Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Another Russian Visitor


We're working out of an airport with an implausibly long runway for its location and amount of traffic. I think it's a case of a local airport authority attempting to manifest, "If you build it, they will come," a line from a movie that came out before some working commercial pilots were born. (I never saw it, but I understand it's about a guy who builds a baseball diamond in a cornfield and then the ghosts of his favourite old time players come and use it). Maybe ghostly B747s come by in the middle of the night, but a day or so ago a real live Antonov-124 showed up.

A fleet of double-long fuel trucks arrived from the big city to haul enough fuel for it. They loaded it full of helicopters I'm told and it taxied out. It was sitting on a taxiway by the threshold as I landed, so we stuck around to watch it take off. I used up my camera battery taking video of it slowly taxiing into position, and then doing run ups in position, so this pic is from someone else's camera phone. I kept expecting it to do something. "I guess they have a lot of checklists to run," I suggested to one of my fellow spectators.

"Yeah, and it takes a long time, because they're all in Russian."

Everyone with a licence to be on the apron was watching from the airside, and the road paralleling the runway was lined with the cars of local spectators. It wasn't until started rolling, with what seemed to be impossibly low acceleration, that we realized we should have started a pool on when it would rotate. It used most of the runway, but finally the nosewheel came up and the whole aircraft followed. And then we laughed. It wasn't climbing very fast, and it was so big that it was still clearly visible as it climbed away, so it appeared to just hang there in the sky at the end of the runway. We made jokes about the controllers being able to go for coffee before it reached the handoff altitude.

It left a fair bit of smoke behind it, too.

17 comments:

Colin Summers said...

Those high wings are nice in a crosswind landing. Less likely to drag a wing tip, you know?

FlyingHigh said...

It's been around the Australian scene for a while, but just maybe you and some of your readers haven't seen thi one departing Canberra, Australia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O20fo-WqRmc

Traveller said...

I've loaded/unloaded these a time or three.

All really big airplanes have that "hanging in the air" aspect as they take-off/climb-out.

Most exciting thing I ever saw was a maximum performance take-off of a C-5 that was empty. It used only 1200 feet of runway and then made like a homesick angel.

q-pheevr said...

"Full of helicopters" is a fun phrase, and not one I've encountered very often.

The Prince George Citizen has a video on YouTube that shows the inside, and one of the helicopters being loaded. It's not a very large helicopter, but they did manage to fit seven of the things in there.

Aviatrix said...

FlyingHigh, I can't watch YouTube right now, but I'm guessing that's the one taken by the controllers as the Antonov uses up the entire runway and the controllers wonder out loud if it will clear the hills. It's an international classic.

Richard said...

At a guess, the funding for your runway came from NATO, which, in Cold War days liked to have major diversion fields where anything could land safely, even with a full war load of ordnance on board. Macrianhanish in Argyll is/was another, which the RAF evacuated a while ago and turned over to the local council which is wondering what to do with it!

D.B. said...

You should see that movie. It's not really about baseball, it's about fathers and sons - a chick flick for guys. Far and away the best thing Kevin Costner ever made.

rw2 said...

Field of Dreams was such a cultural touchstone in the US that the baseball field they built in the middle of nowhere to film the movie still exists as a tourist destination. It's even on the Chicago sectional. We happened to fly over it on our way from the Chicago area to the Rockies a couple summers ago.

http://is.gd/z2WXzd (Look just to the right of Dyersville)

Jasper said...

I have been told that the reason the AN-124 sits so long at the end of the runway is not because of a long checklist, but because they are waiting for all of the engine temperatures to warm up and stabilize before stressing them in a take-off.

I saw one of these aircraft years ago at KPDX take an entire concrete plant to Armenia to help rebuild the country after an earthquake.

john said...

You should make it a point to see Field of Dreams sometime. It's so corny and hackneyed, so unabashedly in love with the game, you will embarrass yourself when those tears come. And they will come.

In the rankings of best baseball movies, that one by Kevin Costner movie is usually ranked just below "Bull Durham", starring, er..., Kevin Costner, and just above "For the Love of the Game", starring, ummm ...., Kevin Costner.

You can certainly substitute "The Natural" and get Robert Redford with no loss in accuracy. End of baseball.

I think in that Australian clip, they called the A124 "the vodka burner", implying that was the reason the takeoff roll lasted so long.

Sarah said...

Looks like a beast. The comparable US aircraft is the C5 ... which is just a little smaller.

Big airplanes do look strange in the air or take-off... the eye is just calibrated to smaller ones, and even 747s have that "too big to fly" look.

The largest I've ever seen was the A380, at Oshkosh in 2011. Light, and showing off, it had a supernatural deck angle and low speed levitation off the runway.

Aviatrix said...

I'm pretty sure calling it a "vodka burner" was no different than calling a Japanese motorcycle a "rice rocket." It's just a nod to an iconic product of the country of origin.

Wirelizard said...

As soon as you wrote "an airport with an implausibly long runway for its location and amount of traffic" and I remembered that your last post explicitly mentioned flying in BC, I figured you had to be in PG.

11,450ft out in PG? Who on earth thought that was a good plan?

Aviatrix said...

What's hilarious is when some pilot slavishly follows an SOP that forbids intersection departures, and takes the time to backtrack, when a departure from the intersection would give them triple the take-off run of their home field. ATC never complains.

Majroj said...

Good old "CONDOR". Saw a few of those in Afghanistan!

borealone said...

Houston, we have Smirnoff...

Kip336 said...

I see the Antonov taking off every month from the field I work at, it's a scheduled 'charter' flight, great to see.

I find it