During an attack on Kyiv on 27 February 2022 last year at Antonov Airport, the world’s largest aircraft was destroyed when rockets hit the aircraft through the hangar.
Originally built for the Soviet Space Program to airlift the Soviet version of the Space Shuttle called the Buran, the An-225 ‘Mriya’ was a derivative of the Antonov An-124 airlifter.
The aircraft was stretched with new fore and aft fuselage sections, while a new enlarged wing with six pylons and engines was added. First flight happened on 21 December 1988, with only one example ever been completed, registration CCCP-82060, later UR-82060.
The aircraft was mothballed during the 1990s, but fortune smiled, and the aircraft was refurbished in 2000 for use carrying oversized cargo in commercial operations. Upgrades included improved communications, new navigation equipment and traffic collision avoidance systems and a hush kit to reduce noise.
First operating for Antonov Airlines, demand grew enough that the second uncompleted airframe was considered to be made airworthy. However, due to a lack of funding, the second airframe remained on hold. By 2016, roughly 60-70% of the second airframe was already complete.
At one stage, it was even considered to build an eight engine aircraft, the An-325.
The Ann-225 holds a number of world records. With a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes, the Mriya could easily lift heavy diesel locomotives and oversize objects such as wind turbine blades.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky announced plans to rebuild the aircraft in November 2022. Industry experts cited that a brand-new AN-225 “Mriya” cost would be around USD500 million.
Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine said in a statement, “Approximately 30% of the components can currently be employed for the envisioned second aircraft.”
Besides the forward section of the fuselage destroyed by fire with the wing centre section, one of the six Ivchenko Progress Lotarev D-18T three-shaft turbofan engines is also entirely broken, although it can be repaired.
The design and fitting of a brand-new engines will significantly raise the aircraft’s costs, but this is seriously being taken into consideration to provide the aircraft with a further 20 years of life.
The Rolls Royce Trent 700, is the most viable option. The Airbus A330 aircraft presently use Trent 700 engines producing up to 316.3kN with a thrust of 72,000lb, which is greater than the existing An 225 powerplants.
If the two wings were rebuilt, it would be considerably better for the aircraft with less structural strain. The present fuselage is already available through the second uncompleted example.
When the aircraft was built, it carried a crew of six, consisting of two pilots, two engineers and two navigators. The new aircraft could have a reduced crew of only four.
Newer avionics will significantly reduce the weight of the new aircraft and allow it to fly farther using less fuel.
Maintenance on the new aircraft will also be shorter, enabling shorter turnaround times.
So it seems the best option for re-building the aircraft could be a partnership with Airbus as they currently have the most up-to-date manufacturing techniques available.
Airbus and Antonov have not yet officially stated that they are working jointly on restoring the An-225. But, if they do, it will be one of the most significant achievements in the aviation industry.