The largest cargo plane in the world, the Ukraine-made Antonov-225 Mriya (AN-225), has reportedly been destroyed by the Russians after an assault had taken place on Hostomel (or Gostomel) Airport near Kyiv as reported by Ukroboronprom on February 27. The plane named “Mriya,” or the “dream” in Ukrainian, has been a source of Ukrainian pride, especially with aviation enthusiasts who marvel at the sheer size and engineering of the plane.

“Russian occupiers destroyed the flagship of Ukrainian aviation — the legendary An-225 Mriya. This happened at the Antonov airfield in Gostomel near Kyiv, where the plane was,” reported Ukroboronprom on their website.

The plane AN-225 was parked at Hostomel Airport for repairs on February 24 and was left vulnerable to the Russian attack when the troops were on their way to Kyiv. The engines of the said airplane were dismantled for repairs and thus could not be flown to another location. Ukraine has also expressed its intent to restore the Mriya back to its original form, and they also intend the Russians to shoulder its cost as they had destroyed it.

“Mriya will definitely be reborn. The restoration is estimated to take over 3 bln USD and over 5 years. Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine’s aviation and the air cargo sector,” said Ukroboronprom through a statement.

“Russia has destroyed our ‘Mriya,’ but the dream of Ukraine to get free from the occupier cannot be destroyed. We will fight for our land and our home until we win. And after the victory, we will definitely finish our new ‘Mriya,’ which has been waiting for this in a safe place for many years. Everything will be Ukraine!” said General Director of Ukroboronprom Yuriy Husyev.

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba also reacted to the aircraft being destroyed through a tweet, stating, “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya.’ But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free, and democratic European state.”

According to the Antonov Company via its official Twitter account, the destruction of the aircraft could not be assessed, and the technical conditions of the plane could not be reported due to its location as the Russians have taken control over the said airport. However, satellite images from Maxar Technologies show a portion of the damage to the hangar where the AN-225 is situated. NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System also detected a fire at said hanger last Sunday, which may indicate that the plane had been destroyed.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showing the damaged hangar where the AN-225 was stored at the Hostomel Air Base (CNN). Source: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/antonov-an-225-largest-plane-destroyed-ukraine-scli-intl/index.html
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showing the damaged hangar where the AN-225 was stored at the Hostomel Air Base (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/CNN)

A tweet by Rita Armstrong of the airport at Hostomel shows an interior shot of the hanger where the AN-225 is plainly visible in its enormous hanger with its white and yellow fuselage.  Its right-side landing gear appears to have been collapsed rolling it slightly over to its right side and black smoke can be seen rising on the left-wing between its number three engine and the fuselage.  The black smoke is indicative of a fire fed by petroleum products

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The Dream and Its Groundbreaking Design

The development of the Antonov-225 Mriya began in the 1980s under lead designer Viktor Tolmachev. Only one unit of the aircraft was ever completed. It was initially developed to airlift Buran-class orbiters and Energiya carrier-rockets during the time of the former Soviet Union. Think of it as the USSR’s equivalent to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

With such a heavy task, the aircraft needed the capacity to match its intended load. As a result, it became such a huge aircraft and was subsequently recognized as the world’s heaviest aircraft. According to the Antonov official website, its massive body is powered by six massive turbofan engines and boasts a maximum take-off weight of 1,410,000 lbs.

Furthermore, the Ukrainian Dream has a maximum payload of 551,155 lbs and a maximum volume of 12,916.68 sq. ft. (1,200 CBM) which can be loaded both inside the craft or in the case of the aborted Russian space shuttle, on top of it. It also boasts a wingspan of 290 ft., the largest of any operational airplane today.

A modern-day Antonov AN-225 Mriya (Antonov). Source: https://antonov.com/en/history/an-225-mriya#gallery-2-4
A modern-day Antonov AN-225 Mriya (Antonov)

Taking from the AN-124 design, the AN-225 has fuselage barrel extensions added fore and aft of its wings. It uses the nose gear from AN-124-100, which gives it the ability to ‘kneel,’ making loading and unloading of cargo much easier. However, unlike the AN-124-100, which had its cargo door and ramp at the rear-end, the design for the Mriya empennage was modified from a single vertical stabilizer to a twin tail equipped with swept-backed oversize horizontal stabilizers. This set up the airplane to carry sizeable, heavy, external cargo, which typically leads to disruption of the airflow around a traditional tail.

The cargo compartment can also be pressurized, expanding the transport capacity of the aircraft. It is also equipped with cargo handling equipment, combined with the front cargo doors and its integrated ramp, maximizing loading and unloading efficiency.

Dreaming For The Skies: Mriya Setting Records

The AN-225 made her first flight on December 21, 1988, from the factory aerodrome in Svyatoshyn to be flown under the command of Captain Oleksandr Galunenko. After it had been used to transport the Buran shuttle orbiter and the Energiya carrier rocket, it continued its service for the Soviet space program until 1991. During that time, it established several aviation records with at least 110 under its belt in March of 1989. The aircraft also appeared in the 1989 38th Paris International Aerospace Show in France. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Antonov-225 was left unused for almost a decade.

The Mriya made its comeback in 2001 under Antonov Airlines as its superheavy cargo plane. The plane set 124 world records that same year, with another 214 domestic altitude, speed, and weight-to-altitude records. It’s been widely used to transport pipe-laying machines across Europe, deliver large wind turbines from China to Denmark, ship electric turbines across Latin America, and has also served several humanitarian missions across the globe. One good example of this was during the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake when it was drafted to deliver relief supplies and was also used to transport medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With its world-renowned records and, of course, its sheer size, aviation enthusiasts around the world will miss the AN-225 and its colossal contribution to aviation history. The Ukrainian government has vowed to restore the behemoth aircraft to flying condition after the war in their country is over.

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