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Antonov’s death – a monument to the Soviet aviation industry

Ukraine’s Antonov 225, the world’s largest transport plane, was destroyed during a Russian attack on Ukrainian air bases. The event also put an end to one of the most famous airline brands in the world of the Soviet Union.

Golden period

Antonov Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1946 in Novosibirsk as a top secret aeronautical research and design agency. In 1952, Antonov moved his headquarters to Kiev.

At that time, Antonov was the leading manufacturer of cargo, passenger and special purpose aircraft in the world.

Thanks to a modern system of design rooms, laboratories, test plants and flight test complexes, Antonov is able to fully complete all aircraft manufacturing cycles, from research, to mass production to to overall support after the sale of the product.

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The presentation of the AN-132D aircraft in Kiev 2016. (Photo: RBTH)

During decades of development, Antonov has contributed to the world aviation industry more than 100 types of aircraft with 22,000 aircraft bearing famous An brand such as: An-32, An-148, An-158, An-74, An -124, An-7.

While the AN-148 is considered the quintessence of Ukraine’s aviation industry, the An-124 is famous as a transport plane specializing in “carrying” planes and tanks to all corners of the globe,

However, the most famous aircraft designed by the Antonov Corporation is the An-225 Mriya (meaning dream in Ukrainian) – the heaviest superplane ever built.

With 6 jet engines, it has a maximum take-off weight of up to 250 tons. Thanks to a wingspan nearly the size of a football field, the giant can transport cargo with a larger payload than any aircraft. The AN-225 has the capacity to hold up to 950 m3 of cargo, allowing it to transport up to 16 containers or 80 cars.

With the holding of 240 world records including the heaviest cargo capacity and the largest cargo volume, the An-225 is considered one of the most spectacular legacies of Soviet aviation as well as world.

This super aircraft was researched and developed by Soviet engineers during the last period of the Cold War. This is a massive gravity-defying transport plane and a symbol of the Soviet Union to assert the dominance of the sky of the East. To date, only one An-225 has been completed.

In fact, Antonov also dreamed of a second An-225, but the funding for this ambitious project was no longer supported by the state, leaving the project unfinished.

Decline

In July 2017, the Ukrainian government announced the creation of a special commission to manage the process of Antonov’s death.

Yury Brovchenko, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade was then appointed to lead this committee and ensure within two months the implementation of measures related to related party closure and debt settlement.

Although the announcement was made in 2017, in fact, the decision to dissolve Antonov was passed in January 2016.

The reason that the Ukrainian authorities gave for this decision was that Antonov lacked members because all three enterprises that owned and made up this group had left Antonov and joined the Ukrainian Defense Industry Corporation Ukroboronprom.

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The An-225 is considered one of the most spectacular legacies of Soviet and world aviation. (Photo: Jetphotos)

Meanwhile, according to experts, the main reason leading to the death of the world aviation monument lies in the issue of funding.

Until the day it was closed, Antonov was saddled with a debt of 706 million hryvnia (about 27 million USD). According to statistics, since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Antonov has only produced about 20 aircraft.

In 2009, Antonov began to produce commercial aircraft, but the company continued to face difficulties. In 2013, Antonov produced only four aircraft. By 2014, this airline also only produced 2 more small aircraft. A few years later, Antonov built five more planes, but could not find an outlet for them.

It’s difficult, but Antonov still have to feed tens of thousands of workers at the spare parts factories.

Previously, Antonov and many Ukrainian aviation manufacturing enterprises often earned many orders for equipment processing and component manufacturing from Russia. However, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia began to independently orient the production of components, causing Ukraine’s airlines to fall into a state of “single hunger”, greatly affecting revenue.

Antonov also experienced a crisis after being removed from the Russian-Ukrainian joint venture UAC-Antonov in 2015. UAC-Antonov was established when relations between the two countries were still warm with the task of developing the new aircraft model.

For a long time after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Antonov maintained close ties with the Russian defense industry.

But after Russia and Ukraine severed defense-technical ties due to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, Antonov fell into disrepair due to a lack of Russian-made components. In addition, the fact that Moscow cut most of the support for Antonov made this airline lose the market and difficult to maintain operations.

In September 2016, Antonov Chairman Aleksander Kotsiuba admitted that the group did not have the capacity to mass produce the aircraft because of economic problems and did not receive support from the state.

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Immediately after stopping cooperation with Russia, Antonov’s aircraft assembly line also fell into crisis when it did not lose its largest customer. (Photo: Sputnik)

Antonov had high expectations after Donald Trump, then the newly elected President of the United States, announced that he wanted to cut the contract to produce Air Force 1 for Boeing.

“Sir Donald Trump, would it be better to consider using Antonov’s plane as Air Force One?”, Ukraine’s state airliner wrote on Twitter at the time.

Antonov’s offer may sound like a joke, but it’s understood that new orders from the US or other countries will help boost the company’s future.

However, the US leader then did not have any response to this request and everything quickly faded into the past.

Unable to settle the debt burden, Antonov had to go to the stage of dissolution. After the dissolution, all Antonov’s assets were transferred to the Ukroboronprom State Corporation.

Antonov’s decline was not only an end to one of the monuments of the Soviet aviation industry, but also a significant loss to Ukraine’s defense industry.

ÔÇťAntonov is Ukraine’s trump card. The group has built some of the most powerful transport aircraft in the world, beating all the world records for this type of aircraft. Losing Antonov, Ukraine is like having an arm cut off,” Valentyn Badrak, an independent military analyst of Ukraine.

Antonov’s dissolution left a huge legacy of many licenses for the production of super aircraft such as An-225 Mriya, An-124 Ruslan, An-70 or An-140.

Currently, the fact that thousands of aircraft built by Antonov are still being used by many countries around the world, causing many people to regret the golden past of the aviation group that has existed for more than half a century.

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