Interview: Microsoft on the Antonov An-225 Mriya Feat. iniBuilds and Real-World An-225 Pilot

We speak to those most familiar with the Antonov An-225 for MSFS in this exclusive interview.

Posted: 16-Mar-2023 @ 19:37z
Updated: 23-Mar-2023 @ 21:26z
Interview: Microsoft on the Antonov An-225 Mriya Feat. iniBuilds and Real-World An-225 Pilot

Microsoft has been keen to use Microsoft Flight Simulator as a platform that not only allows simmers to recreate flights anywhere in the world, but to also digitally preserve aircraft in a virtual museum. We have seen a number of famous aircraft make their way into the simulator, but the Antonov An-225 Mriya is a truly unique addition.

Unfortunately, the one and only Antonov An-225 was tragically lost during the war in Ukraine back in February 2022. However, an opportunity then unfolded to bring the iconic jet into the digital world thanks to the input of numerous pilots, engineers, and the talented team at iniBuilds. Keen to support efforts in restoring the iconic aircraft back to the skies, Microsoft is giving all profits from the sale of the plane to efforts to bring it back to the skies one day.

Luckily for us, we were able to speak to a number of people involved in bringing the Antonov An-225 to Microsoft Flight Simulator and get their views on how it was brought to the masses for anyone to fly. In this interview, we spoke to Jorg Neumann (Head of Flight Simulator), Dmitry (real-world An-225 pilot), and iniBuilds (the developer behind bringing the plane to MSFS).

It’s a remarkable achievement to bring such an iconic plane to Microsoft Flight Simulator. It must’ve been quite something to see a recreation flying around the virtual skies. How did you feel when you first saw it?

Jorg: It felt amazing. I had only ever seen the An-225 on YouTube videos and had a sense for how it might handle but seeing it in the sim and flying it was really special.

Dmitry: I was very impressed when I first saw Mriya in a flight simulator. The game revived the legend; you could again feel like a pilot of such a unique aircraft. What could be better?

iniBuilds: [The] An-225 is such a unique aircraft and is much more than just a plane to a lot of people. Seeing the aircraft present in Microsoft Flight Simulator, was certainly a humbling moment, that the “dream” (which Mriya translates to in English) lives on virtually; and that one day, this virtual rendition will go on to support the recreation of one in real life, in whatever form that may be.

Interview: Microsoft on the Antonov An-225 Mriya Feat. iniBuilds and Real-World An-225 Pilot

The AN-225 is a unique plane and I’m sure that with that comes some unique memories of flying in it. Could our Dmitry, our real-world An-225 pilot, reflect on some of their most cherished memories of flying in the plane before the war, and share some of those with us?

Dmitry: Flying on the Mriya has always been special. Starting from the loading/unloading procedure and ending with the piloting features. From the last flights on Mriya, I recall a demonstration flight over Kyiv on Independence Day. It was a great job by the crew of our plane and an unforgettable feeling of flying.

There is always debate when any aircraft launches for any flight simulator about how ‘true to life’ it feels – even when the majority of simmers using it have never touched the real thing. Could you expand upon how the plane feels in the simulator versus real operations, and what kind of beast simmers can expect to be handling on launch?

Dmitry: Visually, the aircraft worked very well. The details are worked out excellently, and sometimes you even wonder how such small details could be transferred with such accuracy. As for the procedures for managing aircraft systems, there are slight differences from a real-world aircraft, which in some cases is specially designed to make it easier for an ordinary user. It happens because even on a real plane, a whole crew works to ensure that all systems work correctly and perform their functions. Simmers may face piloting complexities, as Mriya is a giant aircraft, which means issues in piloting and managing it on the ground (taxi) and in the air (especially takeoff and landing).

iniBuilds revealed on the developer stream where we first saw the AN225 that the plane would typically fly with a crew of 6-8 people. That sounds like a lot of work for even a veteran sim pilot. Could you expand on how you’ve been able to condense the workflow of 8 people down into something just one player can manage?

iniBuilds: We did a few things to try and make the aircraft as usable as possible when flying it on your own.

