The world’s largest airplane may have been destroyed in Ukraine

Mar 2, 2022

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Mixed reports have emerged in recent days suggesting that the Antonov An-225, the world’s largest non-military aircraft, may have been destroyed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Rumors of the aircraft’s demise began circulating shortly after the attack commenced last week, when Russian missiles began raining down on Ukranian cities and supply depots, including air bases.

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(Photo by Ugur Can/ dia images via Getty Images)

On Sunday, the Ukroboronprom, a Ukranian defense conglomerate, issued a statement saying that the plane had been destroyed at the Antonov airfield in Gosomel near Kyiv, where the plane was under repair.

“It will cost over [$3 billion] to restore the plane, the restoration shall be time consuming,” Ukroboronprom said in a statement said. “Ukraine will make every effort to ensure that the aggressor state pays for these works.”

A state-run Twitter account also said that the aircraft had been destroyed.

“They burned the biggest plane, but our Mriya [dream] will never perish,” a graphic posted by the @Ukraine account said. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, also tweeted that the plane had been destroyed.

Later on Sunday, however, Ukroboronprom issued a second statement appearing to partially walk back some of the details in the first.

“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,” the second statement read. “We’ll inform you when there are any news.”

Ukrainian aerospace firm Antonov, which owns and maintains the aircraft, similarly tweeted on Sunday that “until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft.”

The An-225 first flew in December 1988. At 276 feet long, with a wingspan of 290 feet, the six-engine airplane held numerous records for size, including the largest wingspan and greatest weight of any aircraft put into operational service.

It was originally built as an extended version of the existing An-124 cargo jet, designed to carry Soviet spacecraft and rocket components.

In recent years, the plane has been used for unique heavy airlift support, including carrying supplies on humanitarian missions, turbines for windmills, fully assembled generators, armored vehicles, aircraft components and more. It transported relief supplies in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and carried medical supplies early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Construction was started on a second plane, but it was never completed.

Read more: A Tour Inside the Largest Operating Aircraft in the World — the Antonov An-225

The plane has been a subject of fascination for AvGeeks and transportation enthusiasts around the world, who would track its location and scheduled service and travel to different airports just to get a glimpse of it.

TPG had a chance to tour the plane in 2018 and found it to be even bigger up close.

The damage or destruction done to the airplane obviously pales in comparison to the death, destruction and suffering being inflicted in Ukraine, but underscores the destruction caused by the war there.

Please be sure to see our guide on how to help the Ukrainian people as the Russian invasion continues.

Featured photo by Ugur Can/ dia images via Getty Images.

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