The Ukrainian-built Antonov An-225 Mriya plane, a six-engined behemoth capable of carrying 250 tonnes of cargo, is set to land at the Basel-Muhlouse international airport on Friday afternoon.
The strategic airlift cargo aircraft, built in 1988, is expected to attract droves of spotters, photographers and other enthusiasts to the airport before it departs early Saturday afternoon.
It is, after all, a plane that exhausts superlatives, holding 240 records, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
With a fuselage 88.4 metres long and a wingspan of 88.4 metres, its has 32 wheels for landing and takeoff.
Its bulbous nose tilts back at a 90-degree angle to allow for loading of cargo.
Capable of a maximum speed of 850 kilometres an hour with a range of 15,400 kilometres, the plane will be transporting heaters to Basel, Tamedia’s Newsnet reported on Friday.
It is the only one of its kind, with construction of a second model unfinished.
Originally conceived to transport the Soviet Union’s space shuttle, it was mothballed for many years before being returned to service with new engines by Antonov Airlines, a Ukrainian company in 2001.
Despite its large size, the plane can land in most airports without any special measures needed, although neighbours are usually warned in advance of its landing because of the noise from its engines.