The Biggest Plane Ever Built Was Destroyed, But You Can Help Rebuild It

Wars destroy lives, countries, and history. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, is no exception. And now, the largest plane ever built can be counted among the casualties of this conflict. The destruction of the Antonov An-225 Mriya was confirmed a year ago today. It turns out that the history-making aircraft was being stored in a hangar at Gostomel airport. It is not yet known exactly what happened, but we do know some details. 

Russian forces seized Gostomel roughly three days into the conflict, and a fire blazed through the airport. The An-225 Mriya was hit at some point, though it is unknown which side fired the shot or shots that hit it. The damage done to An-225 Mriya caused the plane to catch fire, and that fire subsequently destroyed the aircraft. Russian vehicles were pictured close tothe aircraft as it was burning. The loss of the largest aircraft in history caused an outpouring of grief and disappointment around the world.

A year has passed, and there is hope of a rebuild. There is also an opportunity for people around the world to help fund that rebuild and get a taste of what flying An-225 Mriya was like at the same time — virtually of course.

The An-225 Mriya used to carry shuttles on its back

The Antonov An-225 Mriya was designed and built in the 1980s, with its first flight taking place in 1988. The plane was built by the Antonov State Company in what is now Ukraine, but back then was still the Soviet Union. When it was built, the plane was the size of a football field in both length and wingspan. It could also carry more weight than any other aircraft, with a maximum of 1.32 million pounds, according to Air Charter Service. This was all powered by six engines that were capable of producing over 300,000 pounds of thrust between them. The landing gear was also more substantial than the stuff you'd find on a regular plane. The Mriya had 32 wheels in total, 20 of which were "steerable."

Its original job was to transport the Soviet Space Program's shuttle. The West first saw it when it landed at the 1989 Paris Air show with a Buran spaceplane strapped to its back. There was also a suggestion that a shuttle could be launched from its back, which take much of the work out of getting into space.

Two of the aircraft were originally supposed to be built, but after the An-225 Mriya's sister plane was left, still unfinished, in 2009, the project was abandoned. Almost a decade and a half later, and following the destruction of the first, the world might be getting another Mriya.

The An-225 Mriya is being rebuilt, and you can help out

Reconstruction of the An-225 Mriya is already underway at a secret location. The project is expected to take five years and cost over $502 million. Originally, the price tag had been placed at $3 billion, and CNN reported that defense company Ukroboronprom wanted Russia to pay. As things stand, Antonov is raising funds. Various initiatives around the world are also taking place to help get the Mriya back in the air, and would start rebuilding "immediately after the victory of Ukraine," Antonov told CNN.

Microsoft is one of the companies that has stepped up to help raise funds to restore the An-225 Mriya. A version of the plane has been added to Microsoft Flight Simulator's marketplace for $19.99 — with all proceeds going towards the refurbishment effort. Users can experience the pleasure of flying a digital version of one of the world's most iconic planes, while helping bring the real one back to life. If the classic look isn't for you, the plane also comes with seven liveries: Xbox, Aviator's Club, White and four others, according to TechRaptor.