One of world’s biggest cargo planes lands at Edmonton International Airport

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BY NICOLE STILLGER GLOBAL NEWS | Posted May 30, 2020

One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.
 One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours. Nicole Stillger / Global News

One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) Saturday afternoon.

For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.

“It’s a bit of a bright spot for us in a time when we are in this long, temporary downturn on passenger travel,” EIA president and CEO Tom Ruth said.

There are only 55 of the behemoths worldwide.

It has four turbofan engines and more than 20 tires. It can carry 150 tonnes — or 23 elephants.

The plane doesn’t make an appearance in Edmonton that often.

Ruth said it’s all part of their air cargo strategy.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Edmonton is becoming more and more known as a North American air cargo gateway,” Ruth explained. “We’ve invested a lot of time and strategy and energy on being that air cargo hub.”

Passenger traffic generates 90 per cent of EIA’s revenue, but it’s down about 95 per cent right now.

Less than two weeks ago, the airport was forced to lay off 40 per cent of its staff.

Ruth said since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, cargo charter business has doubled.

“We’ve seen this continuing growth with air cargo, particularly this year, even with the downturn with the pandemic,” he said.

“Our air cargo numbers are up, even though globally they’ve been down.”

The airport noted, because of client confidentiality, the exact manifest, details and volumes of each cargo plane cannot be released.

Many of the charters are carrying things like personal protective equipment (PPE) and e-commerce deliveries because of online shopping.

Ruth said with more flights expected in the coming weeks, it shows the demand is there.

“We’ve seen this accelerated pace of air freight, so the fact we have three of these [planes] on the ground on the same day shows we are moving lots more air cargo,” he said.

“It’s really a critical component in the future. Air cargo is only two per cent of the volume of goods shipped around the world, but it’s 35 per cent of the value — so if you’re growing air cargo, you’re creating a lot of air pipelines throughout the world.”

Ruth said air cargo is critical not only to the local economy but across the region.

With average passenger traffic levels not expected to return for at least another three years, he said these flights are bringing some much-needed activity.

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