top of page

Will a second Antonov An-225 Mriya be Built?


The An-225 remains the world's heaviest and largest aircraft ever built, capable of carrying nearly 250 tons of cargo. The sole An-225 was operated by Antonov Airlines before its destruction at Hostomel Airport in March 2022. The An-225 Mriya had been scheduled for evacuation on the morning of February 24 after the United States had warned Ukraine of the impending invasion. Unfortunately, Russian Airborne Forces managed to take control of Hostomel Airport hours before its scheduled departure, preventing its escape to safety.

The idea of completing the second An-225 was first raised in 2011 when China voiced its interest to develop the aircraft into a platform to launch commercial satellites into orbit with. The first phase of the project would have seen the completion of the second airframe that is still stored at Antonov's facilities outside Kyiv, Ukraine, while the second stage called for the recommencement of the An-225's production in China. High costs doomed these ambitious plans, and the project appears to have been quietly abandoned in the following years.

In October 2020, Turkish President Erdoğan raised the idea of completing the aircraft during a visit of President Zelensky to Ankara. Although little has been heard of the plan since, Turkish involvement could mean a breakthrough in providing the stimulus to finally complete the second An-225 and bring it into service, replacing the An-225 destroyed in March 2022. Though associated with huge costs, the symbolic value of the world's largest plane arising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Russo-Ukrainian War, marking the technological rise of Türkiye in the process, could be worth a fair sum of money alone. Crowd-funding has bridged the gap with many projects associated with the restitution of Ukraine's economy and national pride and could play a factor here again as well.

The first An-225 (UR-82060) made its maiden flight in December 1988 as a transporter for the Buran orbiter, which was carried on the plane's back. Two aircraft were ordered, but only one example was finished before the collapse of the Soviet Union, after which the An-225 fell under the jurisdiction of the newly independent Ukrainian republic. However, the aircraft soon lost its intended purpose of carrying the Buran orbiter following the cancellation of the Buran space programme in 1993. In 1994, the An-225 was placed in long-term storage at the Antonov Aircraft Plant in Kyiv and work on the second An-225 airframe came to a grinding halt after having been 70% completed.

By the late 1990s, the need for a cargo aircraft as big as the An-225 began to re-emerge, and the stored example was brought back to active service in 2001. Plans to complete the second An-225 began to surface around the same time, and a decision for its reactivation was finally made in 2006. By late 2009, work on the aircraft still had not started and the plan appeared to have been abandoned. Then in May 2011, the CEO of Antonov stated that the second An-225 could be completed in three years if an interested party was to come up with at least $300 million.

While completing the second An-225 is certain to benefit international cargo travel of oversized items, the $800 million projected cost of completing the aircraft means it will never become profitable. This was affirmed by Oleksandr Donets, the current CEO of Antonov, who in 2019 stated that: ''This is a very expensive project. The cost of design and engineering work, the purchase of new equipment and the certification of the aircraft will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Such a project may be effective in the aerospace program, but not for commercial air transportation." Of course, the An-225's use would not merely be as a commercial transport plane, but rather as a testament to the fact our ability to dream big has not been lost in the 21st century, and that a world that stands united in its efforts to keep that ideal alive does not let its dreams be determined solely by financial considerations.

In November last year, the Antonov Company announced in a tweet that the rebuild project had already begun, with "design work" already in the offing. While it had estimated repair costs, the company predicted a bill of over €500 million to get it back in the air, promising more information "after the victory." The company already has around 30% of the components needed to build a new one, it announced.

Originally, Ukrainian state defence company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, had issued a statement estimating the restoration at over $3 billion -- which it vowed to make Russia pay. The rebuild would take at least five years, it said at the time.

Antonov subsequently confirmed that it was working on the project.

"The process of rebuilding 'Mriya' is considered as an international project, with the participation of aviation enterprises of different countries of the world. The possibility of attracting funding from various sources is being considered and proposals from many organizations that are ready to join the project are being reviewed." The Antonov company said it would coordinate the research, design and assembly, and confirmed that there are still main airframe units for a new plane that have not been destroyed.

"The program is developing in the direction of carrying out an expert assessment of these units, for subsequent calculations and design works," it wrote, adding that the build would take place "immediately after the victory of Ukraine."

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" showed photos of the aircraft before and after its destruction, focusing on the engineering prowess that was lost when it was attacked.

At the opening, Oleksiy Makeiev, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, announced that although he'd flown on "almost all AN aircraft, the Mriya remained a dream for me," in a statement released by the company.

"We hope that it will be restored and we will see this mighty bird in the sky again," he added.


We sincerely hope that we see this giant of the sky in the air once again.

Comentarios


Archive

bottom of page