The World's Biggest Airplane Blew Up Twitter

The World's Biggest Airplane Blew Up Twitter
An Antonov AN-225, the world's largest aircraft, lands at the Oslo Airport, on June 19
Photograph by Heiko Junge/AFP/Getty Images

The largest airplane in commercial service, the Antonov 225, was in Minneapolis this week. Its departure Wednesday night attracted hundreds of people to the Minneapolis airport and blew up on Twitter.

The Soviet-built Antonov 225 is a machine of superlatives. It’s the longest and heaviest plane ever built. Nearly as long as a football field, it sports a landing gear of 32 tires and holds 240 world records, including for lifting the heaviest cargo, a 190-ton generator. The Antonov could carry the weight of three fully loaded Boeing 737s, 45 African elephants, or seven humpback whales, according to potash supplier Agrium, which hired the plane last month to transport a large waste heat boiler from Germany to Alberta.

The six-engine jet was built in the 1980s by the Antonov Design Bureau to ferry the Soviet space shuttle, the Buran, which never flew with a crew. It is now a Ukrainian-based commercial freight hauler—only the very largest cargos need apply—that takes jobs mainly from government and large industrial contractors. The U.S. has used the plane to deliver ready-to-eat meals and water to troops in the Middle East; the Antonov has also ferried relief supplies and equipment to earthquake-stricken sites in Haiti and Japan. And it delivers power generation, wind turbines, and locomotives. Its load from Minnesota was reportedly air-conditioning units destined for the Middle East, with a stop in France.

Here’s what the takeoff from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport looked like:

Pioneer Press Photos @PiPressPhotos
Largest #plane in world carries cargo from #MSPairport— Pioneer Press Photos (@PiPressPhotos) July 3, 2014
Original Tweet
Tanya Holm @TanyaHolm123
Watching #AN225 getting ready to leave @FlyEIA just as a UA 737 is landing. What a size perspective! #yeg— Tanya Holm (@TanyaHolm123) June 28, 2014
Original Tweet
Marni Panas @marnipanas
One bonus of a very delayed @United flight is we get to gawk at the HUGE #AN225: world's largest airplane! @FlyEIA— Marni Panas (@marnipanas) June 27, 2014
Original Tweet
Whit @whitmec
@SunCountryAir Puts aviation in perspective right there. Why I love these crazy flying machines. #AN225 #msp #avgeek— Whit (@whitmec) July 3, 2014
Original Tweet
Jim Hammerand @jimhammerand
Here's another of #antonov225 leaving #mspairport— Jim Hammerand (@jimhammerand) July 3, 2014
Original Tweet
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