A monster of an airplane will be parked at the La Crosse Regional Airport until this weekend, when it picks up a special delivery.
Jason Gillett, assistant director of the airport, said an Antonov An-124-100, one of the largest planes in the world, arrived at the airport late Wednesday night. Able to transport more than 100 tons of troops, cargo or equipment, this Ukrainian-built cargo jet is one of the largest airplanes in the world and one hasn’t been seen in La Crosse since 2004.
The aircraft, operated by air charter company Volga-Dnepr Group of Russia, is so big that it can only be parked in a few places at the airport that can handle its weight, Gillett said, and those who drive by will notice the behemoth parked near the air tower. Because of the size of the plane, extra firefighting protection is required, and Gillett said the La Crosse Fire Department is providing assistance as long as the An-124-100 is here.
Just like in 2004, the jet is visiting La Crosse to pick up and deliver one of Chart’s massive brazed aluminum heat exchanger units, which act like giant radiators. These 30-ton pieces of equipment can take up 1,400 cubic feet — too big for smaller aircraft, such as a Boeing 747 — and are used in the oil and gas industry for cryogenic applications and processes.
The cargo is expected to be delivered to the airport today. Airport officials were unsure of when the cargo would be loaded, but did say the jet is expected to take off from the airport around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Shipping a unit can take more than a month by sea; inside the Antonov An-124-100, the product can reach its destination in under a day. A charter freight flight like this can cost around $1 million.
“It’s pretty big,” Gillett said. “It will be visible from anywhere in the airport.”