Planes do not get any bigger than the AN-225, with its 250-ton cargo capacity - and it is this plane that Chapman Freeborn Airchartering Ltd (UK) chartered on the weekend, to bring much needed medical supplies from China to Poland.
The AN-225 is no stranger to breaking world records. According to Antonov, it already counts over 250 aviation records to its name – which, by the way, is the Ukrainian word for “dream”: Mriya,
and puts a whole new angle on the phrase “If you can dream it, you can do it!”.
The latest record was notched up this Easter weekend when Mriya left Kyiv Hostomel Airport (GML), Ukraine, on 11APR20 and flew via Almaty (ALA), Kazakhstan, to Tianjin Binhai International Airport (TSN), China, where it took nigh on 15 hours to load around 100 tons of medical cargo including some 7 million masks, Covid-19 tests, protective suits, visors, and medicines. How can 100 tons be a record in an aircraft capable of carrying more than twice that much? Quite simply, because the total load volume of this special cargo was the highest ever recorded – at 1050m³! And pretty much the maximum possible in the AN-225.
Taking off from TSN again at 17:22 on 13APR20, the massive plane which bears the registration UR-82060, landed at Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW) at 09:57 on 14APR20, having stopped over in ALA for refuelling and crew-rest along the way.
#cargodlaPolski and a third-time visitor
It was Mriya’s third visit to Poland, having previously landed at Lawica Airport (POZ), Poznan, on 14AUG03, bearing a 128-ton coring drum for the production line of a factory in Szczecinek that manufactures particle boards, and at Katowice-Pyrzowice Airport (KTW) on 03MAR05 to transport three helicopters to Algeria.
Mriya has since left WAW again. She departed at 10:18 on 15APR20 and landed in ALA at 20:36 that evening.
This particular charter formed part of what has been hashtagged #cargodlaPolski, translates into “Cargo for Poland” and is the freight version of the recent “Flight Home” (#LotDoDom) action which brought 55,000 Polish Nationals back on 388 flights from 71 different parts of the globe after the 15MAR20 shut-down. It is an air bridge between Poland and China to bring in all the necessary material to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been going on since 26MAR20, when the first of a series of cargo aircraft landed with 600,000 medical masks, over 250,000 pairs of overalls, tens of thousands of pairs of protective goggles and about 150 ventilators on board. Largely organised and financed by the Polish mining company, KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., which has purchased medical equipment worth more than USD 15 million in total, its president Marcin Chludziński explained that the Antonov charter was requested in order get as much of the cargo to Poland as possible in one go: "We tried very hard to bring the largest possible volume of cargo to Poland at one time, because it is important that the equipment is available very quickly."
A record-breaking comeback
Antonov’s press statement reads: “In the history of aviation, this cargo volume [over 1000m³] has never been transported inside the cargo hold of the aircraft.” Not only has the AN-225 been used for maximum volume capacity, in doing so it has also become the largest ever cargo medical relief charter and is looking to carry out similar missions for other countries waiting in line, such as France, where Mriya is expected to land on the Aéroport Paris-Vatry next Saturday (18APR20).
A great comeback for the unique, 1988-built AN-225 which only recently returned to service at the end of MAR20, after 18 months of maintenance and upgrade work carried out by Antonov Company specialists. The upgrade included a Ukrainian-production new engine remote control system, new liquid-crystal engine control devices, and more energy-saving and reliable, new, improved, modern LED lighting equipment.
Antonov currently carrying out a number of medical cargo flights
With its return to service, the AN-225 Mriya has also joined the rest of the Antonov Airlines fleet of which its AN-124-100 aircraft have already carried out a number of humanitarian aid and relief charter operations delivering medical cargo and supplies during the corona crisis. To date, since the end of March, Antonov Airlines reports that it has already carried more than 1400 tons of cargo from China to various countries in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East.
Vitaliy Shost, Antonov Airlines First Deputy Director said: “Our company is very proud of the opportunity to contribute and join the fight against the global pandemic. Planning and performing charter flights in the current difficult quarantine conditions imposed by many countries when there are restrictions applied for landing and crew rest permits, requires selfless dedication and commitment on the part of all airline staff - from commercial personnel and ops planners in the office to pilots and technicians onboard. Therefore, I would like to thank everyone who takes part in the setting up and arrangement of humanitarian flights from China and in particular those who were directly involved in the performance of the AN-225 flight to Warsaw. We extend our exceptional gratitude to our customer Chapman Freeborn and partners for their cooperation and the opportunity to jointly carry out such an important and necessary mission together.”
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