The world's largest airplane was destroyed after Russia invaded Ukraine's Hostomel Airport in 2022.
Photos show the Antonov An-225 "Mriya" being dismantled, with a few engines being salvaged.
Take a look at what the mammoth aircraft looked like before and after the attack at Hostomel.
After Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the world's largest airplane — and the only one of its kind — was destroyed.
Taking its first flight in December 1988, the An-225 "Mriya," meaning "dream" in Ukrainian, was built during Soviet rule by the Kyiv-based Antonov Company for the purpose of carrying the USSR's Buran spacecraft — just as the Boeing 747 did in the US with NASA's Space Shuttle.
A second Mriya was also ordered, but on-and-off construction after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the jet about 70% complete as of 2009 — it's still not finished.
The sole Mriya made its world debut at the Paris Air Show in 1989 by flying in with the Buran orbiter on its back. But the USSR's fall meant that Mriya's time with the Soviet space program was short-lived.
The legendary plane ran a few missions in the early 1990s but mostly sat idle in Ukraine before eventually being revived as a commercial freighter in 2001.
The An-225 would live as Antonov Airlines' loyal workhorse for the next 21 years before its abrupt end 19 months ago during the battle of Ukraine's Hostomel Airport — an event that saw the pride of the nation destroyed by Russian forces.
With talks to rebuild the beloved An-225 — a feat Antonov estimated in November to cost about $502 million — new photos taken by the Ukrainian photographer and journalist Igor Lesiv of AeroVokzal.net and shared with Insider show its dismantling.
Take a look at what the An-225 looked like before and after the attack at Hostomel.
The colossal An-225 had six Ukrainian-made Ivchenko Progress D-18T engines, two tail fins that towered six stories high, and a giant nose-loading door.
The Mriya was based on the smaller An-124 Ruslan aircraft, 55 of which were built by Antonov. The decision to create a larger version of the An-124 freighter was to save time as the Soviet Union pushed for a quick turnaround on its Busan transporter.
This meant the An-225 had many similarities to the An-124, making it easy to swap out parts when needed.
The nose-door complemented the jet's incredible capacity, which was twice that of the 747.
According to Antonov, the An-225 had a maximum volume of about 46,000 cubic feet and could carry about 550,000 pounds of freight.
Its massive cargo bay measured about 142 feet long, 21 feet wide, and 14.4 feet tall.
The Mriya's oversize capacity made it particularly favorable for carrying awkward-sized objects, such as wind turbines, 50 cars, and even a military tank.
The nose door meant the objects could slide right into the plane, making it easier to load and unload large and odd-shaped freight.
Mriya had actually earned itself more than 100 world records during its lifetime, starting with its maiden flight in 1988, when it officially became the heaviest and largest aircraft in the world.
One long-standing title was achieved in 2009 when the An-225 set the record for airlifting the heaviest piece of equipment ever transported — an Alstom generator stator weighing 174 tons (348,000 pounds), which could only be flown to the landlocked nation of Armenia.
Holding the weight of the mammoth plane were a total of 32 wheels — 28 in the main gear in seven rows of four, and four under the nose.
The several dozen giant tires could handle the weight of a fully loaded An-225, which has an incredible maximum takeoff weight of about 1.4 million pounds.
The Points Guy reported the plane would carry spare tires onboard during missions.
If you're trying to imagine the scale of this behemoth bird, from tail to nose and wingtip to wingtip, it stretched about the size of a football field.
According to Antonov, the full width of the wingtips was 290 feet, and its nose-to-tail length was 276 feet. By comparison, the world's largest passenger jet — the Airbus A380 double-decker — is 261 feet across its wings and 239 feet in length.
A Boeing 737-800 has a 112-foot wingspan and a length of about 130 feet — just a fraction of the size of the An-225.
Antonov initially hoped to fly the An-225 into the 2030s, boasting the slogan "no other name carries more weight," but photos soon emerged after Russia's attack showing the sad reality.
"Russia may have destroyed our 'Mriya,'" Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted on February 27, 2022. "But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!"
