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World’s Largest Aircraft Lands in Toronto

From Bits & Pieces Newsletter, December Issue

By Ian Brown, Editor – Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

A one-of-a-kind aircraft, the An-225, landed in Toronto recently. It’s the world’s largest aircraft, based on a maximum gross weight of 1,322,750 pounds, although the Airbus A380-800 is easily the largest commercial passenger liner with a maximum gross weight of 1,272,000 pounds. The all-wood H-4 Hercules, aka the Spruce Goose, has a larger wingspan, but at 400,000 pounds, it weighs less than a third of the An-225. Howard Hughes’ once-flown Goose is not made of spruce at all, but of birch; it was still way ahead of its time.

The An-225 design is an extension of the strikingly similar An-124 but with many stretches in the design. The fuselage extends fore and aft of the wings with a push-out of the existing wing designed to accommodate two more engines. The An-225 has a maximum takeoff weight over 400,000 pounds greater than the 124.

Designed to carry the Buran, the Russian version of the U.S. space shuttle, only one An-225 was ever built – registered and built in Ukraine. A second was started but never completed. Designed as a heavy lifter, it can carry 550,000 pounds internally or 440,000 on its upper fuselage.

The Ukrainian name is Mriya, which means “Dream”, not surprising since it’s a direct competitor to Boeing’s 747 Dreamlifter. The An-225 is flown by Antonov Airlines, based in Kiev, Ukraine. The Antonov Design Bureau is also based in Kiev and has a long history of aircraft design with many older aircraft still flying. This brings a level of understanding to the complex relationship with Russia. Surprisingly the majority of the current Aeroflot fleet are Airbus variants with a few Boeing aircraft, fuel economy being cited as the main factor.

If you wonder why the An-124 has a single vertical tail and the An-225 has a twin tail, it’s because carrying external payloads such as the Buran spacecraft would have interfered with the airflow over the An-225’s vertical stabilizer and rudder.

One might say that, as a one-of-a-kind, it’s also the world’s largest experimental aircraft, although the average basement is definitely too small to accommodate the process.

On a completely irrelevant side note which may yet be of interest to readers is the editor’s discovery of an Antonov An-2 biplane on the delightful “backpackers island” of Caye Caulker off the coast of mainland Belize. It’s a long shot, but if anyone knows anything at all about this aircraft, at least one of us is going to be delighted to hear about it.

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