The fate of the world’s biggest completely operating aircraft is uncertain in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The one-off Antonov An-225 Mriya, from the Ukrainian “Мрія,” or “Dream,” has been at Hostomel (or Gostomel) airport northwest of Kyiv since it landed there on February 5. While there has been heavy fighting at the airport, there are unconfirmed reports that the Mriya is still intact, at least for now, although it is now in Russian hands.
The An-225 is based at Hostomel Airport
- The An-225 is based at Hostomel Airport, sometimes referred to as Antonov Airport, which is used mostly as a commercial cargo hub. The airport is owned by the maker of the An-225, the Antonov plane manufacturing company, and is now run by its subsidiary, Antonov Airlines. According to FlightAware.com, the An-225 is confirmed to be at the airport after flying there from Billund, Denmark nearly three weeks ago.
Dmytro Antonov, a Captain for Antonov Airlines, reportedly posted a message to social media today declaring that despite the airport falling to Russian forces, Mriya remains “total.”
U.S. Air Force’s largest cargo plane
It’s not clear if this means entirely undamaged or if it means the aircraft remains more or less intact.The Mriya took its first flight in 1988, boasting a maximum take-off weight of 1.4 million pounds. For comparison, the U.S. Air Force’s largest cargo aircraft, the Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy, has a maximum take-off weight of approximately 840,000 pounds.
The Mriya is powered by six Progress D-18 turbofans and has a wingspan of 290 feet, the biggest in the world aside from Stratolaunch’s experimental Roc launcher aircraft. The plane holds as much fuel as fourteen 737-800s.
One of the direct roles the An-225 was designed for was to airlift the Energia rocket boosters and Buran orbiters for the Soviet space program, alike to NASA’s highly-modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cancellation of the Buran program, the Mriya sat dormant between 1993 and 2000. In 2001, the plane was refurbished for charter operations.
More recently, the very massive aircraft was utilized to transport medical supplies around the world in answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Footage published to social media today reportedly carried near to Hostomel Airport where Mriya is established shows clouds of black smoke rising as Russian Mi-8 helicopters fly overhead. BuzzFeed’s Christopher Miller reported earlier today that Ukrainian authorities confirmed that Russia has taken power of the airport.
CNN’s Matthew Chance, on location at the airport, expressed that the commander of the Russian airborne unit confirmed to him that they have taken control of the airport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also confirmed that Ukraine has lost control of the airport that Mriya calls home.
Reuters reported earlier that Ukrainian officials said they had downed three Russian helicopters as they attacked the airport. There are also claims that the runway at the airport has been damaged, but these remain unconfirmed as of now.
The An-225 at Hostomel airport is the only one in existence, although a partially-completed fuselage of another has sat for decades at an Antonov plant outside Kyiv.
Now that Hostomel Airport has fallen to Russian forces, it’s unclear what will become of Ukraine’s “Dream,” the An-225 Mriya. Ukrainian forces may take it back, but any more fighting just invites a greater risk of damaging or even destroying the famous flying giant. We will be continuing our rolling coverage of the conflict in Ukraine as it develops and will update this story as more information about Mriya’s fate surfaces.
Ministry of Defence of Ukraine
- The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine now says that fighting continues at Hostomel airport and that Ukrainian forces have prevented additional Russian troops from landing. It isn’t clear what the recent situation is, but it appears the airport is once again contested.
The airfield is now back in control of Ukrainian forces. By every available indication, the battle that happened there was a ferocious one.
Details are very little, but apparently, a contingent of Russian special forces flew to the airfield as reinforcements aboard several helicopters. Some claim as many as six of these helicopters were shot down with the loss of all those on board. This happened in broad daylight, which put the helicopters at great risk.
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Once again, these details could change drastically at any time, but it seems Ukrainian forces achieved a major success today and Russia took a major loss. This airport was seen as of excessively high value to Russian war planners.
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