The biggest plane ever built takes off

Lookie! Here’s a mesmerizing video of the world’s heaviest aircraft, the Russian Ukrainian Antonov An-225 Mriya, taking off from Toronto.  It’s the heaviest aircraft ever built (640 tonnes fully loaded, where a tonne is 1000 kg), and only a single plane was ever built—in 1985.

This fairly new video from Ross’ Aviation World will probably have you glued to the screen until the end, for once you see this hefty behemoth painfully trundling down the taxiway, accompanied by fire engines and other vehicles, you’re gonna ask, “Can that damn thing actually get airborne?”  And you’ll want to satisfy yourself that it can.

Another video, which is longer, gives details about this plane, which was designed to carry heavy loads, in particular this one:

With the six powerful engines, loads of up to 250 tons are no problem for the Antonov An-225. The plane was originally intended to take the Soviet Buran space shuttle back from its landing site to the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. After the end of the space program, Antonov Airlines converted the An-225 into a cargo plane. The next order: the transport of twelve electrical transformers from Chile across the Andes to Bolivia with twelve flights in just four weeks.

It also appears to have a gazillion wheels!

Here are the YouTube notes from Ross:

I am absolutely lost for words. In my opinion, I think that this was the best video I ever filmed in my 11 years of spotting (as of date of upload).

Here is the world’s heaviest aircraft, the mighty Antonov An-225 rocketing off of RWY 06L on a beautiful morning. The aircraft was flying back to China via Anchorage. The An-225 flew in the day before to bring in medical supplies related to COVID-19. Something really good came out of this awful pandemic.


0:59 – Antonov An-225 taxiing

1:20 – Head-on with the An-225, taxiing on Delta

4:25 – Engine run-up

5:38 – Takeoff roll on 06L

6:15 – Liftoff


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Other than establishing a record for size or amount of cargo lift it apparently was never very practical. The fact that they only made one, kind of tells you the story on economics. I suspect burns way more fuel per mile or air tons than several other cargo planes. Even the old 747 aircraft are used today mostly as a cargo plane because it cannot compete in the passenger category any longer. It is a monster airplane. You hear very little of the C5A as well for the same reason.

    • Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it was a different time.

      The advances in fuel efficiency for commercial transport aircraft has made many models obsolete (economically).

      The 787 has a (real) 8+% improvement over the 757 and 767 (which were pretty good). This is massive. A 1% difference is quite significant to airline operators.

      747s are fast and really long-ranged (the big selling points). And reasonably efficient (for the time). It was designed in the 1960s, an era of cheap fuel. It’s proven to be incredibly reliable over ~50 years’ of service.

      • Randall L Schenck
        Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the efficiencies in jet engine technology has changed things allot in aviation. The 777 with a new GE engine is suppose to be the next thing. I think if you have more than 2 engines on the big planes, it is not going to work. The air force is still attempting to replace their very old KC-135 tankers with a newer 2 engine aircraft. It has been delayed some due to problems at Boeing but I see some flying around Wichita now.

        • Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          Yes, 767-based, I think.

          The 707/KC135 based airframe is terribly out of date.

    • Posted June 16, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Not just a lot of fuel, but making a lot of particulates too. I guess Soviet era pollution considerations were … nonexistent?

    • Posted June 17, 2020 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      It was designed to transport the Soviet Buran space shuttle vehicle. They were going to make two, but Buran was cancelled so this is the only one finished.

      It still seems to be winning commercial transport contracts so it must have something going for it.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 17, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        I don’t think the Buran was ever really “finished”. Two thing about it – first, externally it was an almost exact knock off of the American version. Second, people who inspected it when it was retired said it was little more than a mock-up. It had no significant guts and never flew. Mostly, a dream and for show.

  2. rickflick
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I thought this piece would be about Stratolaunch, the new US rocket launch platform. It’s also called the worlds largest plane.

  3. Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Gazillion wheels: This was the old Soviet way: Make one small machine that works well — and then use as many as needed. E.g. the rocket motors on the Soyuz rockets.

  4. Mark
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    “You hear very little of the C5A as well for the same reason.”


    • Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      The C5 beat the 747 in the competition for the USAF heavy transport due to politics.

      Lockheed “needed” the contract.

      The C5 was a maintenance nightmare. Especially the C5A. Later models were somewhat better; but not great.

      • Mark
        Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        You didn’t actually explain your comment that “You hear very little of the C5A as well for the same reason.”

        Regardless –

        The last C-5A was retired in 2017. It flew for 44 years and 22,500+ hours while making 5,470+ landing.

        The C-5B fulfilled it’s role so well that they’re being converted to C-5M.

        There were other operational reasons that the C-5 was chosen over the 747.

        • Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          5K landings is nothing in the jet transport world.

          747: ~20,000 flights (before they become “aging aircraft” and just change mx intervals). I forget the exact figure, it’s been a while since I worked in the 747 group.

          757: 50,000 cycles

          737: I think it was 65,000 cycles (Again, memory begins to fade)

          DC-9: about the same

          When I last worked for an operator, we had 35+ year-old DC-9s that had >70K cycles on them and still counting. The window between fuel cost and mx cost and the revenue stream finally killed off that fleet a few years after I left the operator.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

            I flew on a DC9 that was +30 years old. It was the 2000s but the airplane had a distinctly 70s interior. I kept telling myself “the DCs are a solid craft” over and over in response to my brain wondering about all the stress fractures along the hull.

          • Mark
            Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            The C-5 aircraft are not in the same category as civilian airliners.

            My comment was not meant to compare them to airliners, but only to illustrate that they haven’t been some kind of failure as implied.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        I recall long ago the air force grounded the C5 due to cracks around the engine/wing area. I believe one engine fell off on the taxiway. Then they flew with reduced maximum load as well.

        • phoffman56
          Posted June 16, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          There are, I suspect, worse places for the engine to fall off!

          • Posted June 17, 2020 at 7:27 am | Permalink

            Airplanes are designed to survive the “departure” of a single engine (I’m speaking of multi-engine commercial transport airplanes (Part 25 operations)).

            AA Flight 191 (1979) changed some design requirements. The engine departed up and over the wing (because some attachments remained in place momentarily), which took out the control systems in the leading edge of the LH wing. This led to a 100% asymmetry between the wing leading edges and an unrecoverable rolling moment.

            I helped with the redesign on one airplane type due to this event.

            My Dad was scheduled to be on AA191; but a delayed connection caused him to miss the flight.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 17, 2020 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        There was an infamous incident involving a C-5 at Ramstein AFB when I lived in Germany. While attempting take off one of its engines beat it down the runway.

        Still an impressive machine. I flew “space-available” several times but never got lucky enough to hitch a ride on a C-5. Only C-141s and C-130s. Love C-130s.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could find a visual size comparison with this and the Lancaster Bomber. I’ve seen that fly overhead & wondered if it was going to stay up there (partly because it’s also very old).

    • Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Much, much larger than a Lancaster.


      General characteristics

      Crew: 6
      Length: 84 m (275 ft 7 in)
      Wingspan: 88.4 m (290 ft 0 in)
      Height: 18.1 m (59 ft 5 in)
      Wing area: 905 m2 (9,740 sq ft)

      Aspect ratio: 8.6
      Empty weight: 285,000 kg (628,317 lb)
      Max takeoff weight: 640,000 kg (1,410,958 lb)
      Fuel capacity: more than 300,000 kg (661,000 lb)[60]
      Cargo hold: volume 1,300 m3 (46,000 cu ft), 43.35 m (142.2 ft) long × 6.4 m (21 ft) wide × 4.4 m (14 ft) tall
      Powerplant: 6 × Progress D-18T turbofans, 229.5 kN (51,600 lbf) thrust each

      Maximum speed: 850 km/h (530 mph, 460 kn)
      Cruise speed: 800 km/h (500 mph, 430 kn)
      Range: 15,400 km (9,600 mi, 8,300 nmi) with maximum fuel; range with 200 tonnes payload: 4,000 km (2,500 mi)
      Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
      Wing loading: 662.9 kg/m2 (135.8 lb/sq ft)
      Thrust/weight: 0.234


