Aerospace was one of the key sectors the erstwhile Soviet Union had attached utmost importance to. Subsequently, it propelled Russia’s military might with the country investing billions of dollars in developing advanced aircraft to compete with the United States.
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To what was considered Russia’s answer to Airbus’ iconic, wide-bodied A380 aircraft, Ukrainian manufacturer Antonov State Enterprise rolled out an 800-seat passenger plane that came to be known as the An-148. The company eventually shelved the project.
“The proposed An-418 was similar to the Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ in its double-deck design. However, it pre-dated this European project, and was instead a response to the success of the American Boeing 747,” Jake Hardiman wrote in an article published by aviation portal Simple Flying.
While the An-418 bore a lot of striking similarities to the A-380, unlike the European aircraft, the Soviet plane was bracketed under the medium-range passenger aircraft which had the ability to carry more than 800 passengers at a range of 10,000 kilometers.
Another difference noticed between the two aircraft, according to GlobalSecurity.org, was that “The AN-418 and the A380 aircraft fuselages had identical cross-section, but in the development of the A380 the nose portion has been changed due to the transfer of the cockpit on the first deck, on the grounds that would simplify the process of taxing.”
Formerly the Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex, Antonov, which has its headquarters in Kyiv, specializes in making gigantic aircraft, having built both the longest and heaviest planes of the world, and the An-418 is yet another example of that preaching.
The An-418 double-decker plane was built on the similar principles upon which Antonov built the An-225 Mriya, which is considered to be the largest aircraft by weight, length, and wingspan.
According to Global Security, “Antonov designed the proposed An-418 as a passenger equivalent of its An-124. This aircraft, known as Ruslan (a Russian variation of the Turkish ‘Aslan,’ meaning ‘Lion’), went on to form the basis of the larger An-225 Mriya. Antonov constructed 55 of these enormous aircraft, which have carried cargo as large as boats and trains.”
The idea for developing the An-418 aircraft stemmed from a need for the Soviet Union to field a double-decker version of the An-124 cargo aircraft.
Sao Paolo-based aviation expert Murilo Basseto says, “Long before Airbus began development in 1988 of the world’s largest passenger plane, the A380, officially introduced in 1990, Antonov had already planned for the double-deck market with a passenger version of the An-124.”
“Designating it as An-418, the Soviets sought to outdo its American rivals’ Boeing 747 during the Cold War. While the An-124 took off for the first time in 1982 and entered service in 1986, the design of the new passenger giant was planned from modifications to the freighter,” Basseto adds.
The fuselage would be changed to include the second floor and the emergency windows and doors necessary for passenger transport requirements, and adapted to withstand twice as much pressurization.”
However, the plans for the aircraft were delayed due to USSR’s preference for designs like the IL-96, as a result of which only two models of the An-418 were built, before Antonov decided to permanently halt the production of the passenger planes, which were later transformed into cargo versions of the An-124.