For the first time ever since it rolled out of the production hangar in Kiev, Ukraine 1988, Antonov’s huge An-225 Mriya landed on Australian soil. The mammoth freighter was chartered by a daughter company of DB Schenker to transport a 117-ton generator from Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport to Perth in Western Australia.
Perth International Airport, shortly before midday last Sunday: estimated 15,000 spectators and aviation enthusiasts had flocked to the airport’s Public Viewing Area on Dunreath Drive to welcome
the arrival of the giant Antonov-225 Mriya on the aircraft’s first ever flight to Down Under.
AN-225 has been in the air since the 1980’s
The 600 ton aircraft which has 42 wheels on its landing gear was originally conceived in the 1980’s as a ‘on-top’ transporter of Russia’s space shuttle called the ‘Buran.’
Mriya, which translated means “dream” was meant to ferry the Buran placed on top of the aircraft, as was America’s space shuttle on the Boeing 747. The Russian shuttle program was phased out and the massive six-engine aircraft has since then been used for charter work, mainly for the transport of very heavy and over-dimensional machinery. The aircraft has a length of 84 meters and a wingspan of 88 meters and is said to be able to fly, when empty, up to 18 hours without having to refuel.
The Mriya’s sister ship, the Antonov AN-124 is somewhat smaller and Volga-Dnepr Airlines have most of these aircraft in service operating commercial and military charters worldwide including relief flights on behalf of humanitarian organizations in case of tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding or other natural disasters requiring immediate help to save lives.
Concerning the commercial Australian mission, the level of public interest in the arrival of the Antonov was unprecedented, and “Perth Airport worked closely with Atonov to ensure everyone who came to see the aircraft got a good view on Taxiway Charlie this morning,” said Fiona Lander, Executive General Manager External Affairs, Perth Airport upon the landing of the freighter. “The sheer size of the An-225 was breathtaking, with the click of camera shutters audible over the roar of the six engines as it taxied past.”
"There were high expectations and the excitement was great," stated Ron Koehler, CEO of Schenker Australia Pty Ltd.
Responsible for managing the entire mission was DB Schenker’s subsidiary Karpeles Flight Services, a specialist for the chartering of aircraft. The demanding task was to both organize and secure the combined road and air transport of the large generator weighing 117 tons from the Czech Republic to the Worstely Alumina refinery in Western Australia. A complicated mission due to the extraordinary weight and size of the machine, which did not allow for any errors.
From Pilsen to Perth…
It all started on May 10 in the city of Pilsen, known worldwide for its famous beer, from where the generator was brought overnight by a special multiple-axles truck to Prague. Upon its arrival at the Czech capital’s Vaclav Havel Airport the massive piece was loaded on board the An-225 and – covered with a special canvas – welded on at more than 30 fixation points in the hull of the freighter. This way the slipping or shifting of the load in case of turbulence should be prevented, which could have exposed the crew and aircraft to an enormous risk.
On its 14,000 kilometers long journey the six engine-propelled Mriya stopped over in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, Hyderabad, India and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia before crossing the Indian Ocean to land in Perth.
…and onto Collie
The unloading of the aircraft took about 12 hours, involving a sophisticated system of ramps and cranes to remove the cargo from the main deck of the freighter. On behalf of DB Schenker Australia, the generator was finally trucked from Perth International in a four-hour drive to the final consignee located in Collie, Western Australia.
This morning (17 May), the An-225 took off to Italy. On board the aircraft was a rotor weighing “only” 25 tons.
Heiner Siegmund / John Mc Donagh