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Massive cargo plane makes stop at Lincoln Airport

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 9:32 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A unique feature at the Lincoln Airport made it the only option in the region for a special delivery from Italy.

At two and a half miles long, the airport’s runway was the only one that could accommodate one of the biggest cargo planes in the world.

An Antonov-124 touched down in Lincoln on Thursday afternoon. It’s a Russian-made cargo plane that’s completely self-sufficient. With a crew of six in the cockpit and eight more handlers on board, who live on the aircraft for months at a time.

“So the aircraft can actually be handled completely by itself by its own crew,” said Chris Schumacher the VP of Airfreight at Fracht USA.

It’s a landing that’s been 11 months in the making to move equipment that weighs over 200,000 pounds across the ocean.

Thursday, the plane delivered a massive boiler which is set to be used at a plant in Sioux City, Iowa. The plane and cargo clocks in at over 93 tons and takes up about two-thirds of a football field.

It started in Italy and made stops in Belgium, Iceland, Canada, and Maine before making it to Lincoln.

“An aircraft as big as this and with the freight on board that’s as heavy, you need a long runway,” Schumacher said. “This is the longest runway that we could use nearest to where the job site is.”

Schumacher’s crew has been coordinating the landing for just shy of a year. It had to source the plane, secure cranes, research routes, and find roads that are big enough for the final 150-mile trek.

“One of the most important things around this time of year is construction on the highway so everybody is trying to squeeze construction in before the winter hits, so routing is ever-changing and we just have to make sure that everything is good to go,” said Jacob Hawthorne, a project supervisor.

Right now, it’s working on the final step - coordinating with Nebraska and Iowa entities for the driving portion of the trip.

“Were waiting on the Nebraska DOT to approve our route. We also have to schedule police and civilian escorts, we have to speak with local utilities to make sure that everything is good to go,” Hawthorne said.

This is one of three oversized pieces heading to that plant near Sioux City. The other two are coming to the U.S. by boat.

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