First, we focused on the things that really matter to the captain and co-pilot. Making sure the instruments and systems give you as much helpful information as possible. Next, we focused on navigation, we chose to integrate the fantastic Working Title 530 giving a familiar interface to all pilots in the sim and taking advantage of the flexibility that gives when planning a route.

Finally, we included a tablet installed next to the pilot and co-pilot. This gives you an easy way to interface with anything that would normally be done by the ground and support crew but simply with the press of a few buttons.

Interview: Microsoft on the Antonov An-225 Mriya Feat. iniBuilds and Real-World An-225 Pilot

The destruction of the aircraft is still a heartbreaking and devastating moment in aviation. Were there any difficulties in developing the aircraft or has a majority of the work been done before? I suppose this may happen with any aircraft announcement, but do you often receive community and pilot outreach when you first announce a new project? Does it help with development for those nuances not found in manuals?

Jorg: What really helped was that the chief pilot, Mr. Dmitry Antonov, had made a series of very detailed videos about the An-225. The iniBuilds team got quite far with that information and then delivered a list of open questions to Antonov, which were largely answered via some phone calls and doc exchange.

The final and very helpful step was when Cameron and others from his team flew to Leipzig for a test session with Mr. Antonov and several other Antonov pilots. In the end, aircraft like this are complex and there’s so much you simply have to either experience or obtain input from the people who have actually flown the plane. In the case of the An-225, we had Antonov’s and the pilot’s full support, which was critical to getting things to a sufficient level of authenticity.

More of a question for Jorg, but we have now seen Asobo work closely with iniBuilds to deliver a very well-received A310 in the 40th anniversary patch, and now this highly anticipated cargo plane, the Mriya. Could you shed some light, even just a little tease, on some other upcoming collaborations with iniBuilds? I see some ‘surprises’ in the roadmap.

Jorg: The vast majority of what I usually call “1st party planes” are direct collaborations between the development teams and Microsoft. Asobo is a fantastic and super-talented team, but they are also the owners of the engine and therefore very focused on improving and innovating the simulator all up – like the new helicopter and glider work from Seb and his team. Without them, the increase in breadth and depth we have seen during these last few years would not have been possible. But as they are so busy with [the game] engine and new features, they are usually not directly involved in 1st party planes.

Back in 2021, they still worked quite closely with several devs on the Reno Air Race Expansion Pack planes and the Pilatus PC-6 in the Game of the Year Edition. Asobo also created the Volocopter, the very cool F/A-18, the awesome Darkstar, and the Pelican from Halo. The historical planes we do in the Local Legend and Famous Flyer series, though, like the Junkers Ju-52 or Junkers F 13, the Dornier Do X, the Fokker F.VII, the S55, the Caribou, or nearly all the planes we introduced in the 40th Anniversary Edition (Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, Douglas DC-3, Spruce Goose, Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, Grumman Goose, or the various Carenado planes) were all done quite independently by the various developers and tested by the MS SQ team.

The Microsoft team and its partner at Dynamedion frequently go out to record the audio for these aircraft as it’s often too big a burden, especially for smaller development teams to fly out and do this themselves.

So, when we have big new innovation releases, Asobo usually does all or at least a lot of that work. The gliders in the 40th, the Guimbal Cabri, were either fully or heavily worked on by Asobo. The Asobo team [also] gets involved when there are important technical milestones like the first Expert Series plane or the upcoming ATR-42-600/72-600, and, in this case, it was a wonderful collaboration with Hans Hartmann and his team.

Long answer, but as it’s a fairly common misperception that Asobo is involved in externally produced 1st party planes, I am glad you asked.

Interview: Microsoft on the Antonov An-225 Mriya Feat. iniBuilds and Real-World An-225 Pilot

And what about the collaboration with iniBuilds?

Jorg: The collaboration between Microsoft and iniBuilds goes back to February 2021 and an article on FSElite. I had read a piece about their Beluga… and I misunderstood it be to an announcement about the aircraft coming to MSFS. Excited as I get about these things, I believe I spoke about the Beluga coming to Microsoft Flight Simulator in a Dev Q&A… and the head of iniBuilds, Ubaid, wrote me a very polite email that the announcement actually was not including MSFS. I profusely apologized, but as it goes, we kept talking and I was very complimentary of iniBuilds’ quality work.

After a few months of friendly discussions, the idea was born to bring one of their excellent Airbus aircraft to Microsoft Flight Simulator as a free giveaway. At that time, there was still a question by some in the community if Microsoft Flight Simulator was more of a game or a serious sim. The vision was always crystal clear that Microsoft Flight Simulator was intended to be a serious and deep simulator – and we were able to show that via their work on the A310.

When the real-world An-225 was destroyed a year ago, the first team I thought of when I made a promise in another Dev Q&A that we would bring the Myria back digitally, was iniBuilds. Ubaid and team were excited and so work started quite soon thereafter… even before we had any real contact with Antonov. As you know, complex aircraft take a long time, so I felt good about starting even with the risk that we might never get the license. In the end, though, it all worked out great. Antonov was excited, and we were already developing.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that we were able to release a high-quality aircraft by the time of the first anniversary of the An-225’s destruction. With this digital release, we wanted to commemorate one of the greatest planes ever made and set up a way for all of us simmers to help and one day, hopefully, see a new Myria grace our skies.

A new series is online helping people fly the An-225 in the simulator.

Jorg, you told us on stream that the AN-225 for MSFS was an exciting opportunity to own not just a virtual airplane for your hangar and a piece of aviation history, but also actively contribute to the restoration effort of the real thing. You said on stream this was something that made you quote “very proud”. I wonder if, going forward, you might continue in this same vein and look to use digital replicas as a fundraising mechanism to help preserve and maintain other unique aircraft around the world. Could you offer your thoughts and expand on that?

Jorg: That is a great question, and the answer is yes. What I usually don’t talk about is that we often support museums when we visit their premises to scan and photograph specific planes. We have now scanned several hundred aircraft in some of the world’s most excellent collections.

All very famous museums like Fantasy of Flight, Planes of Fame, Evergreen Aviation & Space, the Smithsonian, or the Deutsche Museum … but also in maybe lesser-known places like the TAM Museum in São Paulo, Brazil. That one will always have a special place in my memory. It took us over a year to even get a contact in Brazil as the museum has been closed for years. We ended up finding the director, if I remember correctly via someone else’s Facebook account, and he was so generous to allow our team to come down and scan the last pieces of this awesome plane. We even had to bring our own power supply as there had not been any electricity for years – if felt a bit like true aviation archeology.

Anyway, we scanned the last existing S55 and preserved it in digital form… hopefully forever. A similar story surrounds the Spruce Goose, which simply would have not been possible to create without the ongoing enthusiastic support of Tyson Weinert’s team at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, OR. We make appropriate contributions to these museums for their work and collaborations, which is obviously critical for the real-world preservation of all these famous aircraft.

Will there be another case like the Mriya? I hope so. I can think of several great efforts currently underway in the world to preserve or to recreate famous aircraft that would be worthy of our full support.

Hopefully much more to come in the next few years.


Famous Flyer IV: Antonov AN-225 Mriya is available right now through the MSFS Marketplace. Xbox users will need to wait until Sim Update 12, which will bring WASM support to their platform. The plane is available for $20, and all proceeds will go directly to the Antonov Corporation to help rebuild this majestic plane.

A huge thanks to Jorg, Dmitry, and the iniBuilds team for taking the time to answer our questions. Thanks to Matthew from the FSElite team for the questions.

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Calum Martin
Calum has been an avid fan of Flight Sim since the release of FS2000 and has developed his love for aviation ever since.

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