*Dmytro Antonov

ANTONOV AIRLINES’ CHIEF pilot visited Shannon Airport’s aviation gallery to study 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 recently flying into Shannon on the 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 Dmytro himself captained for many years.

The 1– 200 scale model, which is one of only a few models 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.

The 620-tonne aircraft played a key role during the global pandemic, as it was used to transport vital PPE equipment all over the world. In October 2021, the AN-225, known as the ‘Mriya’, the Ukrainian word for dream, touched down at Shannon Airport for the last time before it was destroyed at Hostomel Airfield, outside of Kyiv, during the conflict in February of this year.

Michael Kelly, who donated his life’s collection of model aircraft to be permanently displayed at Shannon Airport said, “I am delighted Captain Dmytro got to see this exhibit here 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”.

CEO of Shannon Airport Group, Mary Considine stated, “It was an honour to have Dmytro visit our aviation gallery to see the new Mriya exhibit on display and we would like to thank Michael for all his work in finding this rare model.”

Shannon Airport’s Aviation Gallery, which opened in the departures lounge of the airport in 2018, houses over 1,500 plus specialist diecast models, carefully collected over 50 years by the Limerick native.

It includes every popular aircraft to have flown as well as many lesser known, right up to modern day versions. 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.

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