As readers of Simple Flying will know, the Antonov An-225 Mriya is the largest plane in the world, dwarfing other aircraft by a mile. With its six massive engines and 32 wheels, no plane even comes close to matching its ability to transport oversized cargo to all corners of the globe.
What readers might not know, however, is that a partially built second Antonov An-225 is sitting in an industrial building on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Conceived by engineers at the height of the space race, the An-225 was built to transport the Energia super rocket to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The An-225 transported the Buran space shuttle and the Energia super rocket
Designed to put the Buran space shuttle into orbit, the Soviet Union infrastructure was not suitable to transport the Energia super rocket over land, and the nearest seaport was thousands of miles away.
Now realizing that air transport was the only option and after various tests using an An-124 cargo plane, the Soviets realized that a bigger aircraft would need to be built. Resembling the An-124 but on steroids, the An-225 first took to the skies in 1988. Christened ‘Mriya’, which means “dream” in Ukrainian, the An-225 was the first Soviet-era aircraft not to have been given a Russian name, an indication of how the Soviet Union was changing under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Work on more An225s stopped after the collapse of the Soviet Union
Despite plans to build a further three planes, work on a second An-225 stopped two years after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Since 1994 the part-built An-225 has been sitting in a giant warehouse.
It looked like it might finally get built when China expressed an interest in 2016. The Chinese were looking at the An-225 as a way to air-launch spacecraft into orbit. However, the deal between Antonov and the Chinese never came to fruition, leaving the second An-225 still not finished.
Today, the second An-225 is believed to be 70% complete with all the essential components of the superstructure, including wings, fuselage, nose gear, and tail in place. All the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer needs is an investor to come in with the money to finish the project.
Once they have received the cash Antonov can assemble the parts by completing the horizontal stabilizer and developing the control panel. Due to the way the aircraft has been stored, for all intents and purposes the investor would be getting a brand new plane ready to conquer the skies.
Will a second An-225 ever get built?
With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the existing Antonov An-225 Mriya has come into its own breaking two world cargo records while transporting vital medical supplies and PPE from Asia to Europe. With its ability to carry 250 tons of cargo up to 9,569 miles while cruising at just under 500mph, the massive plane is proving how, even 30-years later, it is unmatched when large amounts of supplies need moving quickly.
If nothing else, the coronavirus has shown us how the An-225 comes into its own during a crisis and is bound to have stirred up interest in a potential investor looking to complete the unfinished plane in Kyiv.
What do you think will a second An-225 ever get built, or will it just sit unfinished in the warehouse? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.