Antonov Ukraine's Legacy

Published: Thursday, August 8, 2019

Powered by six turbofan engines and wings spanning 88.4 meters long, the mammoth AN-225 Mriya is 9 meters longer than the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

Tens of thousands of planes fly over the skies every hour but there is truly just one that dominates the airspace when it comes to size, capacity and power, the Antonov AN-225 Mriya, the world’s biggest and heaviest aircraft. Powered by six turbofan engines and wings spanning 88.4 meters long, the mammoth AN-225 Mriya is 9 meters longer than the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

Capable of carrying as much as 250 tons, it had accumulated 242 world records over the past 30 years in hauling super heavy or breakbulk cargo worldwide that includes ships, trains, small planes and helicopters, satellites , rails, super heavy generators, aerospace materials, and so on.


It’s a unique engineering marvel that remains unmatched since it first flew on December 21, 1988. There is only one Antonov AN-225 in the world with the completion of its twin put on hold in 1994 or three years after the collapse of the Soviet regime.

In 2016, China tried to take over where the Soviets had left off on AN- 225 but the project failed because the 70 percent completed giant plane couldn’t be transported to the country. AN-225 is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2033, according to experts.

Ukraine’s prid

Ukraine, a former USSR state which i s marking its 28th year of independence on August 24 from the Soviet communist regime after it collapsed in 1991, holds the pride to Antonov AN-225 Mriya’s (Ukrainian for ‘Dream’) creation.

Conceived and built in the 1980s during the Cold War era, AN-225 was originally designed to carry the Buran Spacecraft, Russia’s answer to America’s Space Shuttle, from the assembly line to the sprawling deserts of Kazakhstan at Baikonur Cosmodrome where Yuri Gagarin launched his pioneering space voyage in 1961.

AN-225 successfully completed its mission and there were plans to build three more of its kind to support Russia’s space exploration projects but the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving Ukraine and the other former USSR states on their own.

Ukraine, which today remains embroiled in bitter political and military conflicts with Russia, founded Antonov Airlines, a wholly government-owned cargo carrier specializing on super heavy cargoes. “Antonov Airlines is a division of what was called the Antonov Design Bureau, one of a number of design bureaus within the former Soviet Union. They developed more than a hundred different types of airplanes since 1947 when they first set out and the airline was formed in 1989 before the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Graham Witton, Managing Director of Antonov Airlines, told Air Cargo Update in an interview in Munich, Germany where Antonov Airlines was among the major exhibitors at the four-day Air Cargo Europe 2019.

An aviation executive who began his career in 1997, Witton who has been promoting Antonov planes for commercial cargo since 2000 was appointed in 2016 to oversee the company’s sales & operations.

“ There was clearly a market identified in the commercial sector for Antonov Airlines,” said Witton who noted that the sales and financial aspects of the company are handled in its UK office whilst maintaining a separate satellite office in the United States.

Soaring Charter Sales

The demand for Antonov AN-225 Mriya’s services is at an all-time high and so are with the company’s other planes that includes a fleet of seven AN-124-100 with capacity to carry up to 150 tons, the 60-ton payload AN-22, as well as smaller AN-74 and AN-26 aircraft.

Witton said business is good at Antonov particularly in 2018 with the company posting nearly 70 percent in growth identifying their key markets as Europe and the United States and some in the Middle East.

In a separate interview, Andriy Blagovisniy, Antonov Airlines Commercial Director, echoed the same to Air Cargo Update, saying, “Business is growing. We increased our sales team. We now keep 66.7 percent of the whole market and there is prospect for more growth.”

Blagovisniy said the race among countries in the aerospace industry and the United States’ resolve to increase i ts dominance in the outerspace is fueling growth for super heavy cargo which Antonov dominates.

“We work in different industries oil and gas, energy, industrial, maritime, and the growing aerospace sector,” said Blagovisniy who studied aircraft engineering and international relations in Ukraine. “We fly everything. We can fly even trains and ships. In the aerospace industry, we transport satellites from production facilities to launch points. The US and Europe are our main markets.”

The two said Antonov Airlines continue to tap innovative ideas to keep up with the changing times. It recently developed two new plane models which the global aviation industry could potentially benefit from. “We want people to be aware that here we are, a Ukrainian carrier, not perceived as a sensitive nation to deal with. We’re very flexible to the customers’ needs. A friendly team that can be as personal and flexible as a customer wants,” said Witton.

And while Antonov AN-225 Mriya’s production line had closed a long time ago, technology continues to be harnessed and introduced to the world’s only super cargo carrier to ease its load of providing lift to the heaviest cargo up for delivery on all corners of the planet.

Oleg Antonov, a prominent Tupolev Medal, the highest aircraft designer, was the award in Soviet aerospace man behind the legendary construction.

Antonov planes. He was Ukraine officially credited for establishing the recognized Antonov as a Antonov Design Bureau in Doctor of Science, Kiev, Ukraine, now known as Academician of the Antonov Airlines, in honor of Academy of Science of the his legacy. Ukrainian SSR (1968), Hero A man of many talents, of Socialist Labor (1966). Antonov passed away on Prior, he was elected as a April 4, 1984 at age 78. His member of the Supreme death came just a month Soviet of the USSR of the after he received the gold 5th, 6th & 7th convocations.

During his lifetime, Antonov had been decorated with three Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor and the Medal ‘Partisan of the Patriotic War’ 1st class. On November 19, 1984, the OKB-153 was formerly renamed Antonov Design Bureau in his honor.


Antonov Airlines turns 30

Antonov Airlines is celebrating its 30th anniversary in commercial cargo industry this year with much optimism.
Ukraine’s cargo carrier which was founded in 1989 pioneering in transporting outsize and heavy cargo across the globe looks to a better future with technology and innovation on hand.

“As we look back on 30 years of Antonov Airlines, and the projects that we have completed, we see one of our strengths is the flexibility of our business to adapt to changing markets,” said Graham Witton, Managing Director, Antonov Airlines.

“We are transporting more outsized cargo than ever before, anything from wind turbine components to city centre trams, and practically anything in between.

“We are also moving further into the aerospace industry as digital communications become more integral in the global economy.”

On 11 August 2009, Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’, the world’s largest aircraft, made history in the Guinness World Record when it transported a generator with a total payload of 187.6 tons from Frankfurt, Germany to Yerevan, Armenia, breaking the record for heaviest single piece of air cargo ever transported.

“When the business first started, many items such as satellite containers, generators and transformers were too big or too heavy to fly on conventional freighters,” said Paul Furlonger, Director, Antonov Airlines, who has been with Antonov Airlines since those first days in 1989.

“Antonov Airlines, as the first commercial operator of the An- 124-100, had to quickly pioneer methods of loading using great creativity and flexibility.

“At the beginning, we were doing things for the first time, almost every time, and over the years, after many thousands of flights, our processes have become more refined & our expertise enhanced so that we now undertake ever more challenging & complex projects with absolute confidence,” added Furlonger.