THUNDER BAY - For a second time in three days, Thunder Bay residents were amazed by what they saw in the sky.
This time, the bewilderment wasn’t due to a natural phenomenon, but rather, a man-made one in the form of the Antonov An-124.
The cargo airplane isn’t just any regular plane, it’s the largest to touch down at the Thunder Bay airport in its history.
“This is a really big airplane with skilled people flying it, it was something to watch it arrive,” airport CEO Ed Schmidtke said.
The aircraft model was first developed in the 80s in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Its height matches that of a seven-storey building, and it’s wingspan; two-thirds the size of an American football field.
“It shows that this airport can accommodate large-dimensional cargo,” Schmidtke said.
Although Schmidtke could not comment on the cargo, the Toronto Star reported in July that the shipment includes streetcar cabs set to be manufactured by Bombardier and later sent to Toronto.
The cabs were ordered in from Vienna, Austria, as a time-saving effort after Toronto City Transit expressed their displeasure with the lack of cabs being manufactured by Bombardier.
Bombardier communications head Marc-Andre Lefebvre said that the flights cost $750,000, but will save the company a month on shipping time.
Schmidtke said the cargo shipment is a rare flight for Thunder Bay.
“We used to see it from time to time at the height of the forestry sector, but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen something like this.”
Despite the fact it showed up approximately 45 minutes ahead of schedule, Schmidtke said it did not affect any commercial flights.
“It caught us at a very good time,” he said. “There was just one departure that waited a minute or two for its turn on the runway, so it worked out really well.”
“If this adds to the competitive advantages of Thunder Bay, we hope there’s more of it,” he added.