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 start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In February, the Antonov AN-225 was attacked at its base in Hostomel, near Kyiv.

Now it looks like they’ve kept their word, with the company announcing that plans to rebuild it are already underway.

Called “Mriya” (Ukrainian for “dream”), the massive aircraft was built in the 1980s to carry the Soviet space shuttle.

Its later life, though somewhat less glamorous, was equally iconic: it was the world’s largest cargo carrier, with roughly twice the holding capacity of a Boeing 747, earning it cult status among self-styled 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 reporter Vasco Cotivio, who saw it in April.

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

Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Its destruction was announced on February 27, 2022, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba. tweeting 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.”

The Antonov company said at the time that it could not verify the plane’s condition, while CNN reporter Vasco Cotovio noted that the nose had apparently received “a direct artillery hit” and was ” completely destroyed” when he saw it one April. visit

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

On Monday, however, the Antonov company announced in a tweet that the reconstruction project had already started, with the “design work” already done. While it had estimated repair costs, the company predicted a bill of more than 500 million euros ($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, he announced.

Originally, Ukraine’s state defense company Ukroboronprom, which operates Antonov, had issued a statement estimating the restoration at more than $3 billion, which it pledged to make Russia pay. The rebuild would take at least five years, he said at the time.

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

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

Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Antonov later confirmed to CNN that he was working on the project.

“The reconstruction process of ‘Mriya’ is considered an international project, with the participation of aviation companies from different countries of the world,” he said by email.

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

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

“The program is being developed in the direction of conducting an expert assessment of these units, for further calculations and design work,” he wrote, adding that the construction would take place “immediately after the victory of Ukraine “.

The announcement coincides with the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the aircraft at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany, which is home to five other Antonov aircraft. “Light and Shadow: The Antonov Story” shows photos of the plane before and after its destruction, focusing on the engineering prowess that was lost when it was attacked. It will be on display until the end of December.

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

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

In the meantime, if you miss Mriya, you can create your own model, or at least your own model. Ukrainian startup Metal Time sells functional mechanical design kits of the AN-225. Each cost $99, and the proceeds go directly to Antonov to fund the rebuilding of Mriya, as well as rehousing Antonov employees whose homes have been destroyed by the Russian invasion and training new pilots and engineers to Ukrainian aviation.

Jacopo Prisco and Jack Guy contributed to this report

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