World's Largest Plane Flies a Heavy Load Out of Memphis
There was a lot of heavy lifting going on in June and July at the Memphis International Airport. The world's largest plane, the Antonov AN-225 made four trips to Memphis to help relocate an entire emergency power plant from Southaven, Mississippi to Kuwait City, Kuwait.
The AN-225 was needed to transport four 133-metric-ton gas turbines. Only one turbine could be transported per flight and it was a tight squeeze in the belly of the plane with only 10 centimeters of clearance at the top of the cargo deck. So how big is the AN-225? Its wing-span and length are both nearly the size of a football field. It has six jet engines and uses six crew members on the flight deck. The AN-225 has a maximum take-off weight of 1.3 million pounds, so it was the ideal plane to move the heavy turbines.
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The airport's new Cargo Central ramp provided easy access to the off-airport roadway system and it was a convenient loading area. The cargo ramp was completed last year in the initial phase of development of Cargo Central, a dedicated cargo development facility.
Freight forwader Bertling Logistics, Inc., headquartered in Germany coordinated the relocation of the various components from the power plant. They believe the project set a record for the number of AN-225 and AN-124 charters needed for a single project. The smaller AN-124 was used along with some Boeing 747s, six barges to Mobile, Alabama, and one large ocean liner to transport other equipment from the power plant. The total project volume was approximately 20,000 freight tons.
Memphis-based Barnhart Crane & Rigging had the difficult task of loading the turbine into the belly of the plane. The company used a 400-ton capacity Gantry lift system to carefully lift the turbine off the trailer and roll it onto the plane's ramp, where it was pulled into place by the aircraft's internal winching system.
The AN-225 was originally built to transport the Soviet Buran space shuttle on its top and other large components used in the Soviet space program, but it was grounded when the program was abandoned following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2000, it was updated with new avionics and re-entered service as a commercial transport for oversized and unusually heavy cargo.
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