The Antonov An-124, better known by its NATO reporting name of the “Condor,‘ has a primary role as a transportation aircraft and was manufactured by Russian aircraft manufacturer Aviastar-SP. The Condor’s greatest asset is its size. It was the largest airplane in production until the Antonov An-225 was built and it flew for the first time in 1982 for testing but was introduced to the public in 1986.
The Antonov An-124 is remotely similar to the American Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, but has a significantly larger payload capability, being almost 25% larger. The Antonov An-124’s have been utilized in the transporting of locomotives, yachts, aircraft fuselages, and a variety of other oversized cargoes. The Antonov An-124 is able to “kneel” to allow easier front loading. Up to 150 tons of cargo can be carried in a military variant Antonov An-124 in addition to the safe transit up to 88 passengers in an upper deck behind the wing center section. The Antonov is unmatched in its ability to transport large cargo to distant locations.
The original Antonov An-124 was built with a projected service life of approximately 7,500 flight hours with the possibility for extension. However, the majority of all military airframes have flown more than 15,000 flight hours.
But all of the Antonov An-124 built after 2000 took on the modified name of Antonov An-124-100. Lockheed Martin contracts the Antonov An-124-100 to transport the Atlas V launch vehicles. Though two flights are required to transfer each launch vehicle, one for the Atlas V main booster stage and another for the Centaur upper stage, no other aircraft could take on such a massive payload. Space Systems Loral contracts the Antonov An-124-100 to transport satellites to the Arianespace spaceport. The modification seen in the An-124-100’s is an improved service life of 24,000 across the board. This modification came about in response to complaints by commercial users that certain airframes were serviceable for longer life cycles than others. With the An-124, those built before 2000, are being upgraded to this standard of the An-124-100 predecessor. Additional researching is being performed to extend its service life to 40,000 flight hours.