London-based air charter company 26Aviation released a tribute video Tuesday, showing “the last ever” flight of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, just weeks before the world’s largest airplane was destroyed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“On February 4th, 2022, Mriya flew its last mission,” says the video, which was posted on 26Aviation’s YouTube channel. “26Aviation arranged the final charter flight captured in the following footage.”
The gigantic 33-year-old Cold War-era lifter, powered by six turbofan engines, was originally intended to carry the Soviet space shuttle Buran. By the 1990s, the Antonov Company redefined the unique jet’s mission, transforming it into a commercial cargo transport. The twin-tailed transport with a 290-foot wingspan was powered by six Ivchenko Progress D-18 turbofan engines and could fly up to 250 tons at least 4,000 km (2,159 nm) in about five hours.
It came to be known by its nickname, Mriya–Ukrainian for “dream.”
For decades, the one-of-a-kind airplane circled the globe, setting records for heavy payloads until February 24, when Mriya was destroyed in a hangar at Ukraine’s Gostomel Airport (UKKM) during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Although Mriya was the world’s largest operational airplane before its destruction, Stratolaunch’s Roc, the unique air-to-launch, twin-fuselage jet currently being developed in California, is heavier and boasts a greater wingspan than the An-225. It’s also worth noting that Mriya was longer than Roc.
This is the way the AN-225 “#Mriya” aircraft looks now. As a result of airstrike by the invaders, it was destroyed at #Gostomel airport near #Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/ro1uGVRXcg
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) April 3, 2022
The last company to use Mriya, 26Aviation, was launched in 2020, billing itself as an air charter specialist with aviation intelligence providing “out of the box aircraft solutions.”
“We arranged the final charter flight from Tianjin, China, to Billund, Denmark,” says the tribute video. “Fittingly, Mriya carried life-saving humanitarian cargo to help those in need.”
Backed by stirring music, the video shows workers tending to the aircraft at Billund Airport (EKBI). Cargo is seen being unloaded from the aircraft with forklift equipment. Finally, Mriya’s enormous swing-up, nose-loading cargo door is shown closing before the aircraft taxis to EKBI’s Runway 27 for takeoff.
Meanwhile, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its sixth month, a pilot who regularly served as captain on Mriya said in June that a project aimed at building a new version of Mriya was “in motion.”
Pilot Dmytro Antonov discussed how engineers would use an existing second fuselage of the An-225 to construct a complete airplane. “It is confirmed at the highest political level.”
Construction of the second airframe began in the early 1990s, when Mriya’s success had prompted plans to build three additional An-225s. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the project was abandoned—unfinished and largely forgotten. Until now.
However, with war still raging in Ukraine and resources apparently limited, prospects for using the existing airframe to build a new Mriya still seem very uncertain.