AN-225: Plans to rebuild world’s largest aircraft confirmed


(CNN) — For avgeeks, the destruction of the world’s largest commercial airliner was one of the key images at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In February, the Antonov AN-225 was attacked at its base in Hostomel, near Kiev.

Now it seems they have stayed true to their word, with the company announcing that plans to rebuild it are already in place.

Nicknamed “Mriya” – Ukrainian for “dream” – the huge plane was built in the 1980s to carry the Soviet space shuttle.

Its later life, while somewhat less glamorous, was equally iconic – it was the world’s largest cargo carrier, with about twice the cargo space of a Boeing 747, and won a cult following among self-proclaimed avgeeks. It stretched to 84 meters, or 275 feet, with the longest wingspan of any fully operational aircraft. To date, it is the heaviest aircraft ever built.

The plane’s nose took a direct hit, according to CNN journalist Vasco Cotivio, who saw it in April.

Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Its destruction was announced on February 27, 2022, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweet that “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’ … but they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state.”

At the time, the Antonov Company said it could not verify the plane’s condition, while CNN journalist Vasco Cotovio noted that the nose had apparently taken “a direct artillery hit” and was “entirely destroyed” when he sighted it on an April 1. visit.

“There was extensive damage to the wings and some engines. The tail section was spared from major impacts and has a few holes caused by shrapnel or bullets,” he said at the time, predicting that a repair would be unlikely. .

However, on Monday, the Antonov Company announced in a tweet that it had a conversion project already started, with “design work” already in the offing. Although it estimated repair costs, the company predicted a bill of more than €500 million ($502 million) to get it back on the air, promising more information “after the win”.

The company already has about 30% of the components needed to build a new one, it announced.

Originally, Ukraine’s state defense company Ukroboronprom, which Antonov manages, had issued a statement estimating the restoration at more than $3 billion — which it promised to make Russia pay for. It was said at the time that the renovation would take at least five years.

It will cost more than $502 million to rebuild, the company said.

It will cost more than $502 million to rebuild, the company said.

Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Antonov subsequently confirmed to CNN that it was working on the project.

“The process of rebuilding ‘Mriya’ is considered an international project, with the participation of airline companies from different countries of the world,” it said via email.

“The possibility of raising funding from various sources is being considered and proposals from many organizations willing to join the project are being assessed.”

The company said it would coordinate research, design and assembly and confirmed there are still large airframe units for a new aircraft that have not been destroyed.

“The program is moving towards conducting an expert assessment of these units, for subsequent calculations and design work,” it wrote, adding that construction would take place “immediately after Ukraine’s victory.”

The announcement coincides with the launch of an exhibition dedicated to the aircraft at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, which is home to five other Antonov aircraft. “Light and shadow: The Antonov story” shows photos of the plane before and after its destruction, highlighting the technical prowess lost when it was attacked. It will be on display until the end of December.

At the opening, Oleksiy Makeiev, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, announced that although he had flown “almost all AN aircraft, the Mriya remained a dream for me,” in a statement from the company.

“We hope it will be restored and we will see this mighty bird in the sky again,” he added.

In the meantime, if you miss Mriya, you can build your own model – or at least your own model. Ukrainian startup Metal Time sells working mechanical design kits of the AN-225. Each costs $99, with profits going directly to Antonov to fund Mriya’s rebuilding, as well as rehousing Antonov workers whose homes were destroyed by the Russian invasion, and training for new Ukrainian pilots and aeronautical engineers.

Jacopo Prisco and Jack Guy contributed to this report

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