World’s largest aircraft lands in Shannon with PPE from China

Jet ‘the size of Croke Park’ landed in Ireland on Wednesday afternoon

A view of the response at Shannon Airport after the world’s largest aircraft touched down with PPE equipment. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

A view of the response at Shannon Airport after the world’s largest aircraft touched down with PPE equipment. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

 

The world’s largest aircraft landed in Shannon Airport this afternoon with a significant consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from China.

The unique six-engine Antonov An-225 Mriya jet is carrying the single largest airborne consignment of PPE equipment to be flown into Ireland.

The aircraft arrived at Shannon Airport because it has the longest runway in Ireland and is the only Irish airport that can accommodate this plane.

The world’s largest aircraft touches down at Shannon Airport with PPE equipment. Photograph: Arthur Ellis
The world’s largest aircraft touches down at Shannon Airport with PPE equipment. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

The plane was previously due to arrive on Tuesday afternoon but was delayed after experiencing a technical issue.

It is its fourth visit to Shannon Airport, with the other three being transit flights in which it stopped in Ireland to refuel.

Niall Maloney, director of operations at Shannon Airport, said the aircraft is “the size of Croke Park”.

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“It’s a 640-tonne beast of an aircraft. If I managed to put nine 737s together, it’s the same weight as nine 737s. It’s a fantastic feat of aeronautical engineering,” Mr Maloney told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1.

“It’s done its route from China, to Kazakhstan, it has just taken off from Azerbaijan. and we expect it to be in Shannon at about 2.10[pm]. The most important part is it is bringing PPE into Ireland. It’s got nearly 900,000 surgical gowns and other medical equipment on board.”

Mr Maloney also outlined the history of the aircraft, which was designed in the 1980s.

He said the aircraft was designed for use in the Soviet space programme but was subsequently mothballed for about eight years.

The worlds largest jet, Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’, has been in Ireland three times previously. Photograph: Sean Curtin
The worlds largest jet, the Antonov An-225 Mriya, has been in Ireland three times previously. Photograph: Sean Curtin

He said the now-Ukrainian-owned aircraft resumed flying in the “late 1990s as a commercial plane and literally has just been flying the longest pieces ever flown in an aircraft, the heaviest pieces ever flown in an aircraft”.

Mr Maloney said the airport was “delighted to be able to play our part” in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but urged people not to come to the airport to view the plane due to social distancing measures.

“We’re asking people not to come to the airport, because the last time it came to Shannon there were 3,000 people who came to the fences to look at the plane. You can track the plane on an app like flight radar,” he said.

In a statement, the HSE said the PPE consignment consisted of 900,000 “isolation gowns” manufactured in China.

“The volume of this consignment represents approximately 12.5 days’ worth of stock based on current demand,” a spokeswoman said.