Paul Duffy/KIEV

Work is underway to restore the single Antonov An-225 "Mryia" to flying status. The giant freighter is expected to be returned to service by the middle of next year, when it will be offered for outsize cargo charters.

The Mryia has a payload of 250t and is the world's largest aircraft. Developed from the An-124 Ruslan, the aircraft was designed to transport Russia's Buran Space Shuttle externally.

After the termination of the Russian space programme, the An-225 was grounded and has not flown since 1994. A second example is 50% complete at Antonov's plant in Kiev, but production was suspended some years ago.

Antonov says that increasing interest from potential outsize cargo customers has resulted in the decision to create a partnership between Motor Sich, the engine manufacturer, Antonov Airlines and the design bureau to undertake the overhaul and return to service of the sole example. Motor Sich holds a 30% stake in the consortium, with the Antonov design bureau and its subsidiary airline (which will operate the aircraft) taking the remaining 70%.

The 225 is in overhaul at Antonov's flight development airfield in Gostomel, Kiev, and is expected to fly next February. It will then undertake a three month flight test programme, including the certification work, and will appear at the Paris Air Show next June. The overhaul will include the installation of a modern global positioning system, TCAS2000 collision avoidance system and reduced vertical separation minimum equipment. Some modifications will be made to the aircraft's six D-27F engines and nacelles to achieve Stage 3 noise compliance.

Antonov says that three aircraft would be needed to provide a guaranteed service, but adds that the cost of bringing the -225 back to service is "very high". A second -225 is about 50% complete, but the cost of that aircraft and for a third, "would be enormous by the standards of our resources, and could only be justified by a very strong market".

UK-based cargo specialist Air Foyle is the design bureau's partner in Antonov Airlines, and the company's Antonov business director Bruce Bird says that the -225's novel external load-carrying ability will be marketed, seeing it as more relevant than the internal capability. "We don't intend to use the -225 to carry payloads that the An-124 can accommodate," he says.

Source: Flight International