The Destruction of a Dream

4 Mar 22 9 Comments

There is only one aircraft type where I have always used the definite article when writing about it: The Antonov An-225. The An-225 is a one-of-a-kind cargo aircraft designed by Antonov Design in then-Soviet Ukraine. The aircraft’s name is Mriya, literally “Dream” in Ukrainian (Мрія). This massive aircraft with six turbofan engines is capable of carrying 640 tonnes as it was originally designed to transport Russian orbitors. Its maiden flight was on the 21st of December 1988. Mriya was a working aircraft but also offered a flyover and wing wave on the 24th of August 2021 as a part of the celebrations for Ukrainian Independence Day.

11 April 2020: The world’s largest aircraft Antonov An-225 Mriya (reg UR-82060) after take off in Gostomel airport in Kyiv. Photo by tov_tob.

To give you an idea of Mriya’s size, the first powered flights of the Wright brothers, which were between 120 and 200 feet in distance and ten feet above the ground, could have taken place in their entirety in the cargo hold of the An-225.

A second An-225 was started but Antonov was unable to gain the funding to complete the aircraft. It is unclear where the partially completed airframe is located at this time or what state it is in.

On the morning 24th of February, Russian forces invaded Ukraine and somewhere between 20 to 34 Russian helicopters were sent to secure Antonov Airport (also known as Hostomel or Gostomel Airport), northwest of Kyiv. The Antonov Airlines base was of strategic importance as it would allow the Russians to form an airbridge to bring in troops and equipment close to Kyiv.

Mriya was at the airport at the time of the initial attack and its hangar was bombed during the fifth air attack. The following video was released showing the fire and damage at its hangar.

The Russian forces took the airport quickly in the surprise of the initial invasion but the Ukrainian troops were able to encircle the airport and drive out the Russian troops into the woods. However, it was too late to save Mriya. It was only a temporary reprieve as Russian ground forces advancing from Belarus were able to take the Antonov Airport and the town of Hostomel the following morning. Some reports claim that the Ukrainians deliberately destroyed the airfield before abandoning it to the Russians.

An image believed to show the An-225 Mriya ablaze in its hangar

As of this writing, Ukrainian forces are continuing to bombard the Russian armoured vehicles in and around the airport. Ukrainian security services claim they have intercepted a message from Russian forces in Hostomel requesting to be evacuated.

The battle is relatively well documented on the Wikipedia page Battle of Antonov Airport.

Antonov confirmed on the 27th of February that Mriya had been destroyed but asked for people to please wait for official announcements about the condition of the aircraft as it has not yet been possible to inspect the damage done.

However, a statement by the Ukrainian state arms manufcacturer (and Antonov’s parent organisation), UkrOboronProm, said that the restoration of Mriya would cost over three billion US dollars and take over five years. They stated that their task would be to ensure that the Russian Federation paid for the plane to be rebuilt.

This unattributed photograph said to have been originally published in Russia shows the nose and one engine of the aircraft. Note that in contrast to the embedded video on Twitter, all of the Russian damage has been cleared out of shot.

The Antonov An-225 Mriya is “just” an aircraft, of course, and just a small part of the losses in Ukraine during this assault by Russia over a sovereign nation which is not, whatever Putin may claim, still a part of Russia. But Mriya is also a symbol of Ukrainian engineering and technology. For me, at least, it is a clear representation of the devastation that is being reigned upon the country at this very moment, while we sit safely in our homes and our offices and our cars.

Ex-RAF commander of operations Greg Bagwell has posted in favour of the the enforcement of a No Fly Zone in response to the Russian aggression. He argues that at this stage, a No Fly Zone is needed to defend sovereign Ukraine airspace and would be a clear act of self defence and as such, it should not be dismissed as escalating tensions. It seems to me that we are past the point of worrying about escalating the conflict, as if the loss of Ukraine is worth it to keep the Russians quiet.

