Lonely Planet Writer

Crowds of aviation enthusiasts gather in Australia as the world’s largest aircraft lands in Perth

The largest aircraft in the world touched down in Perth on Sunday, drawing in crowds to catch a glimpse of the gigantic plane as it landed for the first time in Australia.

largest aircraft
The Antonov AN-225 Mriya lands at Perth International airport on May 15, 2016 in Perth, Australia. The Ukrainian cargo plane is 84 metres long and has a wingspan of 88.4 metres. Image by Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The Antonov An-225 Mriya – the only one of its type– touched down around 12 pm on Sunday. According to the Perth Airport, the public viewing area near the airport reached its capacity early in the morning, with aviation enthusiasts clamouring to get a good look at the plane. Nearly 15,000 spectators gathered at a temporary viewing area to see the aircraft taxi on the runway.

“The level of public interest in the arrival of the Antonov is unprecedented, and Perth Airport worked closely with Antonov to ensure everyone who came to see the aircraft got a good view on Taxiway Charlie this morning”, Fiona Lander, an executive at Perth Airport, said in a statement. It was the first time the An-225 has ever made its way to Australia, but it’s certainly not the giant aircraft’s first flight. The Soviet-built aircraft first flew back in 1988 and is now used by a Ukrainian cargo airline.

Spectators look out from an indoor viewing room over the Ukraine-built Antonov An-225 Mriya after it arrived at Perth Airport on May 15, 2016. The six-engine aircraft, built to transport the Soviet space shuttle the Buran, is now used for cargo no other plane can handle and on this flight to Perth it carried a large generator purchased by a Western Australian resources company.
Spectators look out from an indoor viewing room over the Ukraine-built Antonov An-225 Mriya after it arrived at Perth Airport. Image by GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The plane is truly of epic proportions, measuring 84 metres long, 18.1 metres high, with a wingspan of 84.4 metres. Since it is generally used to carry large cargo, the nose-gear has the ability to ‘kneel’ in order to make it easier to get the cargo on and off. It can reach a maximum speed of 850 kilometres per hour and cruises at an altitude of 12,000 metres. The plane was there to transport a 117-tonne turbine for a resources company in Australia and it will take up to 12 hours to unload the heavy cargo.

The aircraft was also present for unique meeting on the Perth tarmac as it was passed by the official Iron Maiden plane, Ed Force One, famously piloted by the band’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson. The heavy metal band was in town to play a show over the weekend.