Massive Russian plane takes off with special cargo

One of the world's largest planes took off from Tampa International Airport Thursday night carrying a flight simulator that will be delivered to Denmark.

The Russian-made Antonov An-124 is the second largest cargo plane, and one of only 17 of that aircraft in the world.

Crews spent hours Thursday loading it with 37 metric tons of cargo, according to airport officials, including a 30,000 pound flight simulator made in the Bay area.

CAE USA, Inc. manufactured the simulator which will be used to train the Royal Danish Navy how to fly naval helicopters currently in use by the United States Navy. Denmark ordered several of the helicopters and this simulator will supplement their order, according to CAE spokesman Chris Stellwag.

A crowd gathered to watch the Antonov take off Thursday. The plane itself is 226 feet long and had a wingspan nearly double a Boeing 767.

"It's mind boggling. You don't appreciate the scale of it [until you see it]," said David White, who came to watch the plane begin its voyage.

TIA had to close a taxiway to park the plane.

"The aircraft is mammoth. But the airport is completely able to handle it. The runways are long enough, taxiways are wide enough," said airport CEO Joe Lopano.