When the C-5, a military transport aircraft designed by the American manufacturer Lockheed, flew for the first time in 1968, the Antonov 22 lost its title of “biggest planes in the world”. The USSR quickly launched a project to counter its competitor, with the AN 124 deemed the most promising and was thus selected. No fewer than 100 factories were involved in this project and it was in 1982 that the first prototype made its inaugural flight. This first version was called “Condor” by NATO, while the second one was unveiled in 1985, and took the title AN-124, nicknamed “Ruslan”.
Today, it is the second largest aircraft in the world produced in series after the Airbus A-380. Used for very different purposes, it is used in the Russian Air Force for carrying UN materials for the UN, as well as in some films.
It can transport diverse loads such as locomotives, boats, cranes and even satellites. This aircraft is equipped with two overhead cranes that can support up to 20 tons each. Its landing gear, made up of 24 wheels, is especially designed for rough terrain, and the nose wheel is designed to allow it to turn around in less than 45 meters.
The AN-124 has a 6-person crew (2 pilots, 2 mechanics, a navigator and a radio operator) and a pressurized cabin located on the upper deck that can accommodate 88 people. Its hold is 36 meters long, 6.68 meters wide and is 4.4 meters tall. The aircraft has a crane that can support 30 tons, and it has a carrying capacity of 150 tons. It can take off with a weight of up to 400 tons. The only airplanes comparable in size and load capacity are the Airbus A-380 and the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (as the latter is reserved for military uses, it cannot carry as many payloads).
In May 1987, the AN-124 beat the flight record without refueling for 20,151 km, flying non-stop for 25 hours and 30 minutes. It also lead a world tour with only two stopovers, with the use of 2 crews for more than 70 hours of flight.