The Antonov An-225 Mriya, largest aircraft in the world, returned to fly after an 18-month hiatus during which it underwent a maintenance and modernization process. On Wednesday, the aircraft took off from Gostomel airport, outside Kiev, to conduct a two-hour test flight.

According to Antonov, this was the first in a series of test flights to verify the new power management and control system designed in Ukraine and installed on the aircraft. The manufacturer, however, has not yet set a date on when the aircraft will be released to resume cargo flights.

The massive six-engine plane is part of the fleet of Antonov Airlines, a special cargo transport division of the Ukrainian company and which also has seven An-124 units and an An-22 turboprop.

Last years of the Soviet Union

The An-225 was developed during the 1980s to support the former Soviet Union’s space program that was preparing Buran, a copy of the US Space Shuttle. Like the Boeing 747, the freighter jet would take the spacecraft between the launch bases.

After the collapse of the communist government in 1991, the only operational aircraft remained decommissioned in Ukraine for a decade before being restored by Antonov, but this time as a commercial freighter on special missions.

An-225 (Antonov)

Since its debut in commercial cargo transport in 2001, the An-225 has set more than 240 world records, including the plane with the highest maximum take-off weight, 640 tons.

A few years ago, news emerged that the second An-225 unit, which was incomplete in Kiev, would be finalized for a Chinese company, but the deal has not been concluded.

With its unique capacity to transport 250 tonnes, Mriya will remain a rare worldwide attraction wherever it goes.

The unique aircraft flew for the first time in 1988 (Antonov)