For aviation enthusiasts, the destruction of the world’s largest commercial airliner was one of the main images of the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In February, the Antonov AN-225 was attacked at his base in Hostomel, near Kiev. “The dream will never die,” the manufacturers tweeted when it was destroyed.
Now, it looks like they’ve stayed true to their word, with the company announcing that plans to rebuild it are already underway.
Nicknamed “Mriya” – Ukrainian for “dream” – the massive plane was built in the 1980s to transport the Soviet space shuttle.
Its later life, though a little less glamorous, was equally iconic — it was the world’s largest cargo carrier, with about twice the holding capacity of a Boeing 747, earning it cult status among self-styled Avgeeks. It stretched to 84 meters, or 275 feet, with the largest wingspan of any fully operational aircraft. To date, it is the heaviest aircraft ever built.
The Antonov Company said at the time that it was unable to verify the plane’s condition, while the CNN Vasco Cotovio noted that the front had apparently suffered “a direct hit from artillery” and was “completely destroyed” when he saw it in April. “There was extensive damage to the wings and some engines. The tail section was spared from major impacts and has some holes from shrapnel or bullets,” he said at the time, predicting that a repair would be unlikely.
On Monday, however, the Antonov Company announced in a tweet that the rebuilding project had already begun, with “design work” already underway.
While it estimated the repair costs, the company anticipated a bill of more than €500m (R$2.7bn) to get it back on the air, promising more information “after the win”. The company already has about 30% of the components needed to build a new one, it announced.
Originally, Ukrainian state defense firm Ukroboronprom, which runs the Antonov, had released a statement estimating the restoration at more than $3 billion – which it promised to make Russia pay. Rebuilding would take at least five years, he said at the time.
Antonov later confirmed to the CNN who was working on the project. “The process of rebuilding ‘Mriya’ is considered an international project, with the participation of aviation companies from different countries around the world,” he said by email.
“The possibility of attracting funding from various sources is being considered and proposals from many organizations that are ready to participate in the project are being analyzed.”
The company said it would coordinate research, design and assembly, and confirmed that there are still main fuselage units for a new plane that were not destroyed. “The program is evolving towards carrying out an expert assessment of these units, for further calculations and design work,” he wrote, adding that construction will take place “immediately after Ukraine’s victory.”
The announcement coincides with the launch of an exhibition dedicated to the plane at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle airport, which is home to five other Antonov aircraft. “Light and Shadow: The Antonov Story” shows photos of the aircraft before and after its destruction, focusing on the engineering feat that was lost when it was attacked. It will be on display until the end of December.
At the opening, Oleksiy Makeiev, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, announced that although he flew on “almost every 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.
Source: CNN Brasil
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