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Monster-size 'Dream' cargo plane returns to fill air transport void

NICKNAMED Mriya, or 'Dream' in Ukrainian, the world's largest operational cargo plane is returning from a short hibernation to help address a global shortage of heavy-lift air transport

22 December 2020 - 19:00
NICKNAMED Mriya, or 'Dream' in Ukrainian, the world's largest operational cargo plane is returning from a short hibernation to help address a global shortage of heavy-lift air transport.

The massive, six-engine plane can carry 225 tonnes of cargo, such as huge electrical transformers. It was originally built in the 1980s to transport rockets and space shuttles for the Soviet space programme. The Antonov-124, the largest commercial aircraft in regular operation, is puny by comparison, holding a mere 120 tonnes.



Ukraine's Antonov Airlines said it is redeploying the An-225 to support customers in the project cargo market, where capacity is in high demand.



The move comes 10 days after Russian all-cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr grounded its An-124 fleet following an engine failure that forced one of the freighters to make an emergency landing in Russia.



Volga-Dnepr said it will sideline its eight available An-124s until an investigation into the cause of the accident is complete. The company possesses four other units that are undergoing heavy maintenance and not flying.



Commercial director Andriy Blagovisniy said the decision to reactivate the An-225 is a temporary response to high market demand, reports New York's FreightWaves.



'Taking into consideration the current very limited availability of An-124 aircraft on the market, we are giving priority to time-critical cargo and to give additional lifting capacity, we will enter our An-225 aircraft into commercial operation after running routine maintenance,' he said.



Both ramp-loaders typically move large items like aircraft parts, helicopters, yachts and power generators. Antonov Airlines uses the An-225 for unique loads the An-124 can't handle or when one An-225 is cheaper than chartering two An-124s.



Antonov officials say there is no need to follow Volga-Dnepr in grounding its fleet because the airline ensures proper maintenance and airworthiness by complying with manufacturer standards, as well as national and international regulations.



The end of the year is traditionally busy for the heavy-lift sector as companies look to complete infrastructure projects on time and within budget, but demand is even greater in 2020 because the grounding of passenger fleets eliminated a huge amount of cargo space and put a squeeze on traditional freighters.



The overall freight market is expected to tighten further in the coming weeks as freighters get pulled into commitments to transport Covid vaccines once they are approved by regulators.


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