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Big business

The outsized charter business requires specialist planning and equipment. Keith Mwanalushi examines the unique aircraft operations at ANTONOV Airlines

No one day is the same at ANTONOV Airlines, which specialises in the transport of outsized and project cargo worldwide. The range of charters is quite fascinating. Some notable operations have included an 88 tonne water turbine heading to Uzbekistan, delivering portable generators to hurricane-stricken Guadalupe or transporting a power plant rotor from Italy to Pakistan.


The fleet includes AN-124-100 ‘Ruslan’ aircraft, AN-22, and the unique 250 tonne payload AN-225 ‘Mriya’, which is the largest aircraft in the world, as well as smaller AN-74 and AN-26 aircraft.


Back in April, AN-225 ‘Mriya’ returned into commercial service after a lengthy period undergoing maintenance. “The AN-225 is the absolute jewel in the fleet,” Andriy Blagovisniy, Head of Commercial Development at ANTONOV Airlines tells Airline Cargo Management.


The AN-225 was first developed for the role of transporting the Buran spacecraft. It is an enlargement of the AN-124. After successfully fulfilling its Soviet military missions, it was mothballed for eight years. It was then refurbished and reintroduced and now flying with ANTONOV Airlines carrying oversized cargoes.


The specs are quite staggering. The AN-225 has a wingspan of 88.4m and a cargo bay of 43m long, 6.4m wide and 4.4m high. It is called ‘Mriya’, which means ‘dream’ in Ukrainian. It has 242 world records to its name and interestingly it’s the only one operating in the market.


After being out of operation for about a year, during which time it underwent maintenance, some partial modernisation was done and the extension of the airworthiness was achieved. The AN-225 re-entered commercial service in April this year, with flights operating from Germany and Malaysia to Saudi Arabia.


“Since then, we have enjoyed a record four months with AN-225 operations, with our current project in South America consisting of 12 flights, which is the longest succession of AN-225 flights in the aircraft’s commercial history,” Blagovisniy adds.


He says the AN-225 has a maximum payload of 250 tonnes and can load single pieces weighing up to 200 tonnes. “The AN-225 has a roll-on-roll-off option, internal cranes that can lift 30 tonne pieces anywhere in the world, winch-on-winch-off capability as well as improved navigation equipment.”

In another unique operation last year, ANTONOV Airlines delivered portable generators to Hurricane stricken Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, on one of its seven AN-124-100 aircraft. >>


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