References to History

Another stage of a Soviet-American race for a leadership in developing huge wing vehicles started with an appearing of the AN-22, the first wide-body transport aircraft in the world, in 1965. The United States was developing Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, MT-s of a new generation. It considerably surpassed “ANTEY” by cargo capacity (up to 120 t) and other main parameters. This fact not only decreased Soviet aircraft building prestige, but could also lead to American army surpassing at the sphere of strategic mobility.

The Soviet Communist Party and the Council of Ministers published a Decree №564-180, dated from 21.07.1966 “About the main directions of developing of aviation technique and equipment for the period of 1966-70”. A task of increasing cargo capacity of Soviet MT-s up to 100-120 t. was the main subject of this document. That document became a base of the beginning of design works on Kyiv Mechanical Plant (KMP – so called Antonov Design Bureau at that time).

In October 1967 Oleg Konstantinovich Antonov presented a technical project “122” to a Military Industrial Committee (MIC) of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. However, the AN-122 wasn’t a meritorious competitor to S-54, so the project was rejected.

A new military transport had to correspond to performance Customers’ requirements and had a cargo capacity of 120-140 t. O.K.Antonov decided to start everything from the beginning. Creation a heavy aircraft on new technical level needed the following: technologic design, equipment for producing big-sized details, updated multifunctional pilot-navigation complexes designing, and decisions of other difficult tasks. Design Bureau team began working.

In 1970-71 pilot projects of 2 MT-s were presented to Customer and MIC: the AN-124 with four engines and the AN-126 with six engines and cargo capacity of 120-140 t. In February 1972 there was made a decision on the realization of “124” project that provided mobile transfer of almost all property identification of warlike equipment that was in corresponding departments and subdivisions.

A full-sized mock-up of the aircraft was built before 1973, but technical decisions, applicable in the project, didn’t let it correspond to declared parameters. Fully-target program was developed and realized in the USSR for the first time in order to provide necessary technical level of the new aircraft. It foresaw improvement of all components of its efficiency. Determined technical-scientific problems on aerodynamic, strength, stability and controllability of weight perfection, power unit, reliability and safety of operations, constructions, materials and other were solved jointly with  CAHI, VIAM, NIAT, SRISU and other leading institutes and enterprises, organizations of aviation industry, and ministry. As a result, the AN-124 leading position among the heavy-sized transport aircraft with long flight range was provided by a big number of know-how.

For the first time in the world new supercritical profiles were applied in the wing, which determined aerodynamic aircraft perfection. It was a totally new profile that provided high subsonic speeds of a flight with sweeping wings forward and its bigger thickness. And questions of strength and filling up with fuel were solving more rationally. The following are some of them.

Constructive and technologic decisions on applying unique long-sized single-piece pressed panels with wing tip and wing spar of 25 m length provide the biggest efficiency of achieving Ruslan high load ratio. Also, efficiency was achieved by waffle powered panels of 8-12 m length and other oversized powered details in fuselage and tail empennage.

For the first time in the world practice a double-row flange joint of the wing console with the wing center section was used. In comparison with one-row joint this one provides essential gain in mass and life-time.  

Composites are significantly used in the AN-124 structure. Landing gear doors, fillets, tracks fairings and other materials  are made of them. As the reinforcing strips they are used in longitudinal and transverse beams. In comparison with metal structures Ruslan mass was cut approximately by 6 tons.

For the first time in the USSR the airplane was equipped with airborne automated control system, testing parameters of the work of engines, anti-icing system, electrical power system, cabin air pressure and air conditioning control system, hydraulic complex, landing gear etc. Control of the crew activity, in particular, its implementation of the flight manual prescriptions, especially during take-off and landing, became the another important function of the airborne automated control system (AACS). Besides, the AACS performed a number of quite new tasks, such as determination of weight and center of gravity on ground and in flight, formation of the information about failures into emergency recorder and communication system, determination of maximum take-off weight in the airdrome conditions, etc.

System of avoidance from aircraft passing to overcritical mode was developed and embedded.

All control surfaces on the AN-124 did not have mass balancing that allowed decreasing mass of structure approximately by 2.5 tones. 4 hydraulic drives, each powered from individual hydraulic system were installed at each control section.

In the result of progressive project solutions the AN-124 became the aircraft of a new generation in many aspects. Especially it concerned its transport potential surpassing Lockheedd C-5A Galaxy to 25%.

As seniors of the company note “designing of the AN-124 was the best time for the creative thought of our Design Bureau. The specialists were working in the atmosphere of benevolence, with inspiration, demonstrating big enthusiasm. Each of them felt himself as a creator of this unique airplane”.

