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

(CNN) — For avgeeks, the downing of the world’s largest commercial aircraft was one of the key images of 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 stayed true to their word, with the company announcing that rebuilding plans are already underway.

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

Its later life, though slightly less glamorous, was equally iconic – it was the world’s largest cargo carrier, with roughly twice the cargo hold capacity of a Boeing 747, earning cult status among self-proclaimed avgeeks. . It extended 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 was directly hit, according to CNN reporter Vasco Cotivio, who saw it in April.

The plane’s nose was directly 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 Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Tweeter that “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’…but it can never destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state”.

The Antonov company said at the time it was unable to verify the plane’s condition, while CNN reporter Vasco Cotovio noted that the nose had apparently taken “a direct hit from artillery” and had been “completely destroyed” when he saw it one April. visit.

“There was extensive damage to the wings and some engines. The rear section was spared any major impact and has a few holes caused by shrapnel or bullets,” he told Reuters. time, predicting that a reparation would be unlikely. .

On Monday, however, the Antonov company announced in a tweet that the reconstruction project had already started, with “design work” already in sight. While it had estimated repair costs, the company predicted a bill of more than 500 million euros ($502 million) to put it back in the air, promising more information “after the win”.

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

Originally, the Ukrainian public defense company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, issued a statement estimating the restoration at more than $3 billion, which it pledged to make Russia pay. The reconstruction would take at least five years, he said at the time.

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

The announcement coincides with the launch 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 technical prowess that was lost when it came under attack. It will be on display until the end of December.

During 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 released by 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’re missing Mriya, you can build your own – or, at least, your own model. Ukrainian startup Metal Time sells working mechanical design kits of the AN-225. Each costs $99, and proceeds go directly to Antonov to fund Mriya’s reconstruction, as well as the relocation of Antonov employees whose homes were destroyed by the Russian invasion, and the training of new Ukrainian pilots and aeronautical engineers.

Jacopo Prisco and Jack Guy contributed to this report

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