SEPANG, May 14 ― Malaysia is lucky as once again it became the only Asean country to welcome the arrival of the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 Mriya, here, today.
The Ukrainian-designed cargo plane touched down at KL International Airport (KLIA) at 8.30am from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India for refueling purpose.
KLIA was the plane’s last refueling stop after it stopped at Prague, Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) and Hyderabad after taking off from its “hometown” in Kiev.
The behemoth plane, flown across three continents namely Europe, Asia and Oceania, is on course in executing a “special mission” as it carries a generator weighing 130 tonnes for delivery to Perth, Australia tomorrow.
Its chief pilot Antonov Dmytrov told Bernama that the plane is currently the world’s longest and heaviest plane measuring 84 metres long and 18 metres high, which he desribed as equivalent to a five-storey building, well-equipped with 32 tyres and has a wingspan measuring 88 metres.
What is more special, Antonov, who had 14 years experience in flying this huge plane, said the plane is powered by six engines, and could carry a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes.
“The airplane is way bigger than Airbus A380...no other plane like this in the world.
“The airplane was developed in the 1980's for the Soviet Union shuttle program to carry the space shuttle on its back,” he said.
Malaysia Airports Berhad Senior Executive Airsite Operation, M. Kathi said this is the second time the plane landed at KLIA after making its debut here in 2007.
“In 2007, the plane landed here at KLIA and brought five helicopters for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition.
“The plane is supposed to land at Langkawi International Airport but unfortunately the airport apron there could not cater for the plane's wingspan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Norizam Ismail, passenger handling executive from Hasrat Asia Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a company responsible in bringing the airplane for its refueling stop here said that the airplane will be departing to Perth at 5.30am tomorrow.
“All 21 crews including the pilot will take a rest at the nearby hotel here,” he said.
This historic event drew about 150 enthusiasts comprising the KLIA and other airlines staff to view the grandeur of the aircraft.Malaysia Airlines technician, Mohamad Nor Fathin Zulkifli, 24, described the event as a rare experience to witness the moment the plane hit the tarmac here.
“It was a once in a life time opportunity for me to see this plane as it is only operated once or twice a year in the sky,” he said.
Meanwhile, Charge d Affairs of the Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia, Kyrylo Kalyta viewed the arrival of the plane as a great platform for the plane to expand Ukraine's business oppurtunities here.
“I am really proud of this invention made by our people as it was the largest aircraft ever built by mankind.
“I hope to see the Malaysian government and local companies here to use the service of this plane more often and we would render assistance to facilitate the procedure of transporting or delivering equipment or assets from here,” he said. ― Bernama