MELBOURNE — Up to 50,000 aviation enthusiasts are expected to flock to the West Australian (WA) capital of Perth to watch the arrival of the world’s largest plane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya.
The Ukraine-built aircraft has now left Voclav Havel Airport in Prague, and is due to touchdown at Perth Airport on Sunday morning.
The 600-tonne six-engine plane — with a wingspan twice the width of regulation football field at 88 meters — will be greeted by a huge crowd of aviation enthusiasts, travelling from all parts of Australia.
The enormous plane, once used to move a Russian space shuttle on top of its roof, is carrying a 117-tonne generator on-board, ordered by an unnamed WA resources company.
Aviation Association of WA President David Eyre told News Corp that it was unlikely the plane would ever return to Australia, and expected people to make the most of the very rare event.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for everybody so that’s why everyone’s so excited about it,” Eyre said on Friday.
“It’s planned at the moment (that) it will come in from the north, but if the wind swings around on the day, it could come in from the south.”
Event organizers believe the arrival of the European aircraft this weekend could draw the largest aviation-related crowd in Perth since the Concorde supersonic airliner landed in the 1980s.
Signs have been set up around Perth Airport directing patrons to vantage points near terminal 1 and 2.
The plane is scheduled to land in Turkembashi, Hyderabad and Jakarta for refueling, before arriving in Australia to offload its cargo.
Due to its mammoth size, the Antonov An-225 Mriya has to be refuelled every 4,000 kilometers.
DB Schenker, a worldwide logistical company, is coordinating the aircraft’s arrival in WA.
In a prepared statement, DB Schenker said the plane would remain in Australia for two days — until May 17 — before returning home.
“According to Perth Airport officials thousands of people are expected to occupy the viewing platform and road ways adjacent to Perth airport to witness the historic event,” the statement read.
Since being put into service by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Antonov An-225 Mriya has set 240 aviation records. PNA/Xinhua/northboundasia.com