LONDON – After 37 years of existence, we, unfortunately, for now, bid farewell to the Antonov AN-225 Mriya. Let’s take a brief look back at this aircraft’s remarkable history.
1985 – The Mriya (Dream) Was Born…
We rewind all of the ways back to 1985 when the aircraft was first built when Ukraine was in the USSR during the Cold War days.
The AN-225 was originally designed to airlift the Energia rocket boosters and the Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program, having been designed as a replacement for the Myasishchev VM-T Atlant.
The aircraft went into service on December 21st, 1988, and was first showcased at a public display in the Paris Air Show in 1989.
Antonov Airlines was founded in that same year, with the aircraft originally dubbed to begin operations from London Luton Airport in partnership with Air Foyle HeavyLift.
By 1990, the world got to see the aircraft fly at the Farnborough Air Show, showing off its sheer size and capabilities in the air.
The -225 was needed following additional demand for aircraft larger than the AN-124, its sister aircraft.
The Noughties – Need For A Second Mriya…
As the millennia began, the need for a second AN-225 was becoming more obvious due to its commercial successes, especially following its first commercial flight between Stuttgart and Oman in January 2002 following commercial approval in 2001.
By the start of 2006, Antonov ceased its partnership with AirFoyle and partnered up with Volga-Dnepr instead, hence why we see the current blue and yellow paint scheme that was eventually added in 2009.
In September 2006, a decision was made to begin work on the second airframe, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2008.
However, by August 2009, work on the aircraft had been abandoned, with the Antonov CEO mentioning in May 2011 that around $300 million worth of financing would be needed.
In that same year, the Airspace Industry Corporation of China contacted Antonov and expressed interest in the AN-225 to turn it into an air launch to orbit platform for its space program.
Unfortunately, such a program didn’t materialize, and Ukroboronprom was still seeking financial assistance in getting this aircraft produced.
By April 2013, the Russian government announced plans to revive its USSR days and use the -225 as a midair launchpad.
Breaking Records Through The Noughties & The 10’s…
Of course, the sheer size of the AN-225 was known for breaking some considerable records.
It holds the following records:
- Airlifted single-item payload – 189.9 tonnes.
- Airlifted total payload – 253.8 tonnes.
- Transported payload – 247 tonnes.
In 2010, the aircraft carried the world’s longest piece of air cargo at 42.1 meters wide, which were test wind turbine blades bound for Skyrdstrup, Denmark from Tianjin, China.
What is very clear is that whilst this aircraft has been destroyed, it is going to take a lot to surpass or beat such records going forward.
Destruction in Gostomel…
And as we know, the last week has been the hardest for the Antonov company, especially with its AN-225 being destroyed by the Russian army.
There were of course multiple rumors, to begin with, that the aircraft had survived the attacks, but footage and photos later revealed it got heavily damaged.
We of course now ask, what is next for the AN-225 and will it be restored into its former glory?
The AN-225 Will Be Rebuilt At Russia’s Expense
Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, said that the AN-225 Mriya will be rebuilt at Russia’s expense as well as a second Mriya to be built too.
It is understood that the rebuild will cost around $3bn and will take up to five years to be restored to its former glory.
In a statement, the company said the following:
“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.”
Ukraine Crisis – Motivation for Second Mriya To Be Built
Yuriy Husyev, the General Director of Ukroboronprom, also expanded on this, even confirming that a new and second Mriya will be built after this conflict comes to an end.
“Russia has destroyed our “Mriya” (literally translated as “lathe” “dream”), 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!”
These are of course strong words from Ukroboronprom, highlighting the level of anger that such Ukrainian businesses have with the Russian invasion.
Bearing in mind this conflict is far from over, and with Putin’s Russia not taking much accountability, it will be interesting to see whether the Russians would pay for this in the end or not.