World's biggest cargo plane takes off from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
Here's RA-82074 on final approach to Gateway. I checked Flight Aware this morning and saw this inbound, and since I had to be in the area anyway, I figured I would get a few quick pictures. By Catherine Holland Here's RA-82074 on final approach to Gateway. I checked Flight Aware this morning and saw this inbound, and since I had to be in the area anyway, I figured I would get a few quick pictures. By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. -- The biggest cargo plane in the world left Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Tuesday morning.

3TV's Ryan O'Donnell was there as the massive plane rumbled down the runway and took off at 6 a.m., bound for Goose Bay, Labrador.

The Russian-designed Antonov AN-124 can fly for more than 25 hours without refueling. The flight from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway to Goose Bay, however, is only 5.5 hours.

While the Antonov AN-124 is the second-heaviest operating cargo aircraft behind the Antonov AN-225, it the the highest gross weight production cargo plane in the world.

The plane can carry up to 150 tons of cargo. The legal weight for an 18-wheeler like the one pictured below is 40 tons.

There also is room for 88 passengers on an upper deck behind the wing center section.

The plane can be loaded either from the back, which is equipped with ceiling-mounted cranes, or the front. The hinged nose opens to allow access to the cargo area.

At nearly 70 feet tall and more than 266 feet long, the cargo plane dwarfs Boeing's 737, which is one of the most common passenger planes in the air. The Antonov An-24 has a wingspan of more than 240 feet. The largest 737 has a wingspan of just over 117 feet, with most models measuring less than 95 feet tip to tip.

At its maximum weight, the Antonov AN-124 requires more than 8,200 feet to take off. Two of the three runways at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway are longer than 10,000 feet.

The plane is registered to Volga-Dnepr Group, a Russian company that specializes in international airfreight operations. According to the company's website Volga-Dnepr Group has two U.S. offices -- one in Chicago, the other in Houston.