Most of us are familiar with commercial aircraft, but not all planes are designed with passengers in mind. One of the most magnificent of the world’s aircraft is the Antonov AN-70 which is a four-engine short takeoff and landing tactical military medium transports, and the first large aircraft to be powered by propfan engines.
This aircraft is capable of solving qualitatively new tasks beyond possibilities of previous military transports. Developed in the Ukraine, the AN-70 can carry a 47 tonne payload to a range of 3000 kilometres and is brilliant for carrying materials to disaster areas as it can land and takeoff from unpaved airfield with runway length of just 600-800 metres. As well, the aircraft can service regions in high altitudes as it is also capable of servicing landing strips that are as high as 3000 metres.
The propfan is a new type of aircraft engine which uses a gas turbine to drive an unshielded propeller. The propeller itself looks unusual as it is designed with a large number of short, highly twisted blades which is intended to offer the speed and performance of a turbofan, with the fuel economy of a turboprop. The propfan concept was developed to deliver 35% better fuel efficiency than contemporary turbofans, but with so many blades, whilst fuel efficiency is excellent, noise is a problem, particularly around commercial airports. Because the AN-70 is designed primarily for military use noise is not such an issue.
The AN-70 is an enormous plane, having a length of 40.7m (133ft 6 in) and wingspan of 44.06m (144ft 7 in). It is not as large as an Airbus A380, which has a length of 72 metres and a wingspan of 79m, but then the AN-70 is designed to operate on much shorter runways than the A380, which needs about three times the distance of the AN-70 for full payload takeoff.
Although a military aircraft, the AN-70 is perfect for humanitarian missions, given its ability to land practically anywhere. For delivering supplies to regions where there are no suitable landing places, the planes design makes it far more efficient for dropping goods into remote places. This plane can perform such duties as the air dropping of cargoes and parachutists with twice less scatter than other aircraft and its crew can guide the aircraft to the calculated touchdown point with a pin-point accuracy.
The Antonov AN-70 has a big, lumpy shape that is not very pretty but perfectly functional, and it is its capabilities which make it such a magnificent aircraft.