Hundreds of spectators lined up to watch the largest plane still flying in the world, the Soviet-built Antonov AN-225, take off shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
People watched from the airport, the Mall of America, local parks and backyards as the enormous plane took off from runway 30L with a deafening roar, and flew through the beautiful evening sky. Many people posted photos and video of the giant aircraft's takeoff on social media.
The huge craft has captivated the attention of aviation enthusiasts who have come to the airport to see it, take photos and videos and compare notes.
The Antonov AN-225 Mriya (Mriya means “dream” in Ukrainian) has been in the Twin Cities since Sunday. It has a wingspan of 225 feet and can carry up to 550,000 pounds, which is the equivalent of three fully-loaded Boeing 737s – or seven humpback whales, officials told CTV News Edmonton.
It’s about the length of a football field, which is two-and-a-half times as long as a Boeing 737 – and longer than the distance of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the Witchita Business Journal notes.
The aircraft was originally designed in the 1980s to transport the Russian space shuttles and booster rocket, but since 2002 it has been in commercial use to carry extra-large cargo, Airlines.net says.
Airport officials did not disclose the payload, but the Business Journal says it has confirmed that the Mriya arrived in Minnesota to pick up large air conditioners, likely from Twin Cities-based Trane, and then it will make a stop in France before dropping the cargo off in the Middle East.
Here's one more video of the takeoff.
Tyler Hastings of Hudson, Wisconsin, got an up-close look at the plane a few days ago. Check out his video: