The massive An-22 Antei (Antheus) is the largest turboprop powered aircraft yet built – it has a maximum takeoff weight similar to that of the Airbus A340-300 – and was designed in response to a largely military Soviet requirement for a strategic heavylift freighter.
The An-22 (NATO reporting name `Cock’) made its first flight on February 27 1965 – at that time it was comfortably the largest aircraft in the world. Production of the An-22 for the Soviet air force and Aeroflot continued through the 1960s until 1974.
The An-22 set 14 payload to height records in 1967, the pinnacle of which was the carriage of 100 tonnes (220,500lb) of metal blocks to an altitude of 25,748ft (7848m). It also established the record for a maximum payload lifted to a height of 2000m (6562ft), carrying a payload of 104,444kg (221,443lb). A number of class speed records were also set in 1972, including a speed of 608.5km/h (328kt) around a 1000km (540nm) circuit with a 50,000kg (110,250lb) payload. Further speed with payload records were established in 1974 and 1975.
As well as operations into the underdeveloped regions of Russia’s northeast, Siberia and Far East, Aeroflot An-22s were commonly used for military transport, their `civilian’ status allowing much freer access to landing and overflight rights.
Notable features of the An-22 include the NK12 turboprops – which also power the Tupolev Tu-95/Tu-142 Bear family of bombers and maritime patrol aircraft and are the most powerful turboprop engines in service – comprehensive navigation and precision drop avionics, and massive undercarriage and tailplane.