Antonov flies into Richmond for heavy load

One of the world’s largest aircraft touched down on Sea Island this week.

The Antonov An-124—the second largest Russian cargo plane—parked at Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal Wednesday as its crew loaded four Eurocopter AS332L helicopters on board.

Fully upgraded in Langley by Vector Aerospace Corporation, two helicopters are destined for work on offshore oil rigs in Australia, while the other two are being flown to Afghanistan for utility operations.

“This is the first time we’ve got an aircraft of this size to service these types of (helicopters) globally, and we’re hoping it’ll be the first of many shipments going forward,” said Vector’s Elvis Moniz in an interview on the tarmac Wednesday.

Loading began around noon and was finished by 6 p.m.

The four-engine Antonov has a wingspan of 73 metres—the equivalent of nearly seven Cessna airplanes or 15 minivans end-to-end.

Shipping the helicopters doesn’t come cheap. The operation costs over $1 million, but these mid-’80s helicopters—completely refurbished and upgraded, and offered through a lease program—are an economical alternative for operators around the world, according to Moniz, vice-president of Vector’s Langley operation.

Vector’s helicopter services are headquartered in Richmond, where the company boasts a state-of-the-art 158,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. Moniz said the firm has become renowned for its services.

“With the latest activities in the Middle East we’re finding a lot of aircraft are heading over that way, and people are bringing their aircraft to refurbish and utilize our specialized services.”

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