A few days ago, Microsoft released the Antonov An-225 "Mriya" add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator, bringing back the massive aircraft destroyed during the initial phase of the war in Ukraine.
The aircraft, available on the official marketplace for $19.99 or €19.99, is a faithful reproduction of the original developed by iniBuilds with support from Antonov itself, and the entirety of the proceeds of its sales will be delivered to the aircraft manufacturer and utilized to rebuild the real An-225 and bring back the "Dream" in the real world as well.
If you're not familiar with the Antonov An-225 "Mriya" ("Dream" in Ukrainian), it first flew in 1988 and held records for the heaviest aircraft ever built and the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operation. It was important not only for Ukraine and Antonov, but for many around the world, as it was capable of transporting heavy freight that no other aircraft could lift, and often took part in humanitarian relief operations.
Many enthusiasts were surprised by its implementation in Microsoft Flight Simulator so early, as researching and reproducing such a complex aircraft takes a long time.
In order to learn more about the add-on and the process of bringing it to the simulator, we interviewed head of Microsoft Flight Simulator Jorg Neumann, and we were also able to get a few answers from members of the Antonov crew via email.
Since I couldn't help myself, I also asked Neumann a couple of additional questions about other aspects of the simulator that users may find interesting.
Giuseppe Nelva: As usual, you managed what many didn’t consider possible. I don’t think anyone in the community expected to get an An-225 this quickly. How did it happen?
Jorg Neumann: I will forever remember the day we first heard news reports that the Mriya had been damaged. We had a team meeting that day and all of us were quite upset as the An-225 had been a symbol of innovation of aviation ingenuity for many of us. A few days later, the first pictures were released, and the destruction was clearly very extensive. I remember saying that we needed to preserve the memory of this incredible aircraft, and everyone agreed.
That day, I reached out to the pilot Dmytro Antonov on LinkedIn and wrote emails to the Microsoft office in Kyiv and to the Antonov Company. As one would expect, given the dire circumstances, nobody got back to me for a while … except for a Microsoft employee, Alexander Matsko, who shared the dream of bringing the Mriya to MSFS. We stayed in touch throughout the first months to discuss plans, but no real work was done. When things had settled down a bit, Alex and I attempted again, and he made contact with the Antonov organization. I then contacted Ubaid [Mussa] from iniBuilds and told him about the idea and he and his team were enthusiastic. As always, things like contracts take a while but work started and the team at iniBuilds started to research the plane.
One thing that was especially helpful was the videos that Mr. Dmytro Antonov, the chief pilot, had posted. That helped through the first months of development, and as we got closer and closer to finishing the agreement with Antonov, the team collected their open questions and took them to the Antonov organization. They were extremely helpful in gathering answers to our questions. Later, the team flew to Leipzig to meet with Dmytro and other Antonov pilots and had a thorough test session where additional feedback and insight were provided. Looking back, it really takes a village to make something like this happen – Alexander from Microsoft Ukraine, many helpful people at Antonov, the pilot, of course, members of the Ukrainian government, our licensing and legal teams … and the 17-member team at iniBuilds that created a highly accurate digital recreation of the Mriya. I am beyond happy that it all came together and it’s a real privilege to digitally preserve this amazing aircraft.
Nelva: How did you feel when you learned that Microsoft was trying to bring the An-225 back in a flight simulator?
Antonov Crew: It was delightful news for us, considering the high professional level of the Microsoft team and their high international reputation. This aircraft occupied a special place in global aviation history; no such other plane exists. We are proud of the possibility of helping create and operate An-225. We appreciate any aspiration to reconstruct Mriya and are thankful for the An-225 revival by Microsoft in the virtual sky. Thanks to this product, many people get to know this powerful bird and will love it as we do.
Nelva: What kind of support and insight did Antonov provide for the reproduction of the An-225 in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
Antonov Crew: The Antonov Digital Transformation Project Management team provided all information needed for design. Also, chief pilot Mr. Dmytro Antonov created a series of highly detailed videos instrumental to the Microsoft Flight Simulator team's understanding of many plane systems. The specialists had the opportunity to visit Mr. Antonov and several other Antonov Company engineers in Leipzig, where they flew the digital plane together. Antonov Company provided the original recordings of the An-225, and the An-124's engines were recorded to make digital Mriya sound realistic.
