During his 20 years at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Ron Juett missed presidential visits and other major events, but he made sure he was on hand when the world’s largest plane arrived for landing.
The An-225 Dream, a cargo plane built by the Soviet Union to carry its version of the space shuttle on its back, made its only and only visit to the Triangle on a rainy morning in October 2006. Juet, now vice president of RDU facility management, was a civil engineer at the time and was standing on the airport platform when a large plane arrived.
This is one of the reasons why he was saddened when he recently learned that the “Dream” was destroyed in his hangar north of Kiev in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in late February.
“I remember when he was here, thinking, ‘How many are there?'” Juet said. “It turned out that only one was made of this size. And I guess for an aviation guy it’s similar to destroying some artifacts in the Middle East. A peculiar piece of history. “
“Dream”, which in Ukrainian means “dream”, weighed up to 640 tons and was large enough to carry windmills, tanks or locomotives. It had six engines, 32 tires and a wingspan of 290 feet. For comparison, the wingspan of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the famous Spruce Goose, was 30 feet longer, but this aircraft is shorter than the “Dream” and flew only once.
At a height of almost 276 feet, the “Dream” was more than twice as long the Wright brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk.
The Dream was a workhorse for Antonov Airlines, a Ukrainian charter cargo company that repaired the plane after the collapse of the Soviet Union and put it back into operation in 2001. In the last commercial flight in early February he transported 90 tons of tests on COVID-19 from China to Denmark.
“Dream” arrived at RDU to pick up a 120-ton power plant built by General Electric and Vulcan Amps from Bladen County and deliver it to Tanzania in Africa. Local media reported on the plane’s visit the day before, and a crowd gathered at the airport’s inspection park and other observation points to watch it arrive.
Among them was Brian Marx of Raleigh, who brought with him his 8mm camcorder. When asked this week why he wants to see The Dream, Marx wrote in an email: “The big plane. Who wouldn’t? ”
“It was very big, super-loud,” he wrote.
Juet notes that all the approaching planes look like small dots in the sky, and only if they find themselves on the ground, next to another plane or other landmark, will you be able to estimate their size.
“It was raining heavily that day, and it probably added a bit of mystery when it appeared because of the clouds on the approach,” he said.
Juit lingered to watch the nose of the plane rise into the sky, and the first cargo with the trailer was pulled into the cavern’s cargo compartment.
“The plane fell to its knees, if you will, and its nose rose straight,” he said. “It was pretty amazing to see how far in the air that nose went when he was in that position.”
That day, Mriya was carrying 21 crew members, most of whom had left the airport for a 12-hour break at a nearby motel. The plane took off for Africa around midnight with scheduled refueling stops in Canada, Ireland and Egypt.
The website of Antonov Airlines reports that it is planned to delay the operation of the aircraft at least until 2033. It was founded at the airport in Gostomel, a strategic goal of the Russians at the beginning of the invasion, which began on February 24.
The photos of the plane show its massive wings and most of its engines are still intact. But with the wings forward, the fuselage is destroyed, and the nose, now painted in the yellow-blue color of Ukraine, crumpled to the ground.
Destroyed in Ukraine, the world’s largest aircraft visited the RDU in 2006
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