Antonov rebuilds Mriya, the world’s largest cargo plane

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By Kimberly Johnson

Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov has announced plans to rebuild the legendary An-225 Mriya, the world’s largest cargo plane, which was destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Days after fighting began in late February, the legendary Soviet-era strategic airlifter with a 290-foot wingspan was destroyed in fighting at Gostomel Airport.

Antonov said that this week they have collected nearly a third of the materials needed to rebuild the plane.

“According to the expert assessment available, around 30 percent of the components can currently be used for the second sample,” the company said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday. β€œThe cost of building the aircraft is estimated at at least 500 million euros. However, it’s still too early to talk about a specific amount. More information will be available [available] after the win.”

Initial reports indicated that construction of the new aircraft was 30% complete – a figure Antonov later corrected as representative of the components needed to build it, according to the Kyiv Independent.

“Work on the new machine will be carried out in a secret place,” Yevhen Havrylov, acting director general of Antonov, said on Monday, according to the Kyiv Independent. “The second An-225, which was never completed, will be supplemented with parts from the bombed machine and new parts.”

Earlier this summer, a former Mriya captain revealed details of plans to build a second version of the wrecked aircraft. In a two-part interview published on Aerotime Hub, pilot Dmytro Antonov discussed how engineers would use an existing An-225 second fuselage to design a complete aircraft. He also offered reasons why the iconic guy should go back to heaven.

“Everyone knows that no matter what, we will do it,” Antonov said. “It’s being confirmed at the highest political level, so things are moving.”

Ukraine’s Antonov-225 Mriya, the world’s heaviest and largest aircraft, makes a test landing at the airport’s new runway in Donetsk, Ukraine, July 26, 2011. (Photo: Sergey Vaganov/Associated Press file photo)

Mriya’s unique traits

The An-225 Mriya, or Dream, built in the mid-1980s, has been a record-breaker since it rolled off the assembly line, according to Simple Flying, and with good reason. As well as being the world’s heaviest aircraft, the An-225 is known for having the largest wingspan and carrying the longest piece of air cargo: two test turbine blades.

It had six engines, could carry 225 tons of cargo and used about 20 tons of fuel per flight hour.

Antonov Airlines used the monster-sized aircraft for specialty moves, like electrical transformers or other massive equipment that couldn’t easily fit in their huge – but smaller – AN-124 freighters, or when using the An-225 was cheaper than two An-124s . Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has also been transporting humanitarian aid and medical supplies such as personal protective equipment.

The An-225 holds aviation records for transporting the longest and heaviest cargo, including a gas-fired power plant generator that weighed almost 419,000 pounds.

The cargo airline owns seven An-124s. Russian airline Volga Dnepr also has a fleet of An-124 cargo planes and there are a handful of others with small operators. But there was only one An-225 in operational condition.

It was built by the Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine in the late 1980s to carry missile sections for the Soviet space program, borrowing design concepts from the An-124, a military transport.

The An-225 and several An-124 ended up in private ownership after the end of the Cold War. The Mriya required a refurbishment after several years of neglect before airing again in 2001.

Eric Kulisch and Thom Patterson contributed to this article.

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