Ukraine will bring Mriya, the world’s largest cargo plane, back to life
Ukraine will put in all the efforts needed to resurrect Mriya, the Antonov An-225, the world's largest cargo plane that was destroyed during the ongoing conflict in the country. President Volodymyr Zelensky has called it a "matter of ambition" that the aircraft is rebuilt, Interfax-Ukraine reported.
Not only was Mriya the world's largest cargo plane, but also happened to be the only such plane ever built. Designed to carry heavy loads such as the Soviet-era Space Shuttle, Mriya was 275 feet (83 m) long, and at 290 feet (88 m), it had an even longer wingspan. To do the heavy-lifting, the aircraft was equipped with six turbofan engines, each capable of producing 51,600 pounds of thrust at takeoff.
Less known is the fact that another An-225 was in the works, but then the Soviet Union fell, and the manufacturing had to be terminated due to lack of funds. Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer, Antonov, which had designed the Mriya, procured it, along with the fuselage of the second aircraft.
Why build it again?
Earlier in February this year, when Russian forces attacked Ukraine, the town of Hostomel was also among its targets. The airport at Hostomel serves as the maintenance facility for Antonov's aircraft, and Mriya was caught in the crossfire in the battle that raged in the region, and destroyed in the process.
Surveys carried out by Antonov's team after the battle found that Mriya could not be repaired and the plane that carried the world's heaviest cargo, including giant windmill blades as well as COVID-19 testing kits, was lost forever.
While speaking to Ukrainian students recently, President Zelensky said that his government planned to rebuild the plane using the fuselage of the second aircraft whose production was halted. Even prior to the conflict, Zelensky had thought of resurrecting the aircraft, but his government could not raise the $800 million needed for the same.
However, while speaking to the students, Zelensky said that resurrecting the An-225 was no longer a question of money but of the country's image. He decided to dedicate the aircraft to the people who sacrificed their lives defending Mariupol, Interfax reported. According to multiple reports, the southeastern port city has fallen to Russian aggression.
Who pays for it?
Approximately a month after Mriya was destroyed, Antonov started a crowdsourcing campaign to resurrect the aircraft, The Drive reported. It wasn't clear back then how much money Antonov was aiming to raise through this campaign.
While Zelensky has put an $800 million price tag on this now, Ukroboronprom, Antonov's parent company, has suggested that it would take about $3 billion and five years of work to get another An-225 flying again. The state-owned aerospace and defense company has maintained that Russia will sponsor the resurrection as part of its war reparations.
Will it be the same?
Whether the An-225 is built back using globally sourced funds or from the Russian treasury will not be revealed till the conflict ends in Ukraine. However, 76-year-old Oleksandr Haluenko, who was the first pilot to fly Mriya told The Drive that the resurrected aircraft won't be the same.
Built-in 1988, Mriya was built using Soviet-era components and any resurrection attempt now will use European, American, or some other components. Even if it used the same fuselage, for Haluenko, the aircraft would just not be the same.