      General characteristics

      Crew: 7: pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer/nose gunner, wireless operator, mid-upper and rear gunners
      Length: 69 ft 4 in (21.13 m)
      Wingspan: 102 ft 0 in (31.09 m)
      Height: 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m)
      Wing area: 1,297 sq ft (120.5 m2)

      Airfoil: root: NACA 23018; tip: NACA 23012[87]
      Empty weight: 36,900 lb (16,738 kg)
      Gross weight: 55,000 lb (24,948 kg)
      Max takeoff weight: 68,000 lb (30,844 kg)
      Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Merlin XX V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines, 1,280 hp (950 kW) each
      Propellers: 3-bladed

      Maximum speed: 282 mph (454 km/h, 245 kn) at 63,000 lb (28,576 kg) and 13,000 ft (3,962 m) altitude[70]
      Cruise speed: 200 mph (320 km/h, 170 kn)
      Range: 2,530 mi (4,070 km, 2,200 nmi)
      Service ceiling: 21,400 ft (6,500 m) at 63,000 lb (29,000 kg)[70]
      Rate of climb: 720 ft/min (3.7 m/s) at 63,000 lb (29,000 kg) and 9,200 ft (2,800 m) altitude[70]

      • Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        A Lancaster is roughly the size of a Boeing 737 so many modern planes are larger and much heavier.

        • Posted June 17, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          Military transports (most of which were slightly modified commercial transports, until very recently, e.g. C-17) are very directly comparable to commercial transport airplanes.

          Lockheed planned a commercial transport version: The L-500. Airlines weren’t interested: Not economical. [Not to mention that no airport was equipped to deal with a 1000-px airplane.]

    • rickflick
      Posted June 16, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a comparison with several other planes.

  6. Robert Lundgren
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    About a year ago, as I recall, that thing landed in Minneapolis in the middle of the night to refuel. When it took off again at 4:00 am from a little used runway reserved mostly for extraordinarily heavy aircraft, and which points directly at our house about two miles away. it sounded like the gates of hell had opened and satan himself was coming for my atheist arse.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Heck, a B-29 is much larger than a lancaster.

  8. Julian C
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Actually, the Antonov A-225 is Ukrainian, not Russian. Built in the Ukrainian SSR (as it then was) and is now flown by Antonov Airlines, based in Kiev. Notice the Ukrainian colours on the plane.

  9. Posted June 16, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Now I want to see that mother land.

    • David Evans
      Posted June 16, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Youtube has several videos of it landing. Here’s one.

      I always think the big jets look better when landing. Slower and more graceful.

      • Posted June 16, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        That was good, thanks. Looks like it left a lot of rubber on the runway.

  10. Laurance
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh, just look what you done to me!!! I’ve just spent I-don’t-know-how-much-time wallowing in YouTube videos about gigantic airplanes and the Concorde (which I didn’t see – my daughter and I waited and waited on the Isle of Long to see the stinkin’ thing fly over, but that day it didn’t, and now I’ll die without ever having seen the Concorde fly over the house) – oh gee whiz! Thank you for the Giant Airplane!!

    • Posted June 17, 2020 at 3:15 am | Permalink

      I used to live West of London. Concorde flew over my house every day at 7.25pm. You could set your watch by it.

      Once I landed at night at Heathrow airport and I got to see Concorde taking off from relatively close. Because it was dark, you could see the jet exhaust glowing on afterburner. Now that was a sight

  11. Posted June 17, 2020 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    That is a WONDERFULLY cool video. More planes!
    If I were a billionaire forget the Gulfstream – I’d get one of THEM as my private jet: “Extra luggage, honey? No problem!”

    D.A., NYC

    Posted June 17, 2020 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    “Russian Antonov An-225 Mriya”, but this plane is Ukrainian, not Russian, Antonov is an aircraft manufacturing company in Kiev, Ukraine.

    • Posted June 17, 2020 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’ll fix that.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 17, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, as was Russia.

  13. Posted June 17, 2020 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Wow this is such an amazing blog, i love the video u attached with the blog. I feel really good after reading all your blogs, so please keep posting more.

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