*Photograph: Joe Buckley
Shannon Airport is housing the largest aircraft in the world, The Antonov AN-225 for an overnight stay.
The one of its kind six-engine aircraft touched down in Shannon on Wednesday at approximately 2:00pm. The arrival of the plane from China marks the single largest consignment of Personal Protective Equipment to arrive within the state on a single aircraft.
The Antonov AN-225 arrived in Shannon Airport with a quantity of 874,780 gowns to be redistributed to medical personnel throughout the country. Earlier in the week on Monday June 8th, a Boeing 737 landed containing 125, 920 gowns. The accessibility of Shannon Airport throughout the pandemic has led to a multitude of essential deliveries of Personal Protective Equipment by air, making Europe’s most westerly airport the forerunner in the fight on COVID-19 in Ireland.
The Ukrainian built, six-storey high AN-225 weighs 640 tonnes and has a wingspan of 88 metres, almost four times the height of Loop Head Lighthouse. Manufactured in 1988, the aircraft was built with the intent of furthering the Russian space programme.
This is the fifth time that the aircraft has visited Shannon, with the first visit taking place on 22nd November 1991 when it was carrying 140 tonnes of medical supplies donated from America, heading towards Chernobyl for victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Three other subsequent visits took place in October 2006, May 2013 and April 2015.
The journey from China to Shannon included a stopover at Almaty, Kazakhstan and a short interval at Baku in Azerbaijan where some of the cargo was unloaded. The aircraft then departed at 06:30am GMT, arriving at Shannon Airport at 2:00pm on Wednesday. The aircraft is due to return to its home base in Gostomel Airport, Kiev in Ukraine on Thursday June 11th. Boasting the longest runway in Ireland at 3,199 metres, Shannon is the only Irish airport capable of accommodating the AN-225.
Shannon resident, photographer and avid plane watcher Joe Buckley reflected on the magical moment that the longest bodied, longest winged and heaviest operational plane in the world touched down on Shannon soil.
“I’m here in Shannon forty-five years and the only thing it compared to was the 1970’s when the Concord came first, there were hundreds and hundreds of people out for the landing. I counted eighty cars on the way up, parked on the grass. The airport row was filled with cars, it was unbelievable They opened up the car park at the tower for people to go in also. Everyone is still flocking at the hundreds to see the unloading of medical supplies.”