- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - One of the world’s largest airplanes is sitting on the tarmac in La Crosse waiting for a giant load of cargo.

An Antonov An-124-100 arrived at the La Crosse Regional Airport late Wednesday night, The La Crosse Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1X3jZNY ). The Ukranian-built jet is large enough to transport more than 100 tons of troops, cargo or equipment. Air charter company Volga-Dnepr Group of Russian operates the plane.

The double-fuselage plane, developed primarily as a military freighter in the early 1980s, can lean forward on its nose or main undercarriage closer to the ground to aid in loading. It can carry up to 120 tons for nearly 5,000 miles.

The aircraft is so large that only a few places at the La Crosse airport can support its weight, said Jason Gillett, the airport’s assistant director.

The aircraft is set to pick up a 30-ton aluminum heat exchanger unit used in the oil and gas industry for cryogenic applications and transport it to Asia. Such exchangers, which act like giant radiators, can take up 1,400 cubic feet, too big for smaller planes such as a Boeing 747.

The exchanger is expected to be delivered to the airport Saturday, and the plane is scheduled to depart early Sunday afternoon.

Motorists can easily spot the plane parked under the airport’s tower, he said. The plane is so large the airport has asked the La Crosse Fire Department for extra fire protection, Gillett said.

“It’s pretty big,” Gillett said. “It will be visible from anywhere in the airport.”

Shipping a unit can take more than a month by sea, but the plane can get it to its destination in less than a day. A charter freight flight such as this can run around $1 million, the newspaper reported.

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Information from: La Crosse Tribune, http://www.lacrossetribune.com

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