Air carriage of cargo is similar to a simple shipping of heavy loads but instead of rumbling trucks spoiling the pavement, there are beautiful giants flying across the sky. Heavyweight aircrafts transport multi-ton drilling equipment, aggregates, machinery and equipment for thousands of kilometers. If there is no possibility or time to send the cargo by water or by ground transport, then cargo aircrafts come to help.
AN-124 Ruslan is rightly considered to be the leader among the sky trucks. It is the world's largest serial-produced cargo aircraft. Russian Volga-Dnepr Airlines is a major operator of AN-124.
This June I have seen the unique transportation. Ruslan delivered a 100-ton hydroturbine wheel for Ust-Srednekanskaya hydro power plant from St. Petersburg to Magadan.
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1. AN-124 Ruslan was created primarily to transport ICBM launchers. The first flight of the prototype took place in Kiev on December 24, 1982.
2. The first use of the aircraft’s cargo potential for civil purposes was the transportation of a 152-ton dump truck "Euclid" from Vladivostok to Polyarny (Yakutia) in 1985 on the prototype of Ruslan. The machine was delivered in two flights.
3. The size of AN-124 is impressive: the length of the aircraft is 69 meters.
4. If we take the Airbus A320 as a basis, AN-124 is two times longer.
5. The aircraft is 21 meters height, as a 7-storey building.
6. The wingspan is 73 meters. It equals, for example, the width of Moscow Red Square.
7. Later, AA-124 became inferior to another Antonov’s brainchild AN-225 Mriya in terms of characteristics combination. Its carrying capacity amounted to 225 tons (compared to the maximum Ruslan’s 150 tons), and the length of the cargo compartment - 43 meters (versus 36.5 meters of AN-124). However, Mriya was created as a special purpose aircraft and released in a single prototype. (See the report about Mriya: http://gelio.livejournal.com/191632.html)
Two aircraft factories - in Ulyanovsk and Kiev - produced 56 AN-124 aircrafts in total.
8. Dual-tandem gear equipped with a 24 wheels allows operating AN-124 from unpaved runways, as well as changing the angle of fuselage inclination which facilitates cargo loading.
9. The aircraft is equipped with four D-18T engines.
At take-off mode, each engine develops a thrust of 23.4 tons (230 kN). It means that the total thrust of all 4 engines is 93.6 tons (920 kN). It can be assumed that every engine at take-off mode develops capacity of about 12 500 horsepower!
10. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 865 km per hour. Operational range is 4500 km, ferry range - 16500 km.
11. The peculiarity of the aircraft design is two cargo hatches in the fuselage nose and tail sections, which facilitate and speed up cargo loading - in particular cargo can be loaded or unloaded simultaneously from the nose and tail of AN-124.
12. Opening of the front cargo hatch is performed in several stages with the remote control. First, the locks of the nose section open. Then the nose section opens and auxiliary legs are lowered. After that the aircraft is “squatting” (front landing gear rolls forward), the front ramp opens and finally, central ladder and hermetic ladder open up.
13. In June, 2016 AN-124-100 Ruslan belonging to Volga-Dnepr Airlines delivered a hydroturbine wheel from St. Petersburg (where it was made at the Power Machines factory) to Magadan for Ust-Srednekanskaya HPP.
The wheel was loaded at Pulkovo airport.
14. For transportation of the hydroturbine wheel the equipment was used that distributes the weight over the floor of the cargo compartment. This is how snowshoes are needed to navigate through the snow. It is also important to consolidate the goods in the cargo compartment (to tie up). Wrong solution of these problems can damage the aircraft and even cause a crash.
15. The total cargo weight with packing equipment and accessories amounted to 115 tons.
16. Transportation of the 6 meters in diameter wheel was being prepared within six months.
17. The length of Ruslan’s cargo compartment is 36.5 m, width - 6.4 m, height - 4.4 m.
It can accommodate four Mi-8 helicopters, a subway car or even Sukhoi Superjet 100 (certainly, without wings and tail). The Angara-class carrier rocket also would fit in, but only in basic configuration.
18. The aircraft is equipped with loading, unloading and mooring equipment as well as on-board mobile bridge cranes.
19. The system for cargo loading weighing up to 120 tons consists of a ramp, rail system and running elements moving along a rail system. The ramp serves as a continuation of the cargo compartment floor. The rail system sets the direction and distributes the load.
20. Technical team's work. The staff is 8. But due to the fact that there was a unique loading in St. Petersburg, 6 more people were involved.
21. After moving the hydroturbine wheel on the ramp, the cargo was dragged into Ruslan’s cargo compartment by winch, and tied up.
22. Loading took almost 10 hours.
23. Ready for takeoff!
24. AN-124 flight crew's cockpit.
25. The crew of Ruslan consists of 8 people: commander, assistant commander, air navigator, senior flight engineer, flight engineer for aviation equipment, radio operator and two operators of loading and unloading.
26. The control column of the biggest serial-produced aircraft in the world.
The aircraft is under power-operated control, i. e. flight control surfaces can be diverged solely by hydraulic steering gears, in case of failure of which the aircraft cannot be controlled manually. Therefore quadruple redundancy is applied. Mechanical part of control system (from control column and pedals to hydraulic steering gears) consists of rigid rods and ropes.
