Four months ago, at the start of the war, countless Ukrainians were demoralized to learn that the world’s largest cargo plane, built in Ukraine, had been destroyed in a fierce battle.
The plane, named Mriya, which means The Dream in Ukrainian language, was the pride of Ukraine. Only one was built. It was a worldwide aviation celebrity. Now it lay in mangled wreckage.
But this week, efforts to bring Mriya back to life got a huge boost. Richard Branson, the British billionaire and aerospace tycoon, toured the airport in Hostomel, a town near Kiev where the plane had been parked. During the visit, on Wednesday, Ukrainian aerospace experts came up with the idea of rebuilding it.
“We are excited,” said Nataliya Sad, a spokeswoman for Ukroboronprom, the state-run defense manufacturer that owns Mriya. “Mriya is our symbol of victory, of light over darkness, and it should be rebuilt.”
Mr Branson, who has consistently expressed his support for Ukraine during the war, did not say whether he would contribute to the effort to get the giant craft back up. But he wrote in his blog, “I hope Mriya’s legacy will live on.”
A Virgin Group spokesperson said Mr Branson was assessing what would be needed to rebuild the aircraft, and the effort would be focused on finding ways for the international community to support and support the project. can help rebuild the airport and the Ukrainian aviation industry.
A Ukrainian lawmaker, David Arakhamia, said Mr Branson had “expressed his willingness to help in any way he can,” according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
In late February, Russian forces attempted to capture Hostomel airport, just north of Kiev, the capital, in order to fly thousands of troops into it. Ukrainian defenders eventually chased them away, but the airfield was destroyed in the process and so was Mriya, who was hit directly by an explosive shell.
At 276 feet in length and six stories high, the Antonov An-225 Mriya was heavier than any other aircraft in the air, far more than a fully loaded 747. The nose cone flipped up to allow turbine blades or even smaller jets to be shoved into the air . his hollow belly. Built in 1988 as part of the Soviet space program, it flew around until February, carrying Covid supplies.
Ukrainian officials have vowed to rebuild it using a second semi-finished Mriya fuselage that lies in an aircraft factory in an undisclosed location. But Ukrainian officials have said the project could cost more than $1 billion and they will need outside help, which is why they were so excited by Mr Branson’s visit.
“It’s possible to get her flying again, just not now,” said Mrs. Sad.
Ukrainian news media also said Mr Branson was interested in helping rebuild Hostomel airport.
Ukraine issued a special commemorative Mriya stamp on Tuesday. It features a cheerful, colorful drawing of Mriya written by an 11-year-old schoolgirl, Sofiya Kravchuk, from Western Ukraine.
Three million stamps were made. They should be sold out by the end of this week.