The Antonov An-225 Mriya is one of the most iconic aircraft in the world. One of a kind, it is the heaviest aircraft ever built and can haul the largest cargo.
Not only does the Mriya attract crowds at whichever airport it lands, it is also one of the most popular aircraft to follow on flight tracking software such as Flightradar24 and Radarbox.
But on January 11, 2022, the aircraft suffered an incident that immediately sparked attention across the world.
When landing at Rzeszow Airport (RZE) in Poland, a landing gear sensor became damaged, leading to some minor repairs. The story made global news, leading to further speculation and sensational headlines.
In reality, the incident was far less dramatic. On January 25, Dmytro Antonov, Antonov Airlines’ chief pilot and the captain of the An-225, uploaded a video to YouTube where he described the incident in detail, explaining its causes and consequences.
“There were a lot of questions on what happened with the landing gear. Absolutely nothing happened with the landing gear,” Antonov began.
“Two bolts failed in the BMD block. BMD is a block of micro sensors. It has twelve sensors that inform various systems of the aircraft whether it is in the air or on the ground.” he added.
The information, gathered from the sensors, informs the aircraft if it is on the ground or in the air. The block is held together by large bolts, but two snapped as the aircraft prepared to land at RZE.
The incident was minor and had no effect on the safety or performance of the Mriya. In fact, as Antonov explains, similar failures occur quite often. This time, however, the team behind the Mriya was not sufficiently prepared to fix the aircraft on the spot as the bolts in question had never failed before.
“To be honest, I see that [issue] for the first time in 25 years of flying An-225s and An-124s,” Antonov admitted.
The An-225 carries a significant number of spare parts wherever it flies. A unique beast of a plane, it cannot rely on local engineers or equipment, and the team who fly the aircraft must perform maintenance themselves. So, many items are carried, including tires and bolts and even the odd towing truck powerful enough to move the giant.
“We have all kinds of bolts. But we did not have these ones. That’s why we had to call for an ‘ambulance’ from the base,” Antonov explained.
The ‘ambulance’ arrived later in the day, in the form of Antonov’s An-26 light transport turboprop. It brought the missing bolts, as well as additional manpower and equipment. Three hours later, the An-225 was ready to fly once again.
So, the incident was unique and a minor. It has certainly had no lasting effects on the plane, which, hopefully, will continue to fly for years to come.
“We love this plane,” Antonov said, as the video ended. “I’m telling this to every pilot: there are not going to be any more planes like this, that’s why we have to be careful with them. You can see that yourselves: we land very carefully, we are taxiing very slowly, we never rush. And we fly them very carefully too.
“You can build, for example, a new An-26. You can find one in a boneyard and restore it. The army, for example, restored some An-26s recently. It is possible. But they are not going to build new [An-124] Ruslans or Mriyas anymore.”