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U.S. makes plans for spy plane return

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The United States government has contacted Heavylift Cargo Airlines about using a giant Antonov freighter plane to bring its damaged EP-3 spy plane home from China, an official of the airline said Wednesday.

Vince Seeger of Heavylift Cargo Airlines said an inquiry had come from representatives of the U.S. government but that no further action had been taken.

According to Seeger, U.S. officials are interested in having Antonov Airlines -- a joint venture between Heavylift and Air Foyle -- provide an An-124 transport plane capable of carrying 132 tons to do the job. That plane is the largest air freighter now in commercial use.

If Heavylift agrees to bring the U.S. plane out, Seeger said it will still have to be disassembled and put in crates before being loaded onto one of the airline's seven Antonov aircraft.

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The U.S. spy plane landed on Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter on April 1. The 24-member crew was allowed to return to the United States on April 11.

However, the damaged plane remains at a Chinese military base where it landed.

A Pentagon official said the preferred method to return the plane would be to make enough repairs to make the aircraft airworthy. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said Tuesday that the United States is still negotiating with Chinese authorities.

"Our goal is to get it back with as little time, minimum level of effort that we can and at the lowest cost that we can," Quigley said.







RELATED STORIES:
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• HeavyLift the world's leading experts in transporting outsized cargo
• Air Force Technology (Antonov)
• AirFoyle (Air Foyle)

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