The Antonov An-225 "Mriya," built in 1985, was the world's biggest plane before it was destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Antonov was a Soviet company, you see, but it's based in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and when Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, Antonov went with it.
After being mothballed for several years, Mriya was brought back into service in 2001, and flew massive transport missions around the world, carrying cargoes that no other plane could manage. Its final mission took place in February 2022, when it carried nearly 90 tons of Covid-19 test kits from China to Denmark.
On February 24, Russia launched its attack on Ukraine; the Antonov Airport in Hostomel was one of the early targets of Russian forces, and while Ukrainian forces were able to recapture the airport quickly, the Mriya—the only one of its kind—had already been destroyed.
It was a big loss for aircraft enthusiasts around the world. This wasn't just a big plane, it was the big plane. The biggest of them all. An absolute unit, as my UK friends would say. If this was an American plane, it'd be described in football fields. It needed two solid miles of runway to get off the ground.
Pictures really can't do it justice, but just look at this goddamn thing:
It should be physically impossible for a behemoth like this to move, much less fly, and yet fly it did.
So it's happy news that the big bird will soon be coming back—digitally—in Microsoft Flight Simulator. The An-225 has previously been flyable in Flight Sim through third-party mods, but this version will arise from an official licensing deal between Microsoft, Antonov, and sim developer IniBuilds (opens in new tab). An-225 captain Dmytro Antonov (opens in new tab) is also involved in the creation of the plane, to ensure maximum possible accuracy.
"We said a year ago that it was very upsetting when the plane was destroyed," Microsoft Flight Simulator chief Jorg Neumann said during a developer stream reveal. "I remember saying, we're going to remake this in the digital space. But we need help, right? We didn't have much insight, there was no reference, you couldn't go scan it, those types of things. So in all of our efforts to work through everything with Antonov, they've been really, really helpful."
Antonov confirmed the Flight Simulator deal on Twitter:(opens in new tab)
The An-225 Mriya—"Dream" in English—will launch in Microsoft Flight Simulator on February 27, the one-year anniversary of the plane's destruction. IniBuilds said the plane will cost $20, with all proceeds going to Antonov/Ukraine. I've reached out to Microsoft for more clarity on that, and will update if I receive a reply.
The real Mriya is coming back, too. Antonov announced plans to rebuild the An-225 (opens in new tab) in November 2022.