- What is the claim to fame of ‘Mriya’, the AN-225 aircraft of Ukraine in the Aviation industry?
- What is it’s connection to the city of Hyderabad?
- Has it been destroyed in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia?
Mriya (Dream in Ukrainian), the AN -225 aircraft is the biggest and heaviest aircraft ever built in the history of aviation, by Antonov Airlines of Ukraine. It was flown for the first time in 1988.
The wide bodied aircraft landed in Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in May 2016, the first and only Indian city to have the privilege.
In the present Russian invasion of Ukraine reports indicating its irreparable destruction is one of the tragic developments outside of the multiple levels of loss of human lives, damage to infrastructure and trauma being caused.
The Antonov-225 was undergoing scheduled maintenance at the Hostomel Airport in Kyiv after it arrived from Denmark on February 5. The Russian forces had bombed the facilities.
The only consolation for aviation lovers and industry seems to be the news that Antanov did begin building a second AN-225, which is unfinished but intact, as per a global media report. Despite reports and videos of the visible destruction to the aircraft being circulated, Antanov has not confirmed whether the aircraft is a write off. On Twitter, the company maintained that until it is inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the AN-225.
If the company had already begun work on the second version, aviation experts believe the chances of getting a new version of Mriya ready and taking to the air in the future could be bright.
The Hyderabad Connection
During the wee hours of May 12, 2016, the ‘giant bird’, nicknamed ‘Myria’ ( Dream in Ukrainian), lifting a mammoth 640 tonnes, hurtled down the runway of the RGIA in Shamshabad to the delight of the staff of the GMR (which has built and operates the airport), special guests and others. It was parked at the airport’s Code F (Airbus 380 compatible) Cargo apron.
According to some experts, the Airbus A 380, the biggest, double-decker, passenger aircraft, built by the French Airbus company looks small in comparison. The RGIA had also received an A 380 earlier in the airport.
The RGIA got the unique privilege of receiving the AN-225 aircraft for technical stopover over other Indian airports for several technical, operational and infrastructure capabilities, recalled S G K Kishore, the CEO of the airport then. It will remain a ‘Dream’ run for the airport and the city too as the Aircraft is damaged and will never be able to land in any Indian city again.
The AN-225 arrived from Turkmenbashi in Central Asia into Hyderabad enroute to Jakarta in Indonesia and finally to Perth in Australia. It was reportedly carrying some cargo for the Reliance Industries Group “A week before a technical team from Antonov Airlines came and inspected the facilities at the RGIA. For, the airport and staff, it was a great and memorable experience to manage the entire operations of landing, stay for two days and take off,” recalled Kishore, who, six years later is now the Executive Director (Airports) of the GMR.
On May 13, the Myria plane was the talk of the town. Crowds thronged the airport to get a glimpse of it. The Hyderabad media got an opportunity to experience the interiors and take in the sheer size and structure of the rare aircraft. Pictures and reports were splashed all over the next day. World over too, the AN-225 attracts spectators as it flies or lands into cities due to its sheer size and spectacle in the air.
“Being a passionate aviator and photographer, knowing its details and particulars was a different thing. But the simple term – Biggest Aircraft, takes it all. Meeting the pilots, seeing those huge bulky landing gears, six big engines, and the endless size of it was overwhelming to eyes! It will always be missed”, said Rushab Bafna from Pune, who photographed the rare event.
The AN-225 story
The world’s largest cargo aircraft is powered by 6 super charged, turbo fan engines. It is operated by a 6-member crew. It’s fuel capacity is 300,000 kg; max speed is 850 kmph; max range of flying is 15,400 km. The length of the aircraft is 84 metre with a wingspan of 88.4 metre and height of 18.1 metre.
Interestingly, during the 1980s, the erstwhile Soviet Union had tasked the Antonov Airlines company to produce an aircraft that could carry the space shuttle-the Buran. The company successfully fabricated ‘Mriya’. It replaced the Myasishche VM-T, the 4-engine, T-tailed aircraft. Soviet Union had two of them, which served the logistic and cargo support for the impressive space programme till 1989. In that year, Antonov-225 replaced them.
According to a report in the Airways magazine, the first flight of Antonov-225 was on December 21, 1988. It flew from Kyiv on a 74 minute test flight. In 1989, the aircraft appeared in the popular Paris Air Show on static display. The next year it made its presence felt at the Farnborough Air Show, where it flew.
Two AN-225s were originally ordered. However, only one was fully built. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the second aircraft was partially built and was later put into cold storage. Even, the build aircraft had to be re-engined and brought into commercial operations in 2001. It flew a record cargo of four main battle tanks weighing 253.82 tonnes and established itself, the report says.
Since the beginning of the aviation industry from the first flight by the Wright brothers in the 1903s, the AN-225 undoubtedly represents one of the greatest feats of engineering. If the aircraft has been irreparably damaged in the conflict and a newer version cannot be built again, it would be a sad moment for the industry and lovers of flying.