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Massive, Minn.-Made Fire Trucks Flying Overnight To Africa

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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WYOMING, Minn. (WCCO) — If you’ve ever shipped anything with guaranteed overnight air delivery, you know it can get a bit spendy. So one can only imagine what it would cost to send three massive airport fire rescue trucks half-way around the world.

That’s just what the employees of a Wyoming fire truck manufacturing company did. They were under the gun to ship the three rescue rigs to a city in northern Nigeria.

Some of the most sophisticated fire trucks in the world are built at the Rosenbauer facility a few miles north of Forest Lake.

That includes the six-wheel drive, fully enclosed Panther model: the trucks that respond to crashes and fire emergencies at airports.

“We’re very proud that countries across the world are coming to the small town of Wyoming, Minnesota and buying a truck that’s hand built by our craftsmen,” said Rosenbauer America President Kevin Kirvida.

On the parking lot outside the plane it was time to shine the rigs up and get them ready to ship out. Three identical panthers were there, numbered one, two and three, and freshly painted for service at the new Dutse International Airport in Nigeria.

They’d normally send the heavy trucks aboard a ship, across the ocean. But this particular order can’t wait that long and must be delivered by Saturday.

So the order was rushed to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for overnight air express.

Mid-afternoon on Thursday, the only cargo plane up to the task descended from the sky.

The trucks will be shipped next day air on a Russian-built Antonov 124 cargo plane, one of the largest in the world.

The plane and crew flew here empty from France for the quick turnaround delivery.

The choice of shipper is purely out of necessity. That’s because there is not an American carrier with a cargo plane that can carry the massive volume or weight. Parked end to end, the three trucks will fill the entire inside and weigh more than 120,000 pounds without water or fuel.

With both the U.S. Customs and paperwork in order, the trucks enter the aluminum beast of a plane through its opened nose. The front of the plane was lowered with hydraulics and down came a large loading ramp.

Then, one-by-one, the yellow fire trucks crawled aboard for the long flight abroad.

“We need these trucks at a new airport that just opened with new runways, towers and new terminal buildings. But at this point it has no fire trucks,” said Larry Walston, the fleet manager for Maxair.

And the airport won’t be able to open for commercial flights until the trucks arrive and fire crews are in place. So without delay, the pride of Wyoming workers each disappeared into the airborne aluminum cavern.

The plane is scheduled to depart the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon.

Each truck is valued at more than $600,000, for the basic model.

The cost to overnight the trucks to Nigeria will be nearly $1 million.

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