Giant plane crash feared
By JOSEPH TERNOWETSKY
PEOPLE feared for their lives on the weekend as a massive military cargo plane slowly lumbered across the Rockhampton horizon. The plane shook windows, rattled walls and appeared to be on a crash course for the city.
But what shocked residents on Sunday afternoon was simply a gesture of goodwill by the United States military.
The US Army C-5 cargo had been bringing supplies from the United States for the upcoming military exercise at Shoalwater Bay and circled the city as it left.
The plane circled so low that many residents were sure it was going to crash.
"When I saw it fly over I said to my buddy, 'It was nice knowing you','' said Scott Hay, who lives in front of the airport.
"I've never seen anything like that before.''
Mr Hay said the plane was about 200 metres above the ground when it passed.
He said it was so loud, it shook his entire house.
Clinton Moore, who works at Baskin Robbins, also saw the plane circle the city and was sure it was going to crash.
"I was relieved when it finally passed over,'' he said. "It sounded exactly like a falling plane.''
Both witnesses said the plane circled twice and appeared to be descending.
Ben Mitchell, spokesman for Air Services Australia, said the plane never got below 1000 feet, or about 333 metres.
"The plane was cleared to fly between 1000 and 4500 feet,'' he said. "If it flew below this it would have been picked up on radar.''
Mr Mitchell said the pilots requested to do a fly-by over the city as a thank you.
He said people may have thought the plane was flying too low because of its massive size.
But Ken Hay, who saw the plane pass over the Mater Hospital, said there was no way the plane was flying at its correct altitude.
He thought the plane was going to slam into the side of the hospital.
The airport usually only allows large-sized planes, like the C-5, to take off away from the city.
But Mr Mitchell said the C-5 was capable of reaching high altitudes quickly.
This is why the plane was granted permission to take off towards Rockhampton on runway 15.
Ian Cox, manager for the Department of Defence's Corporate Service and Infrastructure Group, said another US cargo plane, similar to the the C-5, would land in Rockhampton next month.