A Volga-Dnepr Airlines Antonov An-124-100 at Roswell International Air Center prepares for take-off, Tuesday morning. Mark Wilson Photo
One of the largest aircraft in the world graced the runway at Roswell International Air Center on Tuesday morning, making its second fuel stop in Roswell in less than one week.
The massive Antonov An-124-100, flown by the Russian company Volga-Dnepr Airlines, is 226 feet 9 inches long and has a wingspan of 240 feet 6 inches.
According to the company website, Volga-Dnepr is the world’s largest operator of the cargo aircraft, which can carry a range of bulky cargos with a maximum payload weight of 264,550 pounds.
Volga-Dnepr made its first fuel stop at RIAC Thursday, and on both occasions departed from Washington Dulles International Airport to deliver helicopters to the German Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base.
Great Southwest Aviation President Larry Jessen said the German Air Force had been flight training in Roswell last week, and that seeing the Russian and German planes side-by-side at RIAC was a unique visual experience.
“I just thought the Roswell airport had truly become an international airport with the Germans and the Russians both sitting on the ramp at the same time,” Jessen laughed. “A little town of Roswell, New Mexico, and here we’ve got these two very large planes — one from Germany and one from Russia.
“…You’d expect to see something like this if you were at a large airport on the east coast or in that type of environment, but to be here in Roswell, thanks to our very large facility here at the airport, we’re able to attract planes like this for flight operations, because we have the capacity.”
Jessen said the airport can support large aircraft due to its wide runways and taxiways, appropriate infrastructure, and a thickness of concrete fit to handle the massive An-124-100, which he said weighs in at nearly 1 million pounds.
“Not many airports could support this type of aircraft,” he said. “And that’s why it was here. … It could take off without risk of damage to the taxiways or runways.”
Jessen said he would guess the An-124-100 fuel stops in Roswell were the only times RIAC has had a Russian cargo aircraft on its ramp, and that seeing the plane was something he won’t soon forget.
“Just to put things into perspective, the largest plane that Boeing builds is the Boeing 747-400,” Jessen said. “And this plane has a wingspan that is 30 feet wider than the Boeing 747.
“… So I think one of the unique things about it is just the appearance of it. It’s a lot different in appearance than the aircraft that we have. It stands out.”