The first AN-124s including that for statistic tests were built at Kiev Aviation Production Association (KAPA, now called “ANTONOV” Serial plant”) jointly with Kiev mechanical plant. Long before the technical view of the airplane was finally defined preparation for this work had begun. Thus since 1973 erection of large engineering buildings with chord to 100 m had been started at KAPA; since 1977 the process of the building had been controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Since 1979 designer documentation on the AN-124 (serial No01-01) had been passing to the plant; simultaneously the production equipment manufacture was launched.  At the same time the collective of the plant was solving problems on mastering of new equipment and many dozens of new technological processes including manufacturing of pylons panels, skins of the fuselage, titanium and aluminum pipelines, non-metal parts. Before the production of the AN-124 was launched, a high level methodology of equipping, connection and assembly had been developed. That methodology was not only the advanced one for the Soviet plants, but considerably new. The laser technology was the first time to be used in the Soviet Union that provided a high quality of Ruslans production.

Cooperation in manufacture of the aircraft was very broad: landing gears were made in Kuibyshev, engines – in Zaporozhie, APU – in Stoupino near Moscow, elements of hydraulic complex – in Moscow and Kharkov, target pilot-navigating complex in Leningrad. More than 100 plants were involved. But the main partner of two Kiev enterprises was V.P.Chkalov Tashkent Aviation Industrial Enterprise which made consoles of the wing, wing center section and big details of a transverse kit of the fuselage. Ready components were transported from Tashkent to Kiev by the AN-22.

Strength tests of prototypes are an important stage of creation of any airplane. For the first time in the world the full complex of static and fatigue tests was conducted on one frame on the AN-124 that allowed not to build an additional airplane and to economy the sum equal to 40 millions USD. The total volume of static tests was 60000 hrs. All the most important components of the aircraft were tested in a new laboratory of strength tests of Kiev mechanical plant excluding struts of landing gears tested in Novosibirsk.

Roll-out of the first AN-124 out of an assembly shop took place on the 24th of October 1982 in presence of a big number of people.

            Its maiden flight the AN-124 performed on the 24th of December 1982 from the plant airdrome in Svyatoshin. A crew of plant test-pilots including V.I.Tesrsky (captain) and A.V.Galunenko (co-pilot), A.P.Poddubny (navigator), V.M. Vorotnikov and A.M.Shuleshchenko (flight engineers), M.A.Tupchienko (radio-operator), M.G.Kharchenko (leading engineer), V.S.Mikhailov (engineer-tester) piloted the airplane.

            Flight tests of the AN-124 including flight-designers and State joint ones were performed by three prototypes in 650 flights with common flying time of 1595 hrs. “The Act on State tests of heavy military transport aircraft AN-124” was signed in December 1986. During the following three years special tests of the AN-124 were performed in order to define its parameters in conditions of natural icing, possibility to fly in combat line, air dropping of troops and cargoes.

            Initially it was planed to produce the AN-124 in Kiev, but in early 1980-s the government decided to involve Ulianovsk aviation industrial complex in its manufacture. To master a new machine many specialists and workers came to Kiev from Ulianovsk. The second Ruslan No01-03 (he was the first serial one) took-off in Kiev in December 1984 (captain A.V.Galunenko), in Ulianovsk in October 1985 the first aircraft which took-off had No 01-07 (captain A.V.Galunenko). On the banks of the Dnepr 20 machines were produced in total (the last Ruslan No 03-03 was built in 2003), on the banks of the Volga – 36 airplanes (the last one No 08-02 – in June 2004). In total 56 Ruslans were built.

            In May 1985 Ruslan was demonstrated to the Soviet press for the first time and in a couple of weeks the aircraft made its début at XXVI International air show in Le Bourget (France).

            To demonstrate possibilities of the AN-124 to the whole world immediately after the show was completed management of the Ministry of aviation industry of the USSR decided to perform a number of record flights on it. On the 26th of June 1985 the crew of Tersky established 21 world records on the airplane with No 01-01 during one flight including absolute achievement of cargo lifting with mass 171,219 t to the altitude of 10750 m exceeded the result of C-5A (111.461 t to the altitude of 2000 m).

            In May 1987 the mixed (with participation of military men) crew under the command of Tersky performed the non-stop flight on the AN-124 with No 01-08 with length 20151 km along the border of the Soviet Union for the 25 hrs 30 min. Take-off mass reached the record value – 455 t. The world record of the flight range on the closed route was established and the achievement of B-52H (18245.5 km) was exceeded.

            In the period from January 1990 to December 1992 a complex of certification tests on corresponding to the civil norms of airworthiness (НЛГС-3) carried out on the airplanes Nos 01-01, 01-03, 05-07 and 02-08. On January 30, 1992 the civil version of the AN-124-100 Ruslan obtained the Certificate of airworthiness as a civil transport aircraft from Aviation Register of International Aviation Committee.