On March 4, a Russian television crew got close-up footage showing the wreckage of the world’s largest and heaviest aircraft — and claimed it was destroyed by Ukrainian artillery fire.
Built in 1985, the Antonov An-225 was in a hangar at the Hostomel airport northwest of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. Hostomel is an important strategic objective for the Russian invading forces, who expended great efforts from the beginning of the “special military operation” to capture it.
The footage shows the plane’s variable-geometry nose cone on the ground in front of the burned body of the plane, which is heavily damaged though still largely intact.
Initially, the aircraft was reported to be safe, but on Sunday, Feb. 27, reports by Ukrainian officials and photos taken of the hangar suggested the An-225 “Mriya” — Ukrainian for “dream” — had been destroyed or at least damaged to the point where it would cost billions to repair, according to Ukrainian state media.
This was a great blow for aviation enthusiasts worldwide. The An-225 had a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tons and the widest wingspan of any plane in operation. Its novelty (there was only one plane of the design ever built) meant that it attracted a sizeable crowd wherever it landed. It was able to carry massive pieces of machinery, setting records for the longest and heaviest objects transported by air.
“Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, in a tweet on Feb. 27.
The An-225 had first belonged to the Soviet Union, where it had no name but was known in the West by a NATO designation, “Cossack.” It was designed for the purpose of carrying Buran, the successful but short-lived Soviet space shuttle.
In 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated into its 15 constituent republics. Both the An-225 and its designer were in the Ukraine at the time, meaning that it became property of the new country.