World’s largest cargo plane, carrying Covid aid from UK, lands at IGI airport
The world’s largest cargo plane touched down at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport on Sunday morning, carrying three oxygen generators and 1,000 ventilators from the UK. Experts said the aircraft, Antonov AN 124-100, had flown into the country even in the past to deliver Delhi Metro wagons, specialist construction equipment and military cargo.
The 24-wheeler Russian-made aircraft departed from Belfast airport late on Saturday night and landed at the Delhi airport at 8.30 am on Sunday.
On Sunday morning, Delhi customs said in a statement that the medical aid onboard the aircraft was cleared within 25 minutes of its landing.
On Sunday afternoon, the British high commission in New Delhi also tweeted: “The UK sends life-saving support for India in the world’s largest cargo plane. Three oxygen generation units arrived in India today. Each capable of producing 500 litres of oxygen per minute. It will help save lives and support India’s healthcare system.”
Each of the three oxygen generation units – the size of 40ft freight containers - produces 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough for 50 people to use at a time, it said.
“Taking forward our comprehensive strategic partnership, consignment of 3 oxygen generators and 1,000 ventilators arrives from the UK... Deeply value the contribution from our close friend,” tweeted MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Sunday.
The Antonov AN 124-100 - the world’s largest air cargo carrier - is 70 metres long and nearly 75 metres wide. The plane, which weighs around 1.8 lakh kilograms, usually has six crew members and two load masters.
Aviation experts say the aircraft has flown several times to India in the past, mostly to Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, and has shipped a wide range of cargo, including Delhi Metro wagons, election promotion material, specialist construction equipment and military cargo.
Aviation safety expert Mark D Martin said the aircraft’s maximun take of weight (MTOW) comes in close to the Lockheed C5A Galaxy Freighter, which was the largest aircraft till the AN 225 Mriya entered service in 1990.
“India has welcomed even more larger aircraft in the past, the Lockheed C5A Galaxy operated by the US Air Force has in the past made several flights to India, transporting critical aid and support equipment needed for the visits of U.S Presidents,” he said.
Commenting on Indian airports’ capacity to handle an Antonov 124, Martin said, most airports in India have the ground handling capability to support the AN124 as high loaders are not required and the cargo can be rolled down from the rear clamshell doors. “When the AN 124 came to Ahmedabad, tractors could easily ride in to drop off the cargo. Now in India, fork lifts do that function more efficiently,” Martin said.