Dmytro Antonov, the chief pilot of the Antonov An-225, reached Gostomel airport, recording the devastating damage to the plane and its base.
We previously saw that hours into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces attacked Gostomel Airport (UKKM), the base of Antonov Airlines. This is a facility northwest of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Analysts believed that the airport was a vital target, for Russia’s attack on Kyiv itself. But fighting around the airport continued for a long time. Russian forces took it over, but couldn’t use it to land more troops.
Eventually, we saw pictures confirming that the sole Antonov An-225 “Mriya” (Dream) suffered overwhelming damage. And now it appears that Russian forces left the area, at the end of March. So people in Ukraine are slowly returning to the airport, to see the state of what’s left. One of them is Dmytro Antonov. He is the airline’s chief pilot, and has his own YouTube channel, showcasing this unique aircraft.
Severe Damage – An-124, An-225 And Many Other Aircraft
Dmytro Antonov shot a video showing what he found at the site. Aside from the An-225, there seems to be little at the site that hasn’t suffered extensive damage. The offices of Antonov Airlines are burned and destroyed, with equipment and records damaged, stolen or missing. Many aircraft in the open show extensive damage, ranging from hundreds of bullet holes, to fully burned-out structures.
We knew that Antonov Airlines had two An-124s at Gostomel. One of them, UR-82009, was in a hangar, undergoing maintenance. In comparison with the An-225, this aircraft appears to have little damage, at first sight. But a closer look reveals multiple bullet holes and possible fire damage near its empennage.
The ‘Mriya’ sat in its own hangar, along with some light aircraft. One detail that we couldn’t see in previous images of the aircraft, is that it has crushed another plane. The left wingtip of the massive freighter rests on what appears to be a Cessna 152. Every part of the An-225 has suffered damage. But the fuselage forward of the wing box is crushed and burned. Fire and shrapnel damage is extensive. There is a link to Dmytro Antonov’s video at the end of the article.
The “Why Didn’t It Leave” Controversy
As we saw previously, Dmytro Antonov said that the airline’s management could have evacuated the An-225 and other aircraft. The airline strenuously denied this, saying that the plane was undergoing maintenance, including on a removed engine. Dmytro Antonov insisted, saying that engineers had completed this work several days before the Russian invasion. There are also disputes relating to the timing of refuelling and flight planning for the plane’s departure.
To some, this seemed like inevitable tension, following the devastating damage to the An-225 and the rest of the fleet. But subsequently, it appears that the Director-General of the Antonov Company lost his job. We also know that Antonov’s factory has also suffered severe bomb damage. The fuselage of the second An-225 is at that factory, a site closer to Kyiv itself.
Obviously, the damage to the An-225 and the entire site in Gostomel pales in significance, compared to the loss of life and destruction in the rest of Ukraine. But aviation, both in manufacturing and in airline operations, is a vital industry for the country. And the company’s current goal is to restore its manufacturing ability as soon as possible.