*The Antonov landing in Shannon Airport. Photograph: Joe Buckley

SADNESS has been expressed in Shannon following the destruction of the world’s largest aircraft.

Within the aviation world, the Antonov AN-225 has cult status and has been a frequent sight at Shannon Airport since 2005, touching down on up to six occasions.

Ukrainian authorities confirmed that the aircraft named “Mriya,” or “dream” was parked at an airfield near Kyiv when it was attacked by “Russian occupants”. Ukrainian state defence company Ukroboronprom, which manages Antonov, on Sunday issued a statement saying the aircraft had been destroyed but would be rebuilt at Russia’s expense, a cost it put at $3 billion and a time period of five years.

Dmytro Kuleba, the youngest ever Ukraine Foreign Minister in response to the attack stated, “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail”.

At a distance of 3,199m, Shannon Airport has Ireland’s longest runway and is the only airport in the country capable of accommodating the plane which has a wingspan of 88 metres and has 32 wheels.

In June 2020, the Antonov landed at Shannon from China carrying the single largest consignment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be flown into Ireland on a single flight. It contained almost 900,000 medical gowns for distribution in Ireland as part of the country’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, it took twenty men on shift rotation fifteen hours to hand load 6,249 boxes weighing 18 kgs each.

Shannon based photographer Joe Buckley first snapped the aircraft in 2005. He recalled the efforts to get the best angle while racing to the back-road in Stonehall alongside Ben Coady, members of the Shannon Camera Club and Shannon Spotters. “It’s terrible, it’s an awful shock to the plane enthusiasts in Shannon and to the Airport with the revenue it brought in, Swissport used to handle it and all their employees used to offload”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Joe outlined, “I got photos at night-time before all the big hype, it’s been coming for years, the hype came because of what it was bringing, the Christmas trees and tonnes of PPE”.

He added, “People came from all over Ireland to see it, they travelled 80/90 miles to see it, it wasn’t just Shannon, Clare or Limerick people that enjoyed seeing the Antonov”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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