For over 30 years the Antonov An-225 Mriya was the world’s biggest airplane, a colossal vehicle that was 84 m (275 feet) long and weighed 190 tonnes, but which could still somehow not just get itself into the air, but carry loads of other stuff inside it while doing it.
The Mriya was originally built by Kyiv-based Antonov in 1988 for the Soviet Union, as a means of transporting the Buran, the USSR’s space shuttle, much the same way that a modified Boeing 747 would carry NASA’s vehicles. The collapse of the Soviet Union a few years later would put an end to both programs, however, and without a clear purpose the Mriya ended up in storage.
There it stayed for years, until Antonov decided to give it an upgrade in the late 90s and see if anyone was willing to pay to have the Mriya haul heavy stuff across the planet. Turns out loads of people, including the US military, wanted just that, and in 2002 the Mriya re-entered service as a commercial transport aircraft, its first mission to send over 200,000 meals, weighing 187 tonnes, to US forces stationed in Turkey.
For the next 20 years the Mriya—the only aircraft of its type, after plans for further builds were scrapped—flew all over the world, hauling stuff that people once thought you would never be able to transport by air, like wind turbine blades and entire tank platoons. Its biggest ever assignment came in 2004, when it carried 247 tonnes worth of oil pipeline machinery to Uzbekistan in a single flight.
While the Mriya was an important aircraft for governments and businesses alike, it was also just a cool thing to have existing on the planet. Big machines are cool, and the An-225 was very cool, an absolute beast of a thing would draw crowds wherever it landed.
Sadly, this one-of-a-kind beauty was destroyed last year during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when it was attacked during the Battle for Hostomel Air Base. While there are currently plans to build a new one, using some of the work done on a previously-cancelled sister aircraft, for now the world is without its biggest aircraft.
Unless, that is, you play Microsoft Flight Simulator, because Antonov have announced that they’ve worked with professional modders IniBuilds and Microsoft to bring the aircraft to the game, letting enthusiasts get behind the sticks.
It’s hoped the Mriya will be available for download on February 27, which is the one-year anniversary of its destruction. IniBuilds say it will cost $20, with “all proceeds going to Antonov/Ukraine”.