Antonov CEO Sergii Bychkov has launched a campaign to resurrect the world’s largest plane, the AN-225 Mriya (Dream), which was destroyed by Russian troops in the early days of the Ukraine invasion.
On March 24, Bychkov posted an appeal on Antonov’s Facebook page for donations, saying he wished to restore the Soviet-era plane as “a symbol of the world’s highest scientific and technical achievements in modern transport aircraft construction.” Antonov claims the company would do it themselves, but it is short on cash due to the ongoing war.
✈️Ukrainian plane manufacturer Antonov proposes starting international fund to build new An-225, the world's biggest plane, to replace the one destroyed by fighting.
Building a new An-225 can cost more than $3 billion.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 24, 2022
“Dear citizens of all countries of the world! Among all transport aircraft, the AN-225 Mriya aircraft of the Antonov State Enterprise occupies a special place — the largest in terms of cargo volumes and unsurpassed in its parameters… Despite these hard times, the Antonov team is resolute in their belief that the irreversible loss of the legendary aircraft as one of the symbols of modernity cannot be allowed and that work must start on the revival of the flagship transport aircraft, AN-225 Mriya… We propose to establish an International Fund.”
The AN-225 was undeniably a powerful aircraft. It has six ZMKB Progress Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines that enable a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes. It has a wingspan of 290 feet, a length of 275 feet, and a height of 59 feet.
The gigantic freighter was the heaviest plane ever built and has set 240 world records, including two Guinness World Records for the aircraft with the heaviest take-off weight, as well as the largest wingspan of any aircraft.
Kyiv-based Antonov has so far built only one AN-225, according to CNN. The aircraft has been in service since its first flight in 1988.
When Russian troops attempted to take over Hostomel Airport in Kyiv in late February, the AN-225 Mriya was in a hangar. It was destroyed during what is now known as the Battle of Antonov Airport. Antonov also released additional data about the damage to their facilities on Facebook.
“As a result of Russia’s hostile actions, the base in Gostomel was demolished, the base in Sviatoshyn was damaged, the AN-26, AN-74 and the flagship of the world aviation fleet AN-225 Mriya were destroyed,” the company said.
The ambitious crowd-funding proposal seeks support from “heads of states and governments of all countries, global aviation producers; foreign partner companies that participated in the creation of aircraft and other Antonov products and supplied their products for the serial production of Antonov aircraft, management of banks and other financial institutions; aviation fans and enthusiasts, the world aviation community, and all people concerned who admired the greatness of the Ukrainian Mriya.”
The statement concludes with various bank account details into which funds can be deposited. Bychkov did not say how much it would cost or how long it would take to restore the badly damaged plane.
According to Ukraine’s state news service, Ukrinform, the aircraft’s restoration will cost more than $3 billion.
Why Wasn’t The AN-225 Removed From Hangar?
Despite its huge significance, many argue that Ukraine has far more serious rebuilding needs than the AN-225. Some quarters criticize the firm for failing to evacuate the Mriya from Ukraine on time.
The company said it was making arrangements to do relocate the aircraft in late 2021. “In mid-February, taking into consideration unfavorable development of actions on the part of Russia and Belarus, work in preparation for the relocation was intensified,” Antonov said on Facebook.
“AN-26, AN-74, and AN-225 airplanes were prepared and loaded. The AN-225 was under necessary scheduled maintenance and had an incomplete set of engines,” it added. “In the evening of February 23, the sixth engine was mounted on the AN-225, so that in the morning of December 24 everyone could fly to Leipzig.”
However, Ukraine shut down its airspace to civilian aircraft overnight, which halted the relocation of the Antonov aircraft. A terrible coincidence of timing meant that if the AN-255’s sixth engine had been installed 24 hours earlier, the enormous plane might have left Ukraine on time.