The World's Largest Plane Takes to the Skies Once Again

The massive Antonov AN-225 cargo airplane is up in the air after a long stint on the ground.
Fabienne Lang
Antonov AN-225Antonov Airlines

Aviation enthusiasts will be delighted to hear the news that the world's largest cargo airplane to ever grace our skies is back. The Antonov AN-225 was tracked by Flightradar24 on Wednesday as it flew out of its hub at Antonov Airport in Kiev, Ukraine.

After 18 months on the ground without so much as a peep by the airline in the meantime, the AN-225 took off and flew over rural areas for two hours, before landing back down.


The Antonov AN-225's flight

After the monstrous AN-225 became grounded in October 2018 as part of its maintenance and upgrade program, no further information on its improvements has been shared publicly. So it comes as a wonderful surprise to see it fly once again. 

The World's Largest Plane Takes to the Skies Once Again
The Antonov AN-225, Source: Antonov Airlines

The six-engine, 290-foot wingspan, 600,000-pound cargo aircraft, sweetly named "Mriya" for dream in Ukrainian, built in the late 1980s took off from Antonov Airport for a two-hour-long initial test flight, presumably the first of many in the coming weeks. We may even be seeing the AN-225 resuming regular cargo flight services in the near future, once these test flights run smoothly. 

Wednesday's flight lasted two hours, and saw the plane complete two laps high above the Ukrainian countryside, before landing back safely to the airport. 

It's famous for many reasons, one of which is its outstanding weight capacity. It is the world's heaviest aircraft as well as having the longest wingspan of any aircraft in operation. This gives it the ability to carry enormous loads across long distances, something that's crucial for emergency relief.

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The World's Largest Plane Takes to the Skies Once Again
The AN-225, Source: Antonov Airlines

Its top record so far has been carrying a 470,000-pound generator, its single heaviest cargo item to date. That's nothing next to its 550,000-pound capacity, and its maximum takeoff weight of 1.4 million pounds. Its pressurized cargo hold offers 46,000-cubic-feet of space. 

The World's Largest Plane Takes to the Skies Once Again
The massive Antonov AN-225 captured on Flightradar24, Source: Flightradar24

Given the current world situation, with the aviation industry being one of the hardest-hit amid the COVID-19 outbreak, this may be a little glimmer of hope for aviation enthusiasts.

The Antonov AN-225's little cargo "brother", the AN-124, is already busy delivering urgent medical equipment from China over to Europe. If Antonov Company's plan is to also employ the AN-225 to fly important medical equipment in its cargo around the world, so as to help during the coronavirus crisis. We may witness some huge assistance in the tackle against the outbreak if the AN-225 is also used for this purpose.