World’s heaviest aircraft, Antonov An-225 destroyed, says Ukraine government

Antonov An-225 Mriya. Photo: © Kārlis Dambrāns

The world’s heaviest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya has been destroyed in a Russian attack on its home base Antonov International Airport (also known as Hostomel Airport) in Ukraine, confirmed in a tweet by the Ukrainian government. The Antonov Company however is withholding comment on the status of the famous aircraft in a statement: “Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft.”

It’s unclear quite exactly how the jet was destroyed, either from ground fire/artillery or from an attack from the air, but the hangar in which it was stored has reportedly been seen with what appears to be a hole in the roof and a fire burning underneath from what are believed to be the remains of the An-225.

The aircraft was owned and operated by Antonov Airlines, a cargo operator run by the aircraft’s manufacturer. Formerly the worlds largest and heaviest aircraft, it was designed and built in the mid 1980’s to answer the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle program’s need to transport its orbiter, in much the same way as the US Space Shuttle was able to be carried on the back of a modified 747. The Antonov An-225 Mriya (Ukrainian for ‘Dream’) was heavily based on the Antonov An-124 Ruslan heavy transport, but was lengthened, had larger wings, a new tail section and was powered by six engines instead of four.

Making its international debut at the 1989 Paris Airshow, only one airframe was ever completed and operational. Following the cancellation of the Buran program and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aircraft sat in storage until 2001. When the need for an aircraft capable of carrying outsized and overweight cargo that wasn’t possible to be carried by an An-124 arose, it was then restored to flying condition and returned to operational service with Antonov Airlines. The An-225 was capable of carrying 250 tonnes of cargo in its hold. The aircraft was also utilised for carrying vast quantities of humanitarian relief supplies in times of need, including health supplies during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

A second airframe was under construction but was halted at about 70% completion and has remained in such a state since. That airframe is also believed to be stored at an Antonov Facility in Ukraine, where its status remains unknown. There have been previous reports of China and Turkey being involved in the completion of the second airframe, but given the situation in the country, it’s impossible to say what the future may hold for the aircraft.