242 world records to its name and is the inspiration for Antonov Airlines’ slogan: “No other name carries more weight”.