Nelva: Working on content related to Ukraine, especially for World Updates, may be difficult before the war ends, but do you have any insight about any work being done to improve Eastern Europe in general?
Neumann: You are correct, it’s very difficult to get any data about Ukraine given the circumstances … and it also feels inappropriate to me to create a World Update at the moment. As far as Eastern Europe in general, the community has frequently requested an update, so we have been looking to improve the region for a while. Even with limited available data, though, we are still pursuing something.
Nelva: With the Antonov An-225 and the An-2, the relationship with Antonov seems well-established. Are there any plans to extend it to other aircraft? Perhaps the An-124?
Neumann: Great question, and yes, I have been looking into the An-124 and others. Antonov has a history of innovative and quite unique aircraft, and there’s now a mutual interest in incorporating other planes. Not sure when or which ones, but you should not be surprised to see more Antonov planes coming to Microsoft Flight Simulator in the future.
Nelva: Are there any more Antonov aircraft you’d like to see appear in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
Antonov Crew: We want to thank Microsoft for the great experience of cooperation. Besides the An-225, the Microsoft team made a product with the famous An-2 biplane. We would be glad to continue this collaboration on other Antonov aircraft. Each of them could be fascinating for the players.
Nelva: Flying the Mriya is usually a job for a crew of six, and this certainly brings up the possibility of implementing AI copilots to help specifically in multi-crew operations (I’m aware an AI copilot already exists, but it’s not currently tuned to assist with specific multi-crew tasks besides perhaps helping with the checklists). PMDG did some work on it, but is there anything Asobo and Microsoft are working on or considering on this front for the base simulator?
Neumann: This question comes up quite frequently … especially as we are working on some of the most complex historical aircraft, which often required large crews. We don’t have any immediate plans, but as you know, we are always pursuing avenues to improve Microsoft Flight Simulator, so I think it’s inevitable that something like this will be tackled one day. But to set expectations, it’s not in our near-term plans.
Nelva: This is not specifically related to Antonov, but I have to ask, as this has been making the rounds in my brain for the past month or so and I’ve been waiting for a chance to ask. With Microsoft pushing hard on AI and owning ChatGPT, have you considered or perhaps even started exploring the opportunity to train the AI to “impersonate” air traffic control? One of the first things I tried when I got access to the new Bing was to ask it to roleplay an ATC conversation, and it worked surprisingly well out of the box.
Neumann: ChatGPT is a very exciting technology, and we will certainly experiment with it in the future. To me, one of the exciting aspects of our new simulator is that since we started development, there has been a focus on bringing together the very best technologies that Microsoft has to offer in order to create something truly amazing. We started by creating a digital twin using vast datasets, the power of Azure, and machine learning … and we will continue to explore how new technologies are best applied.
Nelva: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Neumann: I am quite emotional about the An-225. To me, this plane was perfectly named … Mriya, the hopeful dream … it embodies a lot of things that aviation is all about. The largest and heaviest plane ever created, initially to transport Buran orbiters, later to transport initially incredible complex and heavy machinery, and later to help in relief efforts including transporting COVID vaccines. It shows what humans can achieve and what aviation can accomplish. I am very thankful to everyone who made this recreation possible, and I am hopeful that simmers will enjoy this engineering masterpiece as part of the MSFS fleet. I am excited that our collective contributions will help to hopefully one day have a new Mriya grace our skies.
Antonov Crew: We believe that a bright day will come when all our land will be free, and our sky will be peaceful. Then we will return to the peaceful work of rebuilding and shaping the future. "Mriya" means "dream" in Ukrainian. The shared dream of all who oppose the war is a victorious and peaceful Ukraine.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is currently available for PC, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox Cloud Gaming, including Game Pass. If you'd like to learn more, you should stay tuned on TechRaptor as we host daily Microsoft Flight Simulator news to keep you updated on the many add-ons coming and released for the sim. We have also recently reviewed Orbx's Oslo Gardermoen Airport.