April 28 - The sole An-225, now operated by Antonov Airlines, has performed its first charter from China, carrying a full load of general cargo.

Normally associated only with the very largest and heaviest outsize loads, the An-225 transported a consignment of general cargo from Shijiazhuang Airport, Beijing to Vitoria, Spain on behalf of a major freight forwarder who was attempting to reduce a backlog of cargo that had built up in China following the closure of European airspace for several days following the Icelandic volcanic eruption earlier this month.

Antonov Airlines commercial director Valery Kulbaka said: "The An-225 is not usually used for general cargo, but its proximity at the time of the charter, and the magnitude of the overall backlog problem, enabled us to provide a viable solution for the client on this occasion.

"The An-225 is normally accepted by a number of airports in Spain. The aircraft's routing into Vitoria, its first time there, was a result of continuing pressure on slots at other Spanish airports, as scheduled carriers increase their operations in their efforts to return to normal."

The An-225 can carry ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to 250 tonnes in weight and accommodate single pieces up to 210 tonnes. It has established a reputation for transporting objects such as locomotives and 150-tonne generators, and has taken part in numerous humanitarian relief programmes.