The world’s largest aircraft, a Ukrainian Antonov AN-225 cargo plane, has reportedly been “destroyed” in a Russian attack on an airfield near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
Dubbed “Mriya”, which means “The Dream” in Ukrainian, the jet was reportedly under repair and routine maintenance at the Antonov Company site in Gostomel Airport when it was destroyed.
“The biggest plane in the world ‘Mriya’ (The Dream) was destroyed by Russian occupants on an airfield near Kyiv,” Ukraine said in a statement via its official Twitter account, confirming its intentions to repair the damaged iconic jet.
“We will rebuild the plane. We will fulfill our dream of a strong, free, and democratic Ukraine.”
The AN-225 travelled to Australia for the first time in May 2016, when it touched down in Perth, carrying a 135-tonne generator for a resources company.
Anticipating massive public interest in the massive aircraft, Perth Airport has put up a dedicated viewing area for the public to see the six-engine behemoth.
Antonov released a statement on Monday, stating: “Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft.”
According to the director of the airline, “the engines was dismantled for repairs and the plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given”, the Ukrainian defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
“Currently, it is impossible to assess the plane’s condition and the possibility and cost of its restoring due the lack of access to the aircraft as the control over the airport is taken by the Russian occupiers.”
While there are no detailed reports of what happened to the aircraft as of yet, the Ukrainian defence ministry said “it will be restored” at the expense of Russian authorities.
The defence ministry said it will cost over US$3 billion to restore the aircraft, and the project will take over five years.
“Russia has hit the Mriya as a symbol of Ukraine’s aviation capabilities … which holds records for transportation of biggest commercial cargo and longest and heaviest in the history of aviation monoloading, lifting capacity,” the statement said.
“Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine’s aviation and the air cargo sector.”
The jumbo aircraft is powered with six Ivchenko Progress D-18T turbofan engines and weighs about 285 tonnes when empty.
At the time of its debut in 1988, the AN-225 was 50 per cent larger than any other jet in the world, and now it remains the biggest cargo aircraft in operation.
From 1988 to 1991, it was primarily operated as the transporter for Buran-class orbiters for the Soviet space program.
Then, when obtained by Antonov Airlines, it became the workhorse of transporting extremely large cargo and also has been an asset in rapidly providing supplies for disaster relief programs.
Production of a second An-225 commenced in the late 1980s, but it was never completed.