Billionaire Richard Branson could help Ukraine rebuild the world's largest cargo plane

Wants to help rebuild the airfield too.
Ameya Paleja
Richard Branson could help Ukraine rebuild a stronger Mriya1, 2

Virgin Group founder and space entrepreneur Richard Branson visited the Antonov airport in Ukraine, the site where the world's largest cargo plane, Mriya, was destroyed. According to local politicians, Branson has offered help to rebuild the cargo plane, Business Insider reported

The An-225 was the world's largest cargo plane built by Ukrainian aerospace company, Antonov. When it debuted in 1988, the aircraft was about 50 percent bigger than any aircraft the world had seen. The aircraft was designed to carry the Buran spaceplane for the Soviet Union but when it fell, the aircraft was bought by the Ukrainian aerospace company Antonov, who called the aircraft Mriya or Dream. 

Since 2001, the aircraft was used as a commercial cargo carrier and created many records during its years of service, such as carrying 187.6 tonnes inside its belly, which is about the weight of two fully loaded A320s,  during a flight in 2009.

The aircraft, which supplied emergency aid during the pandemic, and was expected to remain operational till the end of the decade, was damaged beyond repair when Russian forces attacked its base at Antonov airport at Hostomel in Ukraine. 

Rebuilding Mriya

Last month, we reported that before the fall of the Soviet Union, another An-225 was in the works but had to be shelved due to budget constraints. Antonov is reportedly still in possession of the fuselage of that shelved aircraft and could now use it to rebuild Mriya.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had also said that his government had considered constructing a Mriya-like plane before the conflict but could not find the money to do so. With the original aircraft destroyed, Ukraine wants to rebuild the aircraft to honor the pilots that have sacrificed their lives in this conflict, and money is no longer an issue. 

A helping hand from Richard Branson

Davyd Arakhamia, a local politician of the ruling government, while sharing images of Branson's visit on his Telegram channel, said, "the Russian occupiers can destroy anything, but never the Dream".

Adding that plans were afoot to build a "stronger" and "updated" Mriya after the war, Arakhamia also said that the rebuilding of the aircraft as well as cooperation in the field of aerospace was discussed with Branson during the visit. 

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Branson has reportedly agreed to help in whatever ways he can. A local news reporter also tweeted that Branson has plans to restore the airfield, which was destroyed during the conflict. 

Branson himself hasn't made any public comments about the role he would like to play in reconstructing the cargo plane. Business Insider reported that Virgin also hasn't made any announcements about the company's involvement in the restoration of the aircraft or the aerospace infrastructure in Ukraine.