Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Giant Freight Plane Flies To Aid Japan With Essential Cargo

Antonov Swoops in to Help Relief Program
Shipping News Feature

JAPAN – FRANCE – A gigantic An-225, the largest freight aircraft in the world, has been sent to join in the international effort to provide relief supplies to Japan in the wake of the country’s recent earthquake and tsunami. A product of the Soviet space program designed specifically to airlift the Energia rocket's boosters and the Buran space shuttle, the aircraft first flew in 1988 and although two aircraft were ordered, only one An-225 was actually completed.

The Paris office of charter broker Air Partner chartered the aircraft to carry 145 tonnes of urgent blankets, food, water, medicines and respirators from Chateauroux in France to Tokyo Narita Airport, as part of France’s relief effort for Japan. The sole An-225 is now operated by Antonov Airlines, and is commercially available for carrying ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to 250,000 kg. It can accommodate single pieces up to 210,000 kg. The An-225 has established a reputation for transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as locomotives and 150-tonne generators, and has taken part in numerous humanitarian relief programmes.

The airplane holds the record for transporting the heaviest single cargo item ever sent via air freight at almost 190 tonnes but this load, although no record breaker, represented a far more important consignment. The best wishes of all involved in the project flew with the An-225 with Antonov Airlines’ Commercial Director Valery Kulbaka saying:

“Through our business, Antonov has longstanding relationships with Japan. We share everyone’s concerns for the wellbeing of those affected by these events. The An-225 will play its part in the relief effort.”