The wide body Antonov An-225 is powered by six turbofan engines and is the longest and heaviest airplane ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes. It was built to carry Soviet space shuttles and, 27 years after it entered service, it's still the world's biggest plane. The An-225, better known as the Mriya (Ukrainian for "dream") creates a fuss wherever it goes. Measuring 84 m long with an 88 m wingspan, it weighs 175 tonnes without cargo or fuel. It's the longest-bodied, longest-winged and heaviest operational plane in the world. Its cargo compartment is 43 m by 6.4 m by 4.4 m - big enough to hold 50 cars. And there is only one operational Antonov An-225 in the world!
Designed in Ukraine to carry the Soviet Buran space shuttle on its back, it made its first flight in 1988, coming into service the next year. There were plans to build several more An-225s but these were scuppered by the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the shuttle programme. Lately, Mriya has been making deliveries once - maybe twice - a year.
The six-engine An-225 can carry a payload of up to 250 tonnes, compared with 140 tonnes for the Boeing 747-800 and 65 tonnes for the Airbus 330. To carry all that weight Antonov An-225 has 32 wheels spread across its oversized landing gear. Also, its nose opens to allow cargo loading through the front end. Fans also like the design of Mriya's split tail. It's rare to see it in action.
The AN-225 has set over 200 world records, including airlifting the world’s heaviest cargo, and the world’s longest cargo. An aircraft holds world aviation records for flying heavy payloads. It set one in 2004 when it flew a 247-ton piece of oil pipeline machinery to Uzbekistan.
It was taken out of service in 1994 but came back into use in 2001. Since then it's taken aid to disaster scenes, including the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and theJapanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Its ability to move massive loads also meant it was used to transport generators to replace those wiped out by the American Samoan tsunami of 2009.