Cebu News

World’s biggest airplane in Cebu

Jose P. Sollano - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The biggest plane in the world landed at Mactan Cebu International Airport yesterday morning, bringing with it a 180-ton replacement transformer for the First Gen Corporation (FGC) San Lorenzo natural gas-fired power plant in Batangas City.

Mactan Cebu International Airport General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete led airport officials in welcoming the 20-crew An-225 plane piloted by Capt. Dmytro Antonov.

Due to thunder strike last May, FGC’s San Lorenzo power plant lost one of two generators that were made by Croatian electric company Koncar Power Transformers Ltd.

In yesterday’s press conference shortly after the arrival of the plane, FGC president and chief operating officer Francis Giles Puno said they got the plane because they saw a need to expedite the manufacture and delivery of the replacement transformer.

He said FGC wanted to ensure both sufficient power supply and stability of the Luzon grid, especially at this time when other areas of the country are experiencing insufficient and unstable power supply.

Puno said they decided to hire Antonov Airlines Transport, a company known for owning the An-225, which is capable of transporting weight of up to 250 tons.

Puno said the projected one-year period for the delivery was cut short to just eight months.

For his part, Villarete said it is destiny and pride for the Cebuanos for the biggest airplane in the world to land at the Mactan airport instead of in Manila, Subic, or Clark.

Villarete admitted that at first they refused when FGC officials approached him and asked permission to use the airport with the Antonov plane in bringing the transformer to the country.

He cited some safety reasons; but after the company and the plane’s crew complied with all requirements, especially the required insurance, they agreed after consultation with Mactan airport operations personnel.

Officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Subic, and Clark also refused when approached by FGC officials.

Villarete said Capt. Antonov is the one who inspected the Mactan airport last month and he agreed to comply with some extra safety measures.

“Our concerns are the safety of the airport during their arrival and departure, that’s the reason they (FGC) demanded for the company to comply with the business insurance,” said Villarete.

Puno, on the other hand, expressed FGC’s gratitude to MCIAA General Manager Villarete for allowing the use of the airport’s facility in receiving the transformer.

“FGC considered all available airports that could land safely the Antonov An-225 plane. After considering the combination of airport, onward land transport and sea freight, Mactan Cebu was chosen as the most viable option,” Puno said.

“It marked the first time that the An-225, the world’s largest aircraft, landed in the Philippines. Its 180-ton load was also considered the heaviest cargo to be loaded into an airplane in one piece and flown into the Philippines,” read an FGC press statement.

FGC officials hope that installation of the transformer would be completed by the end of the year at the San Lorezo’s natural gas-fired power plant, a critical asset to the Luzon electrical grid in system.

The transformer raises electricity voltage produced by the generator from P16.5 kilovolts (kv) to 240 kv, enabling the plant to deliver electricity to generated by the San Lorenzo Unit 60 to Luzon through the transmission line network of  the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

Puno could not provide an exact figure but he estimated that the company spent for the purchase more than $ 7-million, including payment for the transformer and freight cost.

An-225 is also known as Mriya, or “the dream” in Ukrainian, and was constructed by Soviet Union Antonov Design Bureau in 1988.

The plane is the only one of its kind in the world. It weighs 300 tons when empty and  has a wing span of 88 meters. It is 18 meters high and 84 meters long, and its holds 240 world records.

It was designed for military purposes, but today serves as a mega cargo plane used in transporting extremely heavy loads.

The only An-225 ever fully built, the plane is operated by Antonov Airlines. The Aircraft has the ability to carry 640 tons and is powered by six turbo fans.

It has a wing span of 290 feet and has a total of 32 wheels for the even distribution of its weight.

The plane’s cargo hold, which is 1,300 cubic meters long, is enough to support the entire length of the Wright Brothers first flight. — (FREEMAN)











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