Interesting that the old An-225, put into service over 30 years ago, was the only one of its class. This suggests there is no real market need for a plane this large. It seems that a potential customer could have bought roughly half a dozen B747s or A380s for the cost of another An-225. And the production of even those “smaller” 747/380 jumbo jets is ceasing because of lack of market demand for planes that large.
Maybe the An-225 is analogous to Brunel’s “Great Western” paddle ship designed to cross oceans? An impressive achievement, but a dead end on the evolutionary tree of technology.
There were a sufficient number of outsize and heavy payloads that no other airlifter could carry to make operating the An-225 profitable, but I assume that’s after writing off the R&D and manufacturing cost which were funded by the Energia/Buran program. There are cargoes which would have had to have been shipped in pieces and assembled at the destination or shipped via sea (where possible) had the plane not been available.
Outsize air cargo is a well established sector, dating back to the Pregnant Guppy, discussed here on 2022-04-11. A total of 4 Boeing Dreamlifter, 5 Airbus Beluga, and 6 Beluga XL planes have been built.
Indeed! But apparently not sufficiently large to justify the cost of building a second An-225 – even without having to pay any of the sunk development costs.
My understanding was that the Dreamlifters & Belugas were driven more by the need to ship awkwardly large sub-assemblies than by any weight limitation. And the need to ship awkwardly large sub-assemblies was a product of politics rather than commercial sense – build the wings in England separately from the fuselage in France, etc. But I could be wrong about that.