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The Rare Air of The AN-255 Cossack: A One-Off Giant Bird


There’s only one, but the Antonov An-225 is the world’s largest aircraft.

If you ever get into a trivia contest in a bar or other location that requires you to display your vast knowledge, keep this information in mind.

When and if the subject gets around to the world’s largest aircraft, remember that the

Antonov An-225 Mriya, also known as the “Cossack,” qualifies as the longest and heaviest airplane ever built. It’s original purpose was to ferry the Russian space shuttle. In the United States, that job was handled by a modified 747 – which looks like a Lear jet compared to the Cossack.

Some facts about the world’s largest plane.

Wingspan: 290 feet.

Length: 275 feet.

Fuselage diameter: 63 feet.

Power plant: 6 turbofan engines.

Built by Russia in 1988 as a military cargo plane, only one was ever built and it is still in service. Watching the Cossack rumble into the air is a goose-bump experience.

The An-225 is the workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet in Russia. It is the go-to cargo aircraft when it comes to hauling something that skeptics say, “You can’t put that in a plane.”

In August of 2009, a generator for a gas power plant in Armenia was delivered by the An-225. The cargo weighed in at 189 tons.

When the An-225 was built, the Cold War was in its final days. When the Soviet Union broke up, its space program languished and there wasn’t much need for the world’s largest aircraft. However, it is enjoying a rebirth as a specialized cargo hauler.


Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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