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MARQUETTE COUNTY – When one of the world’s largest airplanes comes to town, people notice.
The roads outside Sawyer International Airport were packed today with people trying to get a first-hand glimpse of one of the world’s largest aircraft.
“I was really surprised when I pulled up here today, I didn’t expect to see this many people come out to see this plane,” said Dean Whipple, who is visiting from Wisconsin. “That’s pretty cool. Obviously it’s a big thing for Marquette, it really is.”
The Antonov An-124 Russian aircraft is the second heaviest operating cargo plane. Its mission is to pick up a South Korean helicopter.
The Korean Aerospace Industry, along with the South Korean Army, have been working with the U.S. Army for de-icing tests on military aircraft. With a 12,366 foot runway, the runway at Sawyer can accommodate just about any aircraft.
“When I was younger, coming up through here and seeing the B-52 bombers through the treetops, I’d be going across highway 41 there and those B-52 bombers would fly over your car and you’re like, ‘Holy Hannah,'” said Whipple. “This has always been a special place to me so it’s pretty cool.”
“My husband is in the Navy and so I’ve been around P-3’s, C-130’s, C-5’s, things like that and this is kind of like a C-5,” said Mary Bentlage, from Marquette. “An airplane is an airplane but for somebody who hasn’t seen one, this is huge for them.”
Once serving as an Air Force base during the Cold War era, the sight of the great aircraft was a once in a lifetime experience.
“How it stays in the air is beyond me,” said Bentlage. “It was coming in very slow but it’s just amazing for Sawyer to have something like this and experience it is wonderful.”
The Russian aircraft is expected to make its return flight tomorrow, traveling to South Korea and dropping off the South Korean helicopter.