The Antonov An-225, the world’s largest cargo aircraft, made a rare appearance on the West coast in September as it made a stopover in Oakland, California, to pick up disaster relief supplies for Hawaii and Guam.
The unique An-225 attracts a lot of public interest, and has a global following due to its size and uniqueness. In 2016, more than 50,000 spectators showed up at the Perth, Australia, airport to see one.
There were far less folks sharing space with me at a local park located under the final approach to Oakland International Airport.
As expected, there were the informed planespotters and photographers in attendance, but it was also fun to talk to park visitors who wondered why all these photographers showed up. Afterwards, all we spoke with were appreciative of what they witnessed.
What defines largest? Is it wingspan, weight or length? At 320′ the Hughes’ H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” has held the wingspan record since 1947. With an empty weight of 630,000 pounds, the An-225 is the heaviest aircraft ever built. Its length of 275′ also puts the An-225 on top.
The An-225 Mriya (“dream” or “inspiration”) is a heavy-lift cargo aircraft that was designed by Antonov in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. The An-225 was designed to airlift the Energia rocket’s boosters and the Buran space shuttle for the Soviet space program.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Buran program got cancelled in 1991, the aircraft was placed in storage. Later efforts to generate revenue resulted in the An-225 being refurbished and modified for heavy cargo in 2001 and then put into commercial operation with Antonov Airlines carrying oversized payloads.
It is powered by six turbofan engines and is the heaviest aircraft ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of over 1.4 million pounds. It also has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service.
The An-225’s first flight in commercial service carried 216,000 prepared meals for American military personnel on 375 pallets and weighed 187.5 tons. The An-225 holds absolute world records for an airlifted single-item payload of 418,830 pounds, and an airlifted total payload of 559,580 pounds.