Designed and built in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s, the Antonov AN-225 was the world’s largest aircraft for more than 30 years. It set records for the heaviest aircraft ever built and the largest wingspan of any aircraft in service. For aviation enthusiasts, it was part innovation, part icon, and part mythical beast. Now, the AN-225 is no more — a piece of aviation history destroyed by Russian invasion forces.
The destruction of the Antonov AN-225 was met with alarm and sadness in the aviation community, which had an enduring devotion to the world’s largest plane. The aircraft, a marvel of aviation engineering, also held a special place in the hearts of the Ukrainian people, serving as a symbol of its technological innovation and national pride.
A devastating loss for the aviation community
The Antonov AN-225 — also called “Mriya,” or “dream” in Ukrainian — was parked at the Hostomel airfield near Kyiv. Grounded on February 24 for maintenance, the plane was still in service when Russian forces captured the airfield and systematically destroyed several structures, including part of the hangar where the AN-225 awaited service.
Satellite images confirmed destruction of the hangar, with NASA data detecting a fire at the site. Shortly thereafter, Ukrainian state department officials confirmed the plane’s destruction.
Why was the Mriya so beloved?
The AN-225 was originally built to transport massive Soviet space shuttles. It first took flight in 1988, but it spent several years in storage following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union before being recommissioned as a cargo plane.
Not only did it hold records in terms of wingspan and weight, but it could also carry the heaviest single-item payload — 418,830 pounds — and the heaviest total payload ever lifted — 559,580 pounds. Its massive size and fabled payload capacity drew large crowds wherever it traveled, especially when it appeared at air shows.
The AN-225 was in service for over 30 years, and it flew in airlift aid operations during crises around the world. Its incredible payload capacity made it essential for important humanitarian missions. It flew operations during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and transported medical supplies to hard-hit regions during the COVID pandemic.
Saying goodbye to an iconic piece of aviation history
With the destruction of the AN-225, aviation has lost a monument to innovation. While the loss of this technological marvel hit aviation enthusiasts hard, it also struck an emotional chord with the Ukrainian people.
The Ukrainian government has stated its intention to rebuild the Mriya, reflecting its commitment to preserving a strong, free, and democratic Ukraine. The country’s state-run defense corporation, Ukroboronprom, estimates it could cost $3 billion and take five years to restore the AN-225 — and it has vowed the costs will be covered by the Russian government.