Poignant Shannon visit for pilot of world’s largest aircraft

Dmytro Antonov with the scale model of the Antonov AN-225 which he captained for many years.

SHANNON Airport welcomed a special guest to its aviation gallery to see an iconic new exhibit.

Captain Dmytro Antonov, Chief pilot for Antonov Airlines, who shares the same name as the famous Ukrainian aircraft company, spent time visiting the world’s largest collection of diecast model planes after flying in to Shannon on an Antonov AN-124.

His reason was a poignant one – to view a rare scale model of the largest plane ever built – the Antonov AN-225, an aircraft that he captained for many years.

The 1/200 scale model, which is one of only a few of its kind in the world, is made from carbon fibre and measures approximately 14 by 14 inches. To put into perspective, it would take 125,172 model AN-225’s on 57 stacking levels to fill the cargo hold alone of gigantic aircraft.

Both Dmytro and the AN-225 have a long-standing history of flying into Shannon over the past two decades, due to the airport’s capability of accommodating the mammoth cargo plane on its runway – the longest runway in Ireland.

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The 620-tonne aircraft played a key role during the global pandemic, as it was used to transport Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all over the world. It arrived at Shannon on June 10, 2020, carrying the largest consignment of PPE  flown into Ireland on a single flight.

In October 2021, the AN-225, known as the ‘Mriya’, the Ukrainian word for dream, touched down at Shannon for the last time before it was destroyed at Hostomel Airfield, outside of Kyiv, during the Russian invasion last February.

Limerick man Michael Kelly, who donated his collection of model aircraft to be permanently displayed at Shannon Airport said he was delighted Captain Dmytro got to see the exhibition in Shannon.

“He has been the face of Antonov and has flown the entire range of the company’s airplanes, including the AN-124, which now holds the title as the world’s heaviest aircraft since the AN-225 was destroyed.

“When I was asked by Shannon’s team to help them source a scale model of this incredible aircraft, I made it my mission, and we got there in the end.

“It’s incredible that Shannon owns this rare collector’s item. You could travel the world to get a “gear down” 1/200 scale model of the AN-225, and still not find one available – they are like gold dust. I was lucky to get this model sent over from Holland to become part of the collection here. It’s a fantastic display in homage to the AN 225, and well done to the team for installing it.”

Shannon Airport Group chief executive Mary Considine said it was an honour to have Dmytro visit the aviation gallery and she thanked Michael Kelly for  his work in finding the model.

The gallery, which opened in the departures lounge in 2018, houses more than 1,500 specialist diecast models, carefully collected over 50 years by Mr Kelly.

The gallery also includes a scale model of the first iteration of the AN-225 when it was used for the Russian space exploration initiative called The Buran programme, also known as the VKK Space Orbiter. This rare collector’s item was created using waste metal from old aircraft and includes a scale model of the space shuttle on its back.

Among the better-known exhibits are a range of Concordes that perfected take-off ability at Shannon, the Sunderland aircraft owned by Al Capone from the 1930s and the McDonnell Douglas DC6 – the oldest aircraft replicated in the collection.