Ukrainian aircraft designer Antonov has agreed to cooperate with a Hong Kong-based Chinese company, intending first to revive production of a partially-assembled An-225 freighter and then restore the series production.
The agreement with Airspace Corporation of China signed on 30 August breathes life into the Soviet-era manufacturing programme for the world’s largest aircraft, which has remained dormant for 22 years.
In the late-1980s, Antonov completed the first six-engined An-225 by stretching the fuselage of the four-engined An-124, lengthening the wing and adding a split tail. The aircraft was designed to carry a payload up to 225,000kg payload either internally or externally. In particular, the An-225 was needed to carry the Buran, the Soviet space shuttle.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the cancellation of the space shuttle programme. The first An-225 was moved into storage for several years, while a second An-225, which is designed with a single, straight tail, was left uncompleted inside Antonov’s factory complex in Kiev.
The new agreement begins discussions to allow Airspace Corporation of China and Antonov to resume assembly of the second An-225 in phase one. A follow-on second phase would restart series production of the heavy airlifter in China under license, Antonov says. Both phases would be initiated after the signing of separate contracts.