The world’s largest airplane, the Antonov AN-225, has been destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials, provoking worry and regret within the aviation community in which it enjoys virtually cult status.
The large aircraft, named “Mriya,” or “dream” in Ukrainian, was parked at an airfield near Kyiv when it was assaulted by “Russian occupants,” Ukrainian authorities said, adding that they will repair the jet.
“Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!” wrote Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter.
There has been no independent confirmation of the aircraft’s destruction. A tweet from the Antonov Company said it could not verify the “technical condition” of the aircraft until it had been inspected by experts.
Ukrainian state defense company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, on Sunday issued a statement saying the aircraft had been destroyed but would be rebuilt at Russia’s expense – a cost it put at $3 billion.
“The restoration is estimated to take over 3 billion USD and over five years,” the statement said. “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.
In a later statement, the company said the airplane had been in on the ground near Kyiv on February 24 undergoing maintenance.
“According to the director of Antonov Airlines, one of the engines was dismantled for repairs and the plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given,” it said.
On Friday, Russian forces claimed to have captured Hostomel airfield, which was home to the AN-225. On the ground, a CNN crew spotted Russian airborne forces establishing positions.
Maxar Technologies satellite photographs reveal considerable damage to a section of the hangar where the AN-225 is stored.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System identified multiple flames at the airport, including one in the hangar that houses the plane. According to NASA data, the fire at the hangar was discovered around 11:13 a.m. on Sunday. NASA data is derived from a number of NOAA and NASA satellites.
Video: The world’s biggest aircraft Antonov An-225 Mriya has been destroyed during attack in Ukraine
It is unknown whether the airport fires are the result of actual fires or explosions caused by military attacks.
If true, the strike would bring an abrupt end to an aircraft that served in the Soviet Union for more than 30 years.
The AN-225 was occasionally summoned in to assist in airlifting aid during other countries’ emergencies. It provided humanitarian supplies to neighboring Dominican Republic following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It was utilized to bring medical supplies to impacted areas during the early stages of the Covid epidemic.
Due to its fame in the aviation community, it frequently drew enormous crowds wherever it traveled, even more so when it made celebrity appearances at air shows.
Some of its fans took to social media on Sunday to express their dismay at claims of the aircraft’s destruction. “Mriya – You will always be remembered!” wrote aviation blogger Sam Chui on Twitter.
Mriya is still the heaviest airplane ever built. She has a maximum payload weight of 250 tonnes, which can be carried inside or on her back, and is propelled by six turbofan engines. It has the largest wingspan of any active airplane.
Only one An-225 was ever built by the Antonov firm in Kiev, which conceptualized the design. It flew for the first time in 1988 and has remained in service ever since.
A second plane was begun but never completed.
The An-225’s story began in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Soviet Union and the United States were involved in a space competition.
By the late 1970s, the necessity for moving huge and heavy goods from their assembly locations to the Baikonur Cosmodrome developed. This sprawling spaceport in Kazakhstan’s deserts served as the launchpad for Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 pioneering space journey.
The cargo was the Buran spacecraft, which served as the Soviet Union’s response to NASA’s Space Shuttle. Due of the lack of aircraft capable of carrying it at the time, the Antonov firm was tasked with developing one.
Video: Antonov An-225 – The World’s Largest Aircraft | Full Documentary