View of a civilian sports club gym and sporting goods store damaged following a Russian rocket attack the city of Kyiv

You can bet that all of us here in Estonia are watching the responses of NATO and EU very closely, as there’s very little doubt that we would be next on Putin’s list of conquests.

I hope that Ukraine will soon be victorious against its aggressors and that Mriya, the An-225 aircraft but more importantly the country’s dream of a safe future, will quickly be restored.

Category: Military,

9 Comments

  • I have been in Lviv a number of times flying a converted Citation, a “Stallion”, from Dublin.
    This was before the annexation of the Crimea, but even then the Ukrainian people demonstrated a great distrust of Russia and its intentions.
    That one single man, probably a psychopath and a worse narcissist and megalomaniac even than Trump, can have the power to single-handedly hold the world at ransom (he has been working towards this for many years, including helping Bashar Al-Assad to destroy a large part of Syria, to shoot down an unarmed airliner over Ukraine, poison his critics even in the UK and allowing his stooge to hijack a Ryanair flight and force it to land in Belarus where an opponent of Putin’s puppet was illegally arrested, that one man can do all that with the rest of the world just wagging their fingers and saying “Bad Putin” is beyond comprehension.
    That he can continue and invade a sovereign nation with the world again standing by is way beyond “the Pale”.
    The sad destruction of the Dream is regrettable, but the Ukrainian people are living a nightmare, which is far, far worse.
    Sylvia, I share your frustration and admire your courage to write this so soon after your own sad loss.

  • Thank you for the blog post, I had already thought about mentioning this in the comments. I’ve read that the aircraft was grounded as one engine was undergoing maintenance, which prevented The Dream to be flown out in time, to safety.

    The sanctions imposed as a reaction to the invasion close Western airspace to Russian aircraft (passengers, freight, private jets), and deprive Western-made aircraft (including, presumably, Antonovs) of spare parts. While that’s probably a necessary change, let’s hope that it won’t impact the safety of any passengers.

    • Russian airlines operated 861 aircraft, of which 695 are Western-built — including 304 Airbus and 332 Boeing models — in February prior to the invasion of Ukraine, according to Cirium’s Fleet Analyzer. Foreign lessors owned 515 aircraft with AerCap, SMBC Aviation Capital, and Air Lease Corp. having the most exposure.

      Source: https://airlineweekly.com/2022/03/aircraft-lessors-face-loss-of-hundreds-of-planes-as-russia-clamps-down/

      These leased aircraft are currently at risk of getting repossessed when they land in sanctioning countries.

      I’m also expecting some effects on aviation from the sanction-induced rise in fuel prices. Air travel is likely to become more expensive.

  • Mendel,
    You are touching a potential danger. Indeed, if the Russian operators cannot get their hands on spare parts, there may well be the temptation – possibly even under direct order from the madman Putin – to take liberties with safety and dispatch aircraft (with innocent passengers) that would not normally be considered airworthy.
    The Russian people are lied to by a propaganda machine that makes the efforts of Gestapo and Stasi (Putin’s Alma Mater) seem like amateurs, small fry.
    The violent suppression of anything even remotely resembling free a press is truly disturbing.
    The Russian people are not a “bad lot”, they just do not have any idea what is really going on.
    Maybe Russian soldiers: fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends, coming home in body bags will start opening the eyes of the Russian people. Putin can only be stopped by action from within Russia, and at present there does not seem to be a lot of chance that this will happen.
    The sad loss of a Dream….

    • Aviation is international, so from time to time, incidents involve international politics. Examples that come to my mind are two posts on MH17 (shot down over Ukraine in 2014), Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 (shot down by Iraq in 2020), and the “Belarus Airspace Incident” in 2021.

      I like it better when these things don’t happen, but when they do, I like that Sylvia notices them.

      For a writer, it’s risky to voice political opinions, as those with opposite beliefs may stop respecting (and stop reading) you; but I expect that everyone living in Estonia today does have an opinion on Ukraine and would find it hard not to express it.

  • Mike may have a point, but in this case, in these times, politics are a subject that is very difficult to avoid.

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