Shannon Airport was the destination today for aviation enthusiasts from across the country as the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov 225, proved to be a star attraction again following its overnight arrival.
The giant aircraft, which was built to carry the then Soviet Union’s space shuttle between launch and landing sites, landed for a transit stop at 2:45a.m. today from Bangor International Airport and, true to form, attracted droves of onlookers to the airport.
The aircraft is due to depart this evening at 11p.m. for Châteauroux Airport, France.With a wing span wider than the Croke Park pitch and, from nose to tail, over one and a half times the length of an Olympic swimming pool, the Antonov 225 stands alone as the largest and most powerful jet ever made.
Due to the length of its runway (3199m) – the longest in Ireland – Shannon is the only Irish airport that the Antonov 225 has landed at.This is the first visit to Shannon of the graceful giant since May 2013 (video below) and the appetite to catch a glimpse of the Ukrainian aircraft remains unchanged.
Niall Maloney, Shannon Airport Operations Director, said the aircraft never fails to astound.“It’s an incredible aircraft and when you see it on the taxiway here and can put its size into perspective, it’s almost unbelievable that it can get up into the skies, let alone be as graceful when it’s up there,” he said.“Last time it was here, in 2013, it landed during daylight hours and there were hundreds if not a couple of thousand people who came to see it. People stood on the roofs of vans just to be able to video it landing.“This time around it arrived in the middle of the night and we still had up to 20 cars loads of people in the viewing area ahead of arrival. There was only one Antonov 225 made and this is it so when it comes here people are very keen to see it.”“We love having it here. The excitement around its presence is great and creates a great buzz. We have people coming and going all day to see it.”
Some Antonov 225 facts
- Design on the Antonov 225 began in 1985 to create an aircraft capable of carrying the Soviet Union space shuttle on its back
- The team was given a three year schedule and just about delivered, with the Antonov 225 making its maiden flight in December 1988
- A year later it flew for the first time with the space shuttle perched on its back
- It is nicknamed Myria – Russian for ‘dream’
- It’s design is based around its smaller sibling, the Antonov 124
- It comprises 7million lbs of metal
- It stands almost seven stories high
- It has six engines and 32 tyres
- It broke 109 world records within months of its first flight
- The jet has the capacity to carry 1,500 people, almost three times the capacity of the world’s largest passenger jet
- It was idle for 8 years following the end of the cold war due to lack of finance but has re-emerged as the world’s largest cargo carrier