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World's largest plane to make N.D. stops

BISMARCK -- The world's largest cargo plane is scheduled to land Sunday in Fargo and Bismarck to pick up a 60-ton power plant rotor. Basin Electric Power Cooperative is bringing in the Antonov 124 to transport a generator rotor from its coal-burn...

BISMARCK -- The world's largest cargo plane is scheduled to land Sunday in Fargo and Bismarck to pick up a 60-ton power plant rotor.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative is bringing in the Antonov 124 to transport a generator rotor from its coal-burning Leland Olds Station at Stanton, N.D. The rotor is going to Alstom Power in Richmond, Va., to be rewound.

The Russian plane is tentatively scheduled to land in Fargo around 4 p.m. Sunday to go through Customs, said Basin spokesman Daryl Hill. It then flies to Bismarck, where it is expected to arrive about 7:45 p.m. Sunday.

A 12-axle truck carrying the rotor will drive into the nose end of the Antonov at the Bismarck airport. The airplane will fly out of Bismarck on Monday morning.

The Antonov has a wingspan of 240 feet. The top of the tail section is 70 feet off the ground.

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Antonov Airlines, whose slogan is "No other name carries more weight," says the craft has the largest payload and the largest accessible dimensions of any production airplane in the world.

"This reigning champion is capable of airlifting the most awkward, sensitive and fragile shipments in a controlled environment," the company Web site boasts.

Getting 103 tons of truck and cargo from the power plant to the Bismarck airport is a feat in itself, Basin officials said. That trip is scheduled for Sunday morning.

Starting at sunrise, the Highway Patrol will escort the 118-foot tractor-trailer rig on state highways 200 and 31 between Stanton and New Salem, then east on Interstate 94 to the eastern-most Bismarck ramp at Exit 161.

There, Bismarck police will assume escort duties to the airport, halting traffic along the way. The truck is expected to roll through Bismarck about 9 a.m.

Basin said public viewing of the airplane will be allowed from the northwest corner of the airport, outside the fence.

The rotor is expected to be flown back to Bismarck June 6.

Hiring the Antonov 124 instead of trucking the rotor to Virginia will save Basin more than $1 million, said Floyd Robb, the cooperative's vice president of communications. Trucking would take 20 days instead of the four days using the plane.

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"We gain 16 days of lost production from the plant's generator," Robb said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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