Why Wasn’t The Second Antonov An-225 Finished?

For people who have seen the colossal Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’ in person, they know that they have been lucky to see an incredibly rare aircraft. As well as being known for the majesty of its sheer size, the An-225 draws significant attention wherever it goes due to there only being one production example in the world. While Antonov did start constructing a second example, this particular plane remains unfinished. Let’s take a look at why this is the case.

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Antonov never finished constructing its second An-225. Photo: Getty Images

It takes two

Antonov designed and built its An-225 ‘Mriya’ (meaning ‘dream’ in Ukrainian) to support the Soviet space program. It replaced the Myasishchev VM-T ‘Atlant,’ with its role being to carry the program’s ‘Buran’ orbiters. In this sense, it served a similar purpose to the Boeing 747s that NASA deployed to carry its Space Shuttles from place to place.

The first An-225 took to the skies for the first time in December 1988, and appeared on static display at the Paris Air Show the following year. In 1990, it also performed demonstration flights at the Farnborough Air Show. The Soviet space program ordered two An-225s to carry its orbiters and boosters, but only ever took delivery of the first example.

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The single completed An-225 carrying a ‘Buran’ orbiter for the Soviet space program. Photo: Vasiliy Koba via Wikimedia Commons

Delayed and unfinished

The fact that Antonov never delivered the second An-225 to the Soviet space program wasn’t for want of trying. It began constructing the aircraft in the 1980s, but, before it was completed, the fall of the Soviet Union led to the end of its Buran space program.

This rendered the first An-225 surplus to requirements, and it was placed into storage in 1994. This also caused construction work on the second example to halt, and the partially-built airframe was also stored. However, the turn of the century saw a revival for the completed An-225, and Antonov also turned its attention to finishing the second example.

In 2006, it aimed to have the plane complete by 2008, although this target was soon delayed. By 2009, construction was abandoned, with the aircraft reportedly 60-70% complete. Ukrainian Journal reported in 2011 that $300 million was needed to complete the aircraft.

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The An-225 holds the record for being the heaviest aircraft ever built. Photo: Getty Images

However, more recently, Antonov’s CEO declared last year that getting the unfinished aircraft airborne is now ‘economically unviable.’ With the existing An-225 already only carrying out fairly limited operations, completing the second now makes no financial sense.

As such, a combination of the fall of the Soviet Union and a lack of demand has been what has resulted in the world not having a second An-225. But where is the first nowadays?

What has the active example been up to?

The active An-225 recently returned to service after a 10-month hiatus. It flew three helicopters from Afghanistan to RAF Brize Norton, before returning to its base in Kyiv.

The six-engined behemoth’s departure was so powerful that it partially destroyed the RAF base’s fence! RadarBox.com shows that it last flew yesterday to Leipzig, Germany.

Did you know about the story of the second, unfinished Antonov An-225? Have you ever seen the first, working example in person? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!