Initial photos show the plane crushed, with its nose slammed on the ground and both wings hanging in defeat.
On the day of the attack, the once mighty An-225 quickly turned into a site of charred metal and broken glass.
Dust and smoke surrounded the plane, with the Mriya captain, Dmytro Antonov, describing the scene to Reuters as an "indescribable" sadness during his April 2022 visit to Hostomel. The pilot is not related to the manufacturer's founder, Oleg Antonov.
Everything, from the wings and tail to the hydraulics and fuel pumps, was destroyed.
"I just realized that exactly two months ago I went on my last business trip. I flew on Mriya," Antonov told Reuters. "I could have never imagined such things happening."
The New York Times reported the salvage operation started in March 2023, and pictures from April showed the debris removed and the area somewhat cleaned up.
"In the beginning of May, a decision was taken to start restoring the concrete hangar and to disassemble the roof above Mriya so that it would not collapse," the Mriya pilot, Antonov, told Aerotime Hub in a June 2022 interview, referring to May of that year.
"Later, when the Mriya itself is extracted from there, we will start reconstructing the place."
Now, more than 18 months after the attack, fresh images capture the progress that Ukraine has since made on the An-225 as it continues to salvage what it can of the jet.
Igor Lesiv visited the Hostomel Airport in August to see the status of the An-225, telling Insider it was being "disassembled for storage."
The twin tail fins, engines, several tires, and the wings have since been removed from the plane, leaving behind just the giant frame of the Mriya.
The An-225 famously sported the Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow during its lifetime, and it appears the livery survived at least on the back half of the fuselage.
The front belly, however, is still charred from the attack and is covered in ashy black.
Meanwhile, the cockpit is also gone, and the jet is now surrounded by scaffolding equipment.
The flight deck suffered some of the most damage during the attack.
During his walkthrough of the site with Reuters, Antonov pointed to the cockpit and said, "There's nothing left here."
Other photos show the engineless wings and a few wrecked powerplants sitting adjacent to the An-225, among other parts.
Compared with the spring of 2022, the scene looked quite different as the mess was slowly cleaned up. Even the hangar the plane sits in had been repaired, with its roof no longer caving in.
But Lesiv told Insider some parts could be saved — particularly the engines.
"D-18T engines were always rearranged between AN-225 and AN-124, so they are now used on Ruslans," he said.
The deputy CEO of Antonov, Maksym Sanotskyi, told the German media outlet Deutsche Welle in April 2023 that three of the An-225's six engines were repaired, and two went to the An-124 fleet as spares — something particularly helpful to Ukraine in the ongoing war effort.
These photos show a stark change from the spring of 2022 when the An-225's wings were barely hanging on with burned and broken engines still attached.
The top image shows the An-225 in April 2022 with the wings and engines still attached.
But, both were gone by August 2023 as workers pulled everything they could from the wreckage with the hope it could one day be restored.
Despite the destruction, both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Antonov said they were committed to rebuilding the legendary Mriya — something the incomplete An-225 may be able to help with.
"People should have hope," Vladyslav Vlasyk, the deputy director and chief engineer of Antonov, told The New York Times in March. "They have to know this plane is not abandoned. Yes, there is a lot of work to do, but we are working."
The comments come a few months after the planemaker announced on X (formerly Twitter) that "design work in this direction has begun," referring to the rebuilding of the An-225.
At the time, Antonov said there was "about 30% of components that can be used for the second sample." In May of last year, Zelensky also voiced his commitment to rebuilding the An-225 using the abandoned Mriya.
Antonov estimated the cost of repair to be about 500 million euros ($502 million) — but it will have to wait until the war is over, the Times reported.
In its November X post, Antonov said it "is too early to talk about a specific amount" and that more information would become available "after the victory."
CNN reported Antonov was trying to restore one of the wings, while the Times reported the company was in talks with aviation companies in Europe, the US, and Asia.
"The aircraft will be equipped with modernized engines," Valerii Kostiuk, an Antonov designer, told CNN in April. "New electronic on-board equipment will be installed on the plane. Well-known companies will be involved."
Read the original article on Business Insider