Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giant Freight Carrier Flies To The Rescue - Again

The An-225 Carries Vital Equipment to Japanese Disaster Scene
Shipping News Feature

US - JAPAN- GERMANY – Surely never can the sole An-225 operated by Antonov Airlines of Russia have been as busy as it is this month. The largest heavy lift airborne freight carrier in the world seems to have been working non stop lately, unfortunately almost exclusively shipping cargo destined to aid different disaster scenarios across the globe.

Yesterday the giant plane loaded another giant concrete pump at Atlanta airport for urgent delivery to a damaged reactor in Fukushima, scene of the radiation leaks after damage resultant from the recent Japanese earthquake. One pump had already travelled aboard the aircraft from Stuttgart to join three others already on site.

The huge pumps are to transfer thousands of tonnes of water into the damaged reactor blocks but the unspoken thought is that they may soon be involved in an operation for which they were designed, namely pumping concrete in huge quantities to seal the reactors permanently, switching from a water to concrete supply apparently is a seamless exercise for these seventy metre high monsters.

There are only three pumps in the world as big as the latest 95 tonne arrival from Atlanta, which last week was helping build a fuel plant in the US state of Georgia. The manufacturer, Putzmeister a German group with offices worldwide, supplied eleven of the concrete pumps which sealed the Chernobyl plant in 1986 and has sent a team to train Japanese operators to use the giant M70-5 machines which can be operated remotely. Despite claims from the US press that the pumps will have to be buried on the site it is believed some of this equipment is that used in the Russian disaster.

In the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami the Antonov An-225 was chartered last month to carry emergency aid in another huge logistical operation against the clock, this time last year the plane was used to clear the backlog of freight following the volcanic ash cloud emergency and two months prior to that it was engaged in more humanitarian work assisting with the Haitian earthquake.

The An-225 has always had difficulties in obtaining permission to land in various countries which, given its vast bulk is hardly surprising. It is nice to see that in the more serious arenas when it is the only craft capable of delivering priceless aid to a stricken community no such difficulties are encountered.