The “dream” is dead: an air cargo marvel destroyed in Ukraine

The largest commercial cargo plane was destroyed by Russian soldiers during fighting at an airport outside Kiev, according to the official Ukrainian government Twitter account.

The Antonov AN-225, nicknamed Mriya, or “Dream”, had six engines, could carry 225 tons of cargo and consumed about 20 tons of fuel per flight hour.

“Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya.’ But they can never destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We will vanquish ! Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebo wrote on Twitter.

The Ukrainian government said Russia burned the plane during its assault on Antonov airfield in Gostomel, on the outskirts of the capital. The Antonov company, which originally built the gargantuan plane and has operated it for 20 years, said it could not verify its condition.

“Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft,” he said in a separate tweet.

A Ukrainian defense industry association said the AN-225 would be restored at Russia’s expense, which it estimated at $3 billion. Rebuilding the plane would take five years, he said.

Antonov Airlines could not move the AN-225 Mriya because it was under repair at Gostomel Airport, Ukroboronprom said on its websitesit.

Antonov Airlines used the monster-sized plane for special moves, such as power transformers or other massive equipment that couldn’t easily fit in its giant – but smaller – AN-124 freighters, or when using the AN-225 was cheaper than two AN -124s. Since the start of the pandemic, it has also transported humanitarian aid and medical supplies such as personal protective equipment.

The AN-225 holds aviation records for hauling the longest and heaviest cargoes, including a generator for a gas plant that weighed nearly 419,000 pounds.

The cargo airline has seven AN-124s. Russian carrier Volga Dnepr also has a fleet of AN-124 cargo planes and there are a handful of others with smaller operators. But there was only one functioning AN-225.

It was built in the late 1980s by Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine to transport rocket sections for the Soviet space program, borrowing design concepts from the AN-124, a military transport.

The AN-225 and several AN-124 aircraft ended up in private hands after the end of the Cold War. The Mriya had to be refurbished after several years of neglect before flying again in 2001.

“We are going to rebuild the plane. We will realize our dream of a strong, free and democratic Ukraine,” the government said in its message.

The AN-225 is based on the AN-124 design, with fuselage extensions forward and aft of the wings. It also has a similar nose gear, allowing it to “kneel down” so cargo can be easily loaded and unloaded. The landing gear is made up of 32 wheels, allowing the aircraft to turn on a narrow runway.

However, unlike the AN-124-100, which has a rear cargo door and ramp, the AN-225 is nose-loaded only. It has a twin swept tail horizontal stabilizer that allows it to carry heavy loads on top of its fuselage. Its cargo compartment can be pressurized, which extends its carrying capacity.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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