It’s called the Elephant (Slon). The heavy-duty aircraft under development in Russia will be able to carry a payload of up to 180 tonnes, exceeding the Ruslan (60 tonnes) currently used. The huge airplane is designed to carry heavy and oversized cargo at distances of up to 7,000 kilometers while traveling at a speed of 850 km / h. It will necessitate a three-mile runway to take off or land.
It is still a matter of time before Slon launches its first flight, as scientists at the Institute have just completed the aerodynamic modelling of the aircraft. With a 1.75-meter wingspan and a weight of 120 kg, the model is of course much smaller than a future airplane or even a real elephant. However, the replica, which is made of aluminum alloys and structural steel, will provide vital information to manufacturers during the trials scheduled for next year.
Slon is intended to replace the An-124 Ruslan heavy transport aircraft, which came out of Antonov’s design office in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s. These aircraft are used for both military and civilian purposes.
Another gigantic freighter aircraft, the An-225 Mriya, was designed for a truly unique task: transporting spaceships. Mriya’s images while crossing Russian skies carrying Buran – the Soviet equivalent of NASA’s American space shuttle – still captivate every aviation enthusiast even 20 years later.
The plane, which weighs 640 tonnes and has a wingspan of 88.4 meters total length, continues to be used by the Ukrainian national carrier. In fact, the maximum payload ever carried by Mriya exceeded 250 tonnes.