27. Power lever.
28. Ruslan is the first Soviet aircraft, equipped with on-board automated system that checks the operation parameters of all units, as well as ensures if the crew followed “Aircraft Flight Manual.”
29. Automation defines the maximum allowable take-off weight, depending on the airport, and protects the aircraft from exceeding the post-stall conditions.
30. The aircraft has two decks. The lower deck is cargo; the upper deck consists of the cockpit and passenger compartment. Thus it's impossible to pass the cockpit from the passenger compartment because they are divided by the wing and they have separate pressure-sealing.
The airplane provides 18 places for rest of the crew members and the members of the engineering team - 6 seats in the front cabin and 12 in the back one.
31. Communication between the passenger cabin and the cockpit.
32. There were two landings while the hydroturbine wheel was transported - in Nizhnevartovsk and Yakutsk. It was necessary for refueling and crew rest.
33. The total route length amounted to 6500 km.
34. The first landing in Nizhnevartovsk.
35. The plane was inspected after every landing.
36. Ruslan has a unique tow bar (pushback tug). It is carried along and taken out of the cargo compartment in each airport to tow the aircraft.
38. Refueling time of such aircraft varies between 30 minutes and 1.5 days, and the number of fuel tankers required ranges from 5 to 40 depending on their capacity.
39. Maximum weight of fueling is limited by a maximum take-off weight of the aircraft and amounts 212.3 tons.
Consumption at full load is 12.6 tons per hour. Thus before entering the flight level the fuel consumption is increased to 17 tons per hour.
40. Refuelling Panel
During refueling the technician monitors the equitability of the fuel among the aircraft tanks. In the photograph you see the opening (closing) of fuel tank valves. Fuel quantity indicator is at the bottom.
41. The aircraft has a system of refueling through four necks located in the main landing gear pods. It is also possible to refuel through two necks, located on the upper parts of the wings.
42. Landing in Yakutsk.
43. It happens sometimes that the airport doesn't have an appropriate parking for such a large aircraft, and it is put directly to the alternate runway.
44. Commander's welcome.
45. The final route point - Magadan.
46. Unloading happens in the same way as the loading but in reverse.
47. The wheel is rolled to the ramp in front of the aircraft.
48. Then cranes partially dismantled packaging equipment, which was mounted on the wheel. Thereafter, the aircraft was dragged away by a pushback tug, and it flew. The wheel was raised on jacks, and trailer drove under it. Then, with the help of cranes people dismantled the remaining part of the equipment.
49. The hydroturbine wheel transported by Volga-Dnepr is mounted on the hydraulic component №3 of Ust-Srednekanskaya HPP, which is scheduled to be put into operation in 2018.
50. In Russia Ruslans fly not very often. For example, this very AN-124 immediately flew to Japan after Magadan.
Volga-Dnepr Airlines is the largest operator of Ruslans in Russia. Its fleet comprises 12 An-124-100 aircrafts.
Flight geography covers 190 countries and more than 1300 airports. On average, each year the airline performs 1200 flights (about 33000 flights for 25 years), carrying about 60000 tons of cargo per year.
51. Demand for Ruslan's services is stable. For example, transportation for all space launches are planned for two or three years ahead between operators, chartering AN-124. This is the work that no one except Ruslan can perform.
52. Orders for transportation by Ruslan are so unique that sometimes customers at the stage of creating the equipment consult with the airline about the best design and preparation of the equipment so that it can then be transported by AN-124.
Once Volga-Dnepr Airlines transported the equipment for the gold mining industry from Ostrava (Czech Republic) to Nairobi (Kenya). The equipment is a huge 50-ton semi-rings. Their dimensions are comparable with the cross section of the Ruslan cargo compartment. When loading the gaps between the equipment and the contour of the cargo compartment was only 77 mm!
53. Some examples of unusual transportation:
- In May 1989, 140 tons of equipment for Russia's first concert of the legendary Pink Floyd were delivered from London to Moscow;
- In May 1992 Ruslan transported 52 tons of gold in the amount of 230 million pounds sterling from the United Arab Emirates to Switzerland;
- In 1993, Michael Jackson in the world tour transported 10 tons of stage equipment on three AN-124 to Moscow.
- In 1997, 100 tones of equipment, including a spaceship model for the filming of the first episode of "Star Wars" were delivered by one flight from London to Tunis;
- 68 animals are among unusual passengers of AN-124 which flew from Prague to Indonesia in 1997. The Air Zoo consisted of crocodiles, pygmy hippopotamus, zebra and 4 giraffes.
54. Made in the Soviet years, Ruslan is still conquering the sky. Ulyanovsk aircraft plant “Aviastar-SP” extends their flight worthiness.
The capacity of AN-124-100 was increased by 30 tones. Structural life of the modernized Ruslan is 50 thousand flight hours, 10 thousand flights and 45 calendar years.
55. However, air carriers more and more often say that the new air giants should have been produced: after 2025 aircrafts will be charged off massively.
Русская версия: http://gelio.livejournal.com/217319.html
see also: • An-225 Mriya is the world’s largest aircraft