The Antonov-225, a classic six-engine cargo carrier that is the world’s largest airplane, might be going back into production via a joint China-Ukraine program, but recent reports cast doubt on the timing and viability of the plans. A couple of weeks ago, representatives of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AICC) and the Antonov Corporation, a Ukrainian aviation company, signed an agreement to restart production of the 640-ton An-225. But this week, RT.com reported that Antonov’s work is hampered by the Ukraine government’s decision to cut ties with Russia, making it impossible for the company to get the parts it needs. The Chinese partners may be able to produce the needed components, an Antonov official told RT.
The An-225 was originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s as a carrier for the country’s space shuttle. One example first flew in 1988, and it’s still flying as a cargo carrier, operated by Antonov. Work on a second airplane began in 1988 but was never completed. Antonov plans to complete that second airplane as part of the deal with China, and then help to create a production line in China to produce more copies. The An-225 is the longest and heaviest airplane ever built, and also has the longest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service, according to Wikipedia.