The world’s largest aircraft will make a rare visit to Shannon Airport today to deliver a large consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the ongoing fight against Covid-19 here.
The massive six-engine Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’ jet, the only one in the world, is due to arrive at the mid-west airport on at around lunchtime on Wednesday.
While Shannon Airport has been operating on a significantly reduced basis in recent months, because of the worldwide health pandemic, the airport has been facilitating repatriation and transit aircraft but also cargo flights including those carrying essential PPE.
A number of cargo flights carrying PPE, ventilators, ICU beds and other medical equipment have already landed in Shannon since the beginning of the health crisis.
A spokesman for the HSE said: “We can confirm that there is a HSE consignment of 900,000 items of PPE, which were manufactured in China, arriving into Shannon Airport. The shipment consists of 800 pallets and the balance of the order – 100,000 items – from the order of 1 million items of PPE arrived into Shannon on Monday morning.”
The iconic jet previously visited Shannon in 1991, 2006, 2013 and 2015 but also on December 17th 2003 when the colossus made an overnight stop on the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers in the US.
The mammoth airplane was originally due to arrive on Tuesday afternoon and then this morning but has been delayed in Almaty, Kazakhstan because of a technical issue. The aircraft was due to fly to Baku in Azerbaijan overnight before continuing onto Shannon where it is due at around 1.00pm today. The flight will remain in Shannon overnight to allow the crew to rest before departing again on Thursday.
The An-225 has been operating extensively in recent weeks carrying PPE from airports in China and Japan to the US and Canada. The plane, which recently returned to service after being out of action for 18 months for maintenance, broke the world record for the largest cargo carried twice in April.
Director of operations at Shannon Airport Niall Maloney, speaking on RTÉ radio earlier, called on the public not to come to the airport this afternoon to view the plane.
“We are asking people not to come to the airport, they can track on the internet. We’re all in this together, we are trying to make a difference,” Mr Maloney said.
When the jet last visited Shannon in 2015, an estimated 3,000 people turned out to see it.
Video of today's landing of the #AN225 at the Kyiv-Antonov-2 airport!—Відео сьогоднішньої посадки літака #Ан225 Мрія на аеродромі "Київ-Антонов-2"!
Posted by Antonov Company on Wednesday, May 6, 2020
The 32-wheeled jet is operated by Antonov Airlines, the transport arm of the Antonov Company, and holds over 300 world records for transporting oversized loads.
Because of its size, the An-225 requires a runway of between 3,000 and 3,500 metres in length to take off, making Shannon’s, at 3199m (10,486ft), the only one in Ireland capable of handling the plane.
The An-225 ‘Mriya’, meaning ‘Dream’, was designed and built by the Antonov Design Bureau in the Ukraine and first flew on December 21st 1988. The 6-storey high jet was designed mainly to transport the Russian space shuttle “Buran” to it’s launch site. The shuttle was carried externally on top of the fuselage.
With the end of the Buran space programme in 1994, the An-225 was taken out of service and left to rust at an airfield near Kiev. In May 2001, following a $20m refurbishment programme, the 225 flew again.
Crewed by seven personnel, the jet is 276 feet (84.1M) in length but is wider than it is long. The AN-225’s wingspan of 290ft (88.4m) is even wider than the runway at Shannon which is 61m (200ft) wide including 8m (26ft) of shoulder on each side.
Since its maiden flight on in 1988, the AN-225 has delivered heavy and outsize shipments across the globe. It is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2033.