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Air Mailing Web Presses: Storied Russian planes do heavy lifting for Heidelberg

Press release from the issuing company

DOVER, NH - January 15, 2004 -- They have carried everything from James Bond to the heaviest single cargo shipment ever flown and last month massive planes from Antonov Airlines whisked five new Heidelberg web presses from New Hampshire to Turkmenistan. "Shipping by air instead of by sea cut our delivery time from more than four weeks to less than one week," explains Jerri Merrill, traffic manager at Heidelberg Web Systems headquarters in Dover, New Hampshire, where the Mercury and V-30 presses were manufactured. Merrill says a tight installation deadline established by the government owned Turkmenistan State Publishing Service mandated the unusual step of flying the presses. Three Antonov AN124 planes touched down between December 20 and 22 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, about 10 miles from the Heidelberg factory in Dover. They picked up four single-tower Mercury presses and a five-unit V-30, plus JF-35 folders for each press, and flew them to the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat. From there, the 250 tons of cargo was divided and trucked to five separate sites within the former Soviet Republic. With language barriers to overcome, and a total of 160 crates and components going on three planes to five separate final destinations, a simple but effective label scheme using colors and shapes was developed to keep everything in order. "We had to be very precise about loading and unloading to minimize handling costs and to make sure everything arrived at the right place," according to Merrill. At six stories tall and with wingspans of 240 feet, the Antonovs resemble warehouses with wings. Up to 130 tons of cargo can be loaded into a 120-foot-long pressurized payload area - either through the hinged nose section in front or a ramp that opens below the tail section. Heidelberg last called on Antonov Airlines in 1995. An AN124 took a complete Sunday 3000 press system to Germany just in time for installation at the drupa show. Such missions are routine for Antonov, which flies more than a dozen jumbo planes originally designed for the Russian military. Last year the company brought the largest cargo aircraft in aviation history into service, a plane that got a world-record 278 tons of cargo off the ground during a test flight. Cavernous cargo bays, high powered engines and long-range capacity make Antonov planes well suited for flying heavy loads just about anywhere in the world. Payloads have run the gamut from industrial turbines, military tanks, satellites, helicopters and train locomotives to food and medical supplies. Recent flights carried two America's cup racing yachts from Europe to New Zealand, 600,000 bottles of Beaujolais wine from Europe to Japan and 216,000 prepared meals for American troops in Oman. Antonov planes also began transporting humanitarian aid to Iraq in June. An AN124 even served as James Bond's getaway vehicle in the 2002 movie Die Another Day.