The world`s biggest plane – the Ukrainian Antonov An-225 Mriya – has touched down safely in Western Australia amid scenes of traffic chaos around Perth Airport, according to The Age, a daily newspaper published in Melbourne, Australia.
”Traffic was gridlocked around Perth Airport on Sunday morning as thousands of people lined up against fences, along road verges and on the side of the road in an attempt to get a glimpse of the Ukraine-built Antonov An-225 Mriya,” the newspaper wrote.
”The monster plane was meant to touch down at Perth Airport at 10am, however its arrival was delayed for almost two hours, with the Antonov landing just before midday at around 11.45am,” it said.
Just after 10am, traffic was at a standstill with lines several kilometers long heading towards the airport on Tonkin Highway and Great Eastern Highway as crowds flocked to the airport to try and catch a glimpse of the ”giant of the skies”.
The public viewing area on Dunreath Drive reached capacity early on Sunday morning with thousands dedicated aviation enthusiasts getting in early to secure the best seats in the house while around 15,000 more spectators lined the fence on Airport Drive to see the aircraft taxi past after landing on runway 21 and thousands more watched the plane land from the Terminal 1 viewing deck.
Dozens of motorists abandoned their cars on the side of Tonkin Highway and Great Eastern Highway heading towards the airport and were attempting to watch from the side of the road, or walking in and police were called in to try and contain the traffic chaos and move on anyone attempting to leave their car by the side of the road.
The gigantic plane – loaded with its cargo, a 117-tonne generator purchased by a WA resources company, left Prague on Wednesday on its way to WA.
Up to 50,000 aviation enthusiasts were expected to pack vantage points at Perth Airport to witness its arrival.
The last time a crowd that size flocked to the airport was in the 1980s when the Concorde supersonic airliner landed.
Aviation Association of WA president David Eyre said it may be the only time the six-engine plane, which once transported a Russian space shuttle on its roof, travels to Australia.
DB Schenker, which specializes in handling challenging and difficult shipments for some of the world`s largest resource projects, is coordinating the plane`s arrival.
In a statement it said the plane would arrive in Perth after several refueling stops en-route including Turkembashi, Hyderabad and Jakarta.
The aircraft has a wing area twice the size of a Boeing 747 and must refuel every 4,000 kilometers.
”The Antonov 225 Mriya will remain for approximately two days in Perth departing on the 17th of May,” the statement read.
The Antonov has 21 crew members comprised of seven cockpit crew, one flight manager, six engineers and additional support crew and will be in Perth for approximately 48 hours.
The unloading of the aircraft will take up to 12 hours, and involves a sophisticated system of ramps and cranes to remove the cargo.