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Giant Antonov freighter delivers new helicopters

Antonov freighter parked at Ohakea, 6 December 2011
The Antonov AN 124 parked on the Ohakea apron, 6 December 2011.  20111206_OH_D93590_0005

The Antonov AN 124-100 is one of the top four largest modern aircraft of the world with a wingspan 8m wider than a B747-400, but only 1m shorter in overall length. Its maximum takeoff weight is 392 tonnes while maximum landing weight is 330 tonnes. These high operating weights could not be supported by our runway, taxiway and apron pavement surfaces without damaging them, so a limit of 280 tonnes maximum was placed on the aircraft operating into Ohakea.

  • Max allowable weight 280 tonnes
  • Wingspan      73.3m
  • Length     69.1m
  • Turning radius   55m
  • Operator;    Ruslan
  • Two crews of 6 aircrew, plus 2 loadmasters (all Russian)

The big Antonov was chartered by NHI Industries and picked up the two helicopters in France. The weight restriction placed on the Antonov to protect our runway, taxiway and apron surfaces meant the aircraft had to arrive light after flying in from Jakarta (10hrs duration) and had to depart light and transit via Auckland International Airport—to take on more fuel—prior to flying to Hawaii.

With the massive wingspan, wide turning radius and wide jet blast zone, it was difficult to visualise if there were any issues with fitting the aircraft onto the apron. Thankfully Auckland International Airport had some computer modelling available for our use. By using that we identified the critical areas on the taxiways and apron that needed to be removed or avoided.

Things like stop signs on the perimeter road had to be removed, and distance-to-run marker boards identified as obstructions because the engine nacelles came close to them while taxiing. If the Antonov were to turn too tight while following some taxiway lines it might drop its main wheels into the soft grass verges, or have its wingtips hit the Fire Section. But after a great deal of planning and some temporary taxiway lines—made from flour—the arrival and departure went smoothly.
But  with many onlookers both inside and outside the perimeter fence, the aircraft made a faultless landing within a busy circuit followed by an incident free taxi to its parking position in front of No2 Hangar. The only annoyance for the day was the wet weather during the unloading of the precious cargo.

Although it was hard communicating to the all-Russian crew, they certainly enjoyed the presentation that was awarded to them to mark this significant occasion for Base Ohakea.

If there was to be a ‘player of the day’ award for this event it would have to go to Ohakea Tower staff for their excellent management of a very busy circuit and airspace during the Antonov’s arrival. At the time, the circuit was full with 3 student Airtrainers, 2 Iroquois, 2 Kingairs, Red Checkers practicing at Raumai, a Seasprite arrival and some ground based movements. Well done to our Tower Staff and well done Ohakea for achieving another unique milestone.

Some of the larger types to visited Ohakea previously, include:

  • B-17 and Lancaster bombers from WWII,
  • Valiant, Vulcan and Victor jet bombers of the Cold War era,
  • KB-50 and KC-135 (B707) air to air refuelling tankers, and
  • DC8 and VC10 jet liners.

After the runway was lengthened in the 1990s, Ohakea has landed:

  • C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy jet transports,
  • DC10 freighters (which delivered the Aermaachi jet trainers) and
  • Boeing B777 and  B747-400 jet airliners.

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