The Marvel of Cargo Airlift – Antonov An-124 Ruslan (Condor)

Antonov, an aircraft manufacturing and services company – Soviet and later a Ukrainian – was founded in 1946 and has since manufactured about 30 different types of cargo aircraft.

An-124 Ruslan, specialist strategic airlift quadjet, is one of the largest aircraft in the world with a cargo payload capacity of up to 150t.  The NATO reporting name of the aircraft is Condor.  Originally, it was intended as being a military transport aircraft.

The aircraft was designed by the Antonov ASTC (Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex).  It completed its first lofty maiden flight in December 1982 and first entered service in January 1986, donning the crown for long-range delivery and air dropping of heavy & large-size cargo.  A total of 55 planes have been built of which 26 civilian models are currently in operation.

An-124: Current Price

Estimated at $50 million-$80 million

Size of Cargo Cabin
Length = 36.50 m
Width = 6.40 m
Height = 4.40 m

Max Cruise Speed

467 knots, 865 Km/h

An-124’s massive size offers several heavy lift capabilities.  Roll-on, roll-off ramps for cargo fore and aft; built-in freight handling equipment; internal cranes for run along the roof to manipulate large and unusually sized cargo. And front-end kneeling for easier loading.   The aircraft multi-leg landing gears with 24 wheels allow changing the angle of the fuselage in order to simplify loading operations.

Its pressurized cargo cabin with a total volume of 1050 m³ is a massive win for transporting diverse heavy and oversized loads such as locomotives, boats, cranes, main battle tanks, complete missile systems, satellites and oil well equipment.  The robust landing gear can handle rough ground, hard packed snow and ice-covered marshland.

The flight deck is huge, seating six people: two pilots, two navigators and two engineers.  Behind the flight deck is a well-equipped rest and living area for the crew, which is very useful for long flights or operations in remote areas. There are two cabins for up to six relief crew, which include a table and facing bench seats that are convertible into bunks.

The aircraft has super-critical wings for stability and control effectiveness at high speed and altitude.


The An-124 designation is applied to the basic military transport aircraft, which has remained unchanged over the years. However, a number of civil variants of the aircraft have been developed and proposed since. The An-124-100, the first commercial version was introduced to the market and was granted a civil type certificate in the December of 1992.  It is very similar to the standard military An-124, except that the maximum payload is 120t.  The other popular civil/commercial variant is An-124-100M-150, fitted with western avionics and a payload of 150t.

Current Competition

Several other aircraft such as Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, Lockheed C-5 Galazy, Airbus A300-600ST Beluga and more are trying to compete for lucrative cargo aerospace.   However, the An-124 has always been an impressive aircraft that has held a fascination from the spotter’s field of any airport and the cargo aircraft arena since the 1980s.

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source: Antonov Airlines, Cargo Facts, Aerospace Technology


Michelle Francisco

Published by
Michelle Francisco

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