Spirit prepares to send out major shipment

David Anderson

Staff Writer, Kinston Free Press

Officials with Spirit AeroSystems spent Friday preparing to send out a major shipment from Kinston on what has been described as the world’s largest cargo aircraft.

Executives with the Wichita, Kan.-based aircraft component manufacturer — which operates manufacturing plants around the world, including at the N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston — expected the Kinston-built fuselage panels to depart on the Antonov An-124 cargo jet this weekend.

The Russian-built jet landed at the Kinston Regional JetPort on Thursday, and was the subject of local curiosity Thursday and Friday.

“There have been some people in and out all day long, just trying to get a glimpse of it, because it is a really big plane and it’s not something you see here very often, so people are curious about it,” GTP spokeswoman Alanna King said Friday.

According to the an124.com website, the four-engine aircraft is 226 feet long, 68 feet high and has a wingspan of 240 feet. It can carry up to 330,000 pounds of cargo.

It was initially designed to be a military transport jet to rival the U.S. military’s C-5 transporter and the first prototype flew in 1982.

“The uniquely capable Antonov An-124 is the world’s largest production cargo aircraft, yet it was only built in small numbers due to the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s,” the website aircraftinformation.info stated. “Today this unique aircraft is the star performer of the international heavy-lift cargo market and is in such high demand that series-production is being resumed.”

King said the An-124 is the type of aircraft the Kinston airport’s long runway was designed for – at 11,500 feet, it is the longest airport runway on the East Coast.

The An-124 needs 3,000 meters, or about 9,800 feet, of runway to land safely.

“The runway was extended twice specially to accommodate the largest cargo jets in the world, fully loaded,” King said.

Officials with Spirit were not able to immediately give details on the shipment as of Friday, since preparations were still being made, but the company builds fuselage and wing components for the Airbus A350 XWB passenger aircraft at its Kinston plant.

From Kinston, they are shipped to Spirit and Airbus facilities in Europe for final assembly.

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