In Rockhampton for a short time only, Antonov is a sight to behold
FILLED to the brim with its cargo of four Apache helicopters in preparation for upcoming military exercise 'Wallaby 2017' the impressive Antonov AN-124 touched down in Rockhampton at 5am this morning.
Rockhampton Airport Chair and Councillor Neil Fisher, who is a self described "real plane nut”, said he never gets tired of seeing such impressively large and well maintained equipment like this 22-year-old aircraft up close.
"It's a Russian plane flying for a US logistics company flying a Singapore military aircraft into Australia, you couldn't get more United Nations than that,” Cr Fisher said.
"There's only eight of these big birds in the world and to have one land in Rockhampton airport twice in a week, it is pretty special.”
Cr Fisher said the Antonov landing was the second this week after a delivery of a Chinook helicopter earlier in the week.
The deliveries were part of the build up for military exercise code-named "Wallaby 2017” which will be conducted in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) from 31 August - 14 October.
The exercise, which has been conducted annually for more than 20 years, will see a massive influx of aircraft, equipment and troops to the CQ region including C130 transport and military helicopters (AH64, AS332 and CH47).
"Over the coming weeks, we'll see Air Brunei, Qantas and Singapore airlines, all with wide-bodied jets, coming into Rockhampton bringing about 5000 troops,” Cr Fisher said.
"It puts Rockhampton Airport as one of the leading centres for military training around the world.”
He said the Rockhampton community has also been recognised by international defence forces for being such a friendly and welcoming place to visit.
Since the Rockhampton Airport was extended back in 2000 to cater for large military and freight carriers, Cr Fisher said it was one of the few locations long enough and strong enough for the Antonov to be able to land in Queensland.
"It can only land in Brisbane, Cairns and Rocky airports,” he said.
"Across Queensland we have 51 of these landings each year and we have quite a number of them.”
Cr Fisher applauded the airport support staff had done an impressive job unloading the Singapore Armed Forces' helicopters and other equipment from one of the world's largest military aircraft and with it ready to leave again in under six hours.
He said this large aircraft landing made a statement about the capability of the Rockhampton's Airport.
"This aircraft is full of freight, it's come in with a number of Apache attack helicopters but in the future it could be specialised generators, specialised switchboards, for the gas industry or the resource industry,” Cr Fisher said.
"One of our goals with our business plan is to actually become the hub for these heavy freight planes.
"Whether it's the Antonov, whether it's one of the Galaxies or even just a cargo jumbo, we've got the ability to handle these big planes.”
Cr Fisher hoped by using Rockhampton and its central location, it means that some of the freight that goes into the Brisbane airport, is not being transported up along the Bruce Highway which becomes an inconvenience to other road users.
The Antonov AN-124 is scheduled to depart Rockhampton at 7pm tonight.
ANTONOV AN-124 facts:
- Produced: 1982-2014
- Number built: 55
- Worth: US $70-100 million,
- Wing span: 73m
- Weighs: 175t
- Carries 150t
- Capacity: 88 passengers