It was a beautiful winter day on the ramp of the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease (PSM) in Portsmouth, NH. A handful of us were watching FlightAware and listening to air traffic control on the radio. Just over the buildings to our left, descending on short final, we caught our first glimpse…
We all watched as one of the world’s largest cargo planes touched down, slowed, and turned to taxi. As it approached us, the size really became apparent. This is one big airplane. And I was about to have one big AvGeek experience.
This An-30 belongs to Aviakompany Grodno. They’re based in Grodno. Creative name… – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
The Antonov An-24 is one versatile aircraft. That aircraft lead to the An-26, which then lead to the An-32. Heck, the Saudis gave the Ukrainian government money to design the An-132. Reasons were given for the latter, I am sure.
There’s the view! – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
All of those just haul people or cargo, though. BORING! What if you needed to observe something? What if you needed airborne survey? What if you wanted to do better cartography? Enter the rarest An-24 variant: the An-30 — only 123 were ever made.
It’s distinct from all the other An-24s in the world because, well… just look at it. The glazed nose for the navigator really sticks out and illustrates the fact that this is a rare breed of Antonov. It does more than look cool, though.
Mriya on short final in Ostrava – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
There are many items still left on my AvGeek bucket list, but last week I was fortunate enough to cross a pretty BIG one off.
I was very excited to be invited to witness the arrival of the world’s largest aircraft ever produced, the mighty Antonov An-225. Nicknamed “Mriya”, which is the Ukranian word for dream. The aircraft first flew in 1988 and is the only plane of its kind in service today. There was a second model built to about 70% completion, but due to funding problems it remains in a desolate state in Kiev.
Touchdown!! The whole landing sequence seemed very slow-motion due to the aircraft size – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The original mission scope of the aircraft was to carry the soviet spacecraft Buran, much like the American version of the 747-based Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aircraft remained in storage for almost a decade before it was brought back into operational service as a cargo air-lifter, operated by Antonov Airlines. Mriya is primarily based in Kiev, Ukraine but has completed various missions all around the world.
So loud, I am surprised you can’t hear them through the photo. Two DOSAAF of Belarus MI-2 await boarding Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Russia was built for the helicopter, or so said Mikhail Mil. He would know, even though his cohort Igor Sikorsky beat him to the sky. Russia was also built for the Very Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) Biplane. There are many short, rough runways throughout Russia, previously and today, that require special aircraft.
The reason for this combined article about my afternoon with the Belorussian DOSAAF (There’s no translation, but DOSAAF is like if American ROTC units kept old equipment around to show off to civilians) is because the Antonov AN-2 and the Mil MI-2 are probably the two most instrumental and historical aircraft of post-Great Patriotic War aviation.
With scores (over 18,000) of AN-2s built and almost 6000 MI-2s- they were the ubiquitous work horses of the Soviet Union. Even stars of stage and screen!