The Antonov An-225, the world’s largest operational commercial aircraft, has been destroyed, according to official sources in Ukraine.
Like all wars, the conflict in Ukraine isn’t simply changing colours on maps. It is directly shaping the lives of millions of people. The number of people already displaced in the country is rising, as is that of those losing their lives in and around the fighting. And yet, it seems that there is an inordinate amount of interest, in and out of Ukraine, in a mere aircraft.
According to a statement of the Ukrainian government on social media, Russian forces destroyed the Antonov An-225. The aircraft is still at Antonov Airport (UKKM), also called Gostomel Airport, northwest of Kyiv, the country’s capital. If these reports are true, then the last flight the aircraft ever made was 3120, arriving from Billund (EKBI) in Denmark. This was on the 5th of February.
However, not everyone agrees definitively that the An-225 is destroyed. Its operator is Antonov Airlines. And its parent, Antonov Aircraft Manufacturing Company, is still reserving its judgement. It states that until experts have inspected the aircraft, the company can’t report on its technical condition.
An-225 – Destroyed Or Damaged?
Dmitry Antonov, a pilot of the An-225 who routinely shared videos from its cockpit on YouTube, also doesn’t accept that it has been destroyed. Earlier today he posted this on his Facebook page:
There is a full scale war going on. The Ukrainian people are fighting fiercely. Kyiv is repelling the attacks of subversive groups for the third day. Around Kyiv, regular troops of Russia, Chechen detachments. Flying ballistic and cruise missiles in residential buildings. Every night they land troops. Armed Smly Ukraine successfully crush this horde. Belarusian troops enter Ukraine. Hard. But we’ll manage. Victory will be ours. Glory to the Armed Forces. Glory to Ukraine.
P.S. There are many rumors about Mriya’s condition. Until there is reliable information, we do not believe in anything.
Destroyed or not, the An-225 holds the title of the world’s largest commercial aircraft. It will retain this title until the Stratolaunch Roc mothership becomes operational. But even the Roc is no match for the Mriya (Dream) when it comes to useful load and cargo volume. All of which is somewhat ironic, since the An-225’s original role wasn’t as a cargo aircraft.
Rather, the Mriya had a role quite similar to that of the Roc, carrying components of the Energia rocket. Today we mostly associate it with carrying the USSR’s “Buran” space shuttle. But An-225s would carry other rocket components, as well. And there were plans for the plane to air-launch rockets to space – just like the Stratolaunch Roc.
The “Dream” Becomes A Freighter
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the Buran destroyed, the An-225 suddenly had no role to fulfil. However, its potential as a freighter wasn’t far from people’s minds. It was, after all, a derivative of the Antonov An-124. The An-225 was bigger and longer, with six engines, rather than 4. The plane actually has the wing of the An-124, but with an additional centre section, complete with pylons for the middle two engines.
The An-225 also lacks the rear cargo door of the An-124. And originally, it didn’t even have the cargo floor and other interior fittings of the An-124. This changed later when the aircraft underwent transformative work as a freighter. But somewhere in storage, there is a second aircraft, with a partially-completed fuselage.
This fuselage reportedly incorporates some improvements. And with the original An-225 destroyed or badly damaged, could this second fuselage come into play? But that’s assuming it has survived the attack on Antonov airport, of course.
There is no question that the state of this and other aircraft in Antonov’s fleet are very low priorities, at this stage in the fighting. But the An-225 and its unique nature, are also symbols for the people of Ukraine. Again, we can only hope that there is an end to this destruction, soon.