Energizing Bolivia – a project to increase the capacity of the Bolivian power grid by 66 percent – was given additional power during the summer of 2018 when the AN-225 Mriya performed a series of twelve consecutive flights between Iquique, Chile and Chimore, Bolivia.

A project to expand three power plants in land-locked Bolivia had originally required equipment to be driven almost 1,800 km (1,118 miles), passing through some 180 bridges and tunnels, whilst reaching a height of 4,680 m (15,354 ft). However, deteriorating weather conditions proved too challenging to safely deliver twelve 150,000 kg steam generators from Arica’s sea port in northern Chile to the Entre Ríos Power Plant, near Cochabamba in southern Bolivia.

Having been asked to consider an ‘air bridge’ in April 2018, Antonov Airlines’ team in Kyiv began planning a complex operation using the AN-225. One very significant factor affecting the project was that the cargo had not been prepared for air transportation. Having arrived in Chile by ocean, the generators were only configured for sea and land transportation. Therefore, several modifications were required to ensure that they were loadable on the AN-225.

Based on the calculations of Antonov Airlines’ engineers – adjustable lifting points (to enable lifting by external cranes) were designed and installed to reduce the generators’ height during the aircraft loading process. The reverse bending of the cargo base and damping panels were also necessary to reduce the concentrated loads on the aircraft floor, which exceeded permissible limits. Finally, a special tiedown scheme was designed, requiring the welding of special lashing and winching points.

The configuration for land transportation also meant that air transportation G-force restrictions had not been considered. A special training programme for the flight crew was devised to limit the maximum G-forces applied during the take-off, cruise and landing procedures of the AN-225.

The final constraint involved the restricted airport facilities at both Iquique (IQQ) and Chimore (CCA). Due to insufficient night-time navigational equipment at CCA, the operation could only take place during the daytime, with landing planned for sunrise and departure before sunset. In addition, no tow tractor was available in IQQ, with further restrictions meaning the AN-225 could not be manoeuvred under its own power. Furthermore, only limited ground service equipment was available in CCA.

To overcome the IQQ challenge, Antonov Airlines’ own tow tractor was delivered from its base in Kyiv onboard the AN-225 and retained for the entire operation. Ground service equipment, such as ground power units and forklifts, were also positioned to CCA at the request of Antonov Airlines.

Beginning on June 26 and finishing July 24, 2018, the twelve generators were safely delivered to their destination – successfully completing a project that had taken just three months to plan.