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Monday, 7 May, 2001, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
World's biggest plane flies again
Antonov 225 AFP
The 225 prepares for its test flight take off...
The world's biggest plane, the Antonov 225, has taken to the skies again, a decade after being grounded following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The giant Antonov - an updated version of the plane originally designed to transport the former Soviet Union's Buran space shuttle - completed a successful 15-minute test flight from the Hostomel airport near the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

"The test was a success. Everything is fine," the head of the Antonov company, Petro Balabuyev, told journalists.

Mr Balabuyev said he hoped the Antonov 225 could be flying commercially within six weeks.

Huge cargo hold

The six-engined plane can carry over 250 tonnes of cargo - double that of the largest plane in current use, another Antonov - and will be aimed at the market for super-heavy and oversized air cargo.

Antonov 225
...and airborne, at last
It has a wingspan of 88.4 metres (291 feet) and a cargo compartment capable of storing about 80 cars.

The Antonov company developed the new plane in conjunction with Ukraine's Motor-Sych company at a cost estimated at about $20m (14m).

Only two of the original Antonov 225s were ever built, and only one ever took to the air.

The collapse of the Soviet Union severely damaged airplane building in the region as the appearance of new national boundaries and laws broke up what had once been a closely integrated industry.

The Antonov company is hoping to display the new 225 in June at the prestigious Le Bourget air show in France.

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15 Nov 00 | Africa
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