Amid the Russian Military Invasion of Ukraine, we’ve lost an invaluable aircraft. I’ll not go deep into how it was destroyed but we’ll look at its ‘huge’ triumphs and history.
How ironic it is! The Soviet Union had built the Antonov An 225 and Russia destroyed it. Anyways let’s move on.
So the story begins in the year 1982 when The Soviet Union was airlifting its components for its space program. Their main motive was to create a rival to the American Space Shuttle and the Space Shuttle Program. They named it Energia-Buran. The rocket boosters were built in Dnipropetrovsk, the Orbiter was built in Moscow and the core stage was built in Kuybyshev. But it was to be launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The parts of a space launcher are humongous. They’re not easy to transport. Russian at that time did not have a transporter that could carry these loads. Americans had a Boeing 747, their rail network and they even transported through water, so they only needed to airlift the shuttle and not the entire thing. Soviets had to airlift the entire launch system.
So the Soviet engineers came up with a controvertible idea. The idea was to stretch the Antonov 124, at the time the largest plane. To cater for the weight of cargo, they added 2 more engines to an existing 4. The tail section was also redesigned to carry the core stage. So, to balance the weight of 32 wheels. This is how An-225 ‘Mariya’ was born.
Its fuselage was 70m long. Funny enough, Wright Brothers could have flown their entire flight inside AN-225’s Fuselage. It could carry about 250,000 kgs of load. The Soviets planned to launch their space shuttle Buran mid-air using the Mariya. They had ambitions of making Mariya the backbone of their space program. One An-225 was completely built and the other was partially complete. This was the time when Soviets went bankrupt. This meant no more need for this enormous jet.
After the division of the soviet union, Antonov became the state-owned property of Ukraine. Initially Mariya mode ferry flights and cameos in air shows, but this was not enough. Then it became the cargo giant we know today.
Antonov Airline, a subsidy of Antonov, leased the plane to others. The rent is said to be about $30,000 per hour. There’s anything you cannot ship, Mariya is there for you. It has carried four military tanks, one wind turbine a generator and much much more. It has the world record for transporting the longest, largest, heaviest cargo. Sadly we will not see Mariya in the sky for some time as it is destroyed by the Russian forces : (
There are plans to complete the partially built but it will be a really expensive affair. The biggest problem is the plane itself. Some of the parts were built during the Soviet Era, so naturally, they are available in Russia. Seeing the current state, it’s highly unlikely that both the countries will have an agreement on the trade of these parts.
We hope that the situation improves and we can soon see Mariya back in the skies.
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