The world’s largest cargo plane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya, was destroyed in a Russian assault on an airfield near Kiev, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday.
“We will rebuild the plane,” read a statement from the official Ukrainian government Twitter account. “We will realize our dream of a strong, free and democratic Ukraine.”
The statement noted that Mriya had been “destroyed by Russian occupiers”. This appeared to corroborate earlier reports that the plane had been set on fire, including by Ukraine’s foreign minister. Dmytro Kuleba and state arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom.
A satellite photo shared by Radio Svoboda, a subsidiary of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, also claimed to show the hangar in which the An-225 was stored in flames.
Ukroboronprom confirmed in a statement that Mriya would be rebuilt, a process it estimates would cost more than $3 billion and take more than five years.
“Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which caused intentional damage to Ukrainian aviation and the air cargo sector,” the manufacturer said.
The plane began undergoing repairs at Gostomel airport on February 24, Ukroboronprom said. Because one of its six giant engines had been temporarily disabled, it had been unable to move after the invasion of Russian forces.
The Antonov company, which is managed by Ukroboronprom, did not confirm the destruction of Mriya. “Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft,” the company said. notedadding that he would share more information as it became available.
‘Mriya’, which translates to ‘dream’ or ‘inspiration’, was a monster jet over 30 years old and adored by aviation geeks everywhere. Boasting a longer wingspan than the Wright brothers’ first flight and a nose-to-tail length of more than 270 feet, the plane had a maximum takeoff weight of more than 640,000 kilograms, according to Antonov Airlines. It dates back to the Soviet era, having been designed and built in the 1970s and 1980s to ride the regime’s Buran space shuttle.
The plane first took off on December 21, 1988, becoming something of a celebrity in the aviation world. When the plane touched down in Perth, Australia in May 2016, more than 35,000 airplane enthusiasts gathered to witness its arrival, adding to the traffic around the airport.
It entered commercial operation in 2001, with each hour of operation reportedly costing $30,000. During the coronavirus pandemic, the aircraft has been used in state humanitarian operations to transport personal protective equipment around the world.
The plane’s life has been extended by Antonov Airlines, which announced several years ago that the plane was to remain in service until at least 2033.
“He has 242 world records to his name,” the company hailed, “and is the inspiration for Antonov Airlines’ slogan, ‘No other name carries more weight.’
Mriya’s lead engineer, Nikolay Kalashnikov, told the BBC in 2017 that it had been almost impossible to imagine such a big machine being able to fly when it was designed.
“The Mriya is not separable from Ukraine,” Kalashnikov said, “it’s like our child, and it’s something our children and grandchildren can always be proud of.”