The world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov AN-225, has been destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials, generating alarm and sadness among the aviation world in which it occupies almost cult status.
The enormous aircraft, named “Mriya,” or “dream” in Ukrainian, was parked at an airfield near Kyiv when it was attacked by “Russian occupants,” Ukrainian authorities said, adding that they would rebuild the plane.
“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.
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.
“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.
Russian forces claimed to have captured Hostomel airfield, where the AN-225 was located, on Friday.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies show significant damage to part of the hangar in which the AN-225 is stored.
Meanwhile, NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System detected multiple fires at the airport, including at the hangar where the plane is kept. The fire at the hangar was detected at 11:13am on Sunday, according to the NASA data, which is obtained from a number of NOAA and NASA satellites.
The AN-225 was sometimes drafted in to help airlift aid during crises in other countries. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake it delivered relief supplies to the neighboring Dominican Republic. During the early days of the Covid pandemic it was used to transport medical supplies to affected areas.
To this day, Mriya remains the heaviest aircraft ever built. Powered by six turbofan engines, she has a maximum payload weight of 250 tonnes, which can be carried inside or on its back. It boasts the largest wingspan of any airplane in operational service.
Only one An-225 was ever built by the Kiev-based Antonov company, which came up with the design. It first took flight in 1988 and has been in service ever since.
Construction was begun on a second plane, but it was never finished.