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Antonov An-22

World’s largest turboprop aircraft is up in the air again

The Antonov An-22 was a masterpiece of Soviet engineering, but commercially a flop. Now the only aircraft in civilian use is in service again.

She stood in a hangar for a whole year. The Antonov An-22 with the tail number UR-09307 was being overhauled. Now the 45-year-old aircraft was repaired and returned to service. For the Spanish Ministry of Defence it transported helicopters and spare parts between Madrid and Baghdad.

«Thanks to the 4.4 metre high cargo hold, the helicopter rotors did not have to be dismantled,» comments a spokesman for Antonov Airlines. This has shortened the delivery time. With the An-22, the Ukrainian airline owns a unique aircraft – it is the last civilian operator of the gigantic turboprop freighter.

Large rear cargo door

The An-22 was the first megafreighter. In the 1950s, the Soviet Army needed a transport aircraft capable of flying heavy equipment over long distances. Designer Antonov developed a new aircraft, the project first got the name An-20, later model 100. When the prototype was first rolled out of the hangar in 1964, it was given the name An-22. On 27 February 1965, it completed its maiden flight.

The Antonov An-22 looks like an enlarged An-12, but has an eye-catching double tail. Thanks to its high payload of 80 tons it got the nickname Antei, the Russian name for Anhaeus, the giant from Greek mythology. The megatransporter is loaded via a large cargo door in the rear.

Designed for gravel runways

Thanks to an extra-strong landing gear with 14 wheels, the aircraft can also take off and land on unpaved runways. When fully loaded, the An-22 can cover a distance of around 5000 kilometres. Although the An-22 with its four counter-rotating four-blade propellers was a masterpiece of Soviet engineering, it was not a commercial success.

Only 68 units were built. 59 units have been scrapped or are no longer airworthy. Eight An-22 are still flying for the Russian Air Force. The UR-09307 is the only civil aircraft and is operated by Antonov Airlines. The Ukrainian cargo airline offers it with a payload of 60 tons.

In the picture gallery above you can see more images of the Antonov An-22.

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