- After the destruction of the Antonov An-225 “Mriya,” the team behind Microsoft Flight Simulator endeavored to recreate it in-game and begin the process of helping rebuild it in real-life.
- We spoke to Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator Jorg Neumann to learn how this ambitious project got off the ground.
- Available in the in-game store, you can fly the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” today in Microsoft Flight Simulator on both console and PC.
I’m a big fan of airplanes. Large ones, small ones, medium sized… Each one is extraordinary in their own way when you take a step back and consider how incredible it is that these manmade machines can conquer the sky. There have been thousands of unique aircraft designs that have taken flight; the SR-71 “Blackbird” for its otherworldly look, the P-38 “Lightning” with its unique H-shaped design, and the iconic B-17 “Flying Fortress” which lives up to its namesake as a literal fortification in the sky, are some personal favorites. But none have been quite as impressive as the Antonov An-225, affectionately known as “Mriya.”
Designated as the An-225, since it could carry up to a colossal 225 tons of cargo, the Mriya (which translates to “dream” in Ukrainian) was the largest and heaviest aircraft in the world. Originally created to transport the Buran-class orbiters in the 1980s before being retrofitted to carry oversized payloads, it housed six turbofan engines across its immense wingspan, two large vertical stabilizers, and a 32-wheel landing gear assembly — there was truly nothing like it.
Needless to say, it was upsetting when news broke in early 2022 that the only existing Mriya was destroyed during the Battle of Antonov Airport, at the outset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
So, when I first heard the news the team behind Microsoft Flight Simulator was moving forward with an ambitious goal of not only recreating the aircraft for everyone to enjoy in their world-class flight simulator, but equally determined to bring the real Mriya back to life, I had to learn more. I managed to catch up with Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator Jorg Neumann, shortly after the announcement of the aircraft’s launch in Microsoft Flight Simulator, to discover more about this amazing project.
“There was an outcry in the flight sim community that day [February 27, 2022] and all of us were really affected by the news,” Jorg recounts upon first hearing of Mriya’s destruction. “In our team meeting, there was an outpouring of sadness and shock. Personally, it struck me deeply as the Mriya had also been a symbol of mankind’s ingenuity… it was in that meeting that I quite emotionally said we need to preserve the memory of this great aircraft in our sim.”
“Personally, it struck me deeply as the Mriya had also been a symbol of mankind’s ingenuity.”
After the meeting, Jorg contacted Chief Pilot for Antonov Airlines Dmytro Antonov via LinkedIn and reached out to their Microsoft office in Ukraine. At that time, no one in Ukraine was able to talk to about digital preservation of the An-225, but one key contact, Alexander Matsko, embraced the idea of bringing Mriya into Microsoft Flight Simulator.
“It was delightful news for us, considering the high professional level of the Microsoft team and their high international reputation,” described Deputy General Director for Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines Viktor Avdieiev, upon hearing the news that Microsoft was trying to bring the An-225 back in a flight simulator. “This aircraft occupied a special place in global aviation history; no such other plane exists… Thanks to this product, many people get to know this powerful bird and will love it as we do.”
“We kept in touch over the tumultuous months,” Jorg described. “[Matsko] later introduced us to Antonov Company and really was instrumental in making this happen. On our side, I contacted Ubaid, the head of iniBuilds, a close partner of ours that had just completed an excellent rendition of the Airbus A310-300. He and his team of experts were equally enthusiastic, and work began shortly thereafter.”
It was that team of 17 at iniBuilds that brought the An-225 to life in Microsoft Flight Simulator. You can really get a sense of the passion they poured into the finished product because it’s such an extremely hyper-detailed recreation of the Antonov An-225, and players can now experience it on both Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC.
“This aircraft occupied a special place in global aviation history; no such other plane exists.”
“They [iniBuilds] did lots of online research initially, and collected open questions in a detailed list that was then sent to Antonov,” Jorg told me. “Antonov filled in all the blanks, which is why we were able to reach such a high degree of authenticity.”
“The specialists had the opportunity to visit Mr. Antonov and several other Antonov Company engineers in Leipzig, where they flew the digital plane together,” Avdieiev describes. “Antonov Company provided the original recordings of the An-225, and An-124’s engines were recorded to make digital Mriya sound realistic.”
iniBuilds had the full support of the Antonov Company and Mr. Dmitry Antonov, the Chief pilot of the An-225. Mr. Antonov also made a video series with lots of incredible detail that helped Jorg and his team to initially get going on the digital re-creation. Other details were filled in when the team met him and other Antonov pilots for a test session in Leipzig.
“It was truly an enlightening experience talking to the pilots who flew the Antonov An-225,” Jorg said. “The most unique point we learned was understanding the handling characteristics of such a unique large aircraft! Their feedback allowed us to make the aircraft fly as close to reality in Microsoft Flight Simulator.”
The pilots of Antonov gave the team real insight into the various areas of the plane and the uses they had. For example, they advised that being such a unique aircraft, the Antonov An-225 carried its own towbar to maneuver safely out of any airport it flew to around the world. One was specially modelled just like it for the simulator and can be seen in the cargo bay of the version found in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
“What if they could bring Mriya… back to life?”
But the team at Microsoft Flight Simulator were not merely satisfied with a digital recreation of the aircraft. What if they could bring Mriya… back to life? That’s when discussions with the Antonov Company went deeper on how they could find a way to help contribute to the rebuilding of this aircraft.
“We decided to give 100% of the gross receipts from the sale of the digital An-225 for one year after launch directly to Antonov Company so the money could be used to rebuild the An-225.” Jorg said. “If Antonov determines that rebuilding isn’t feasible, then the funds can alternatively be used to create a memorial to the plane.”
Proceeds from the in-game DLC will go toward rebuilding the An-225 and currently this is the only method through which the sim and gaming community can contribute to this effort. Still, it’s a lofty goal and if it doesn’t come to fruition, there are plans to find other ways to honor the aircraft’s legacy.
“We did not set a minimum donation but instead opted to give Antonov all the money we receive. We feel strongly that we want to help restore a national treasure to its former glory and highlight the resilience of Ukraine. So far, we’re thrilled with the reaction from the simmer community.”
“We feel strongly that we want to help restore a national treasure to its former glory and highlight the resilience of Ukraine.”
Asking Jorg what he hopes simmers take away from the experience of piloting this incredibly unique aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator, Jorg was insightful in his response.
“The Mriya is not just the world’s heaviest plane that broke, and still holds, a large amount of aviation records. Like much of [the aviation community], to me, it stands as a monument for what we as humans can achieve. The dream of flight goes back a very long time, and it was realized over centuries by brilliant minds around the world. The Mriya was, and is, a significant milestone in that aviation history and in the history of human ingenuity. I hope simmers will appreciate the engineering marvel of this aircraft and dream that the Mriya will one day fly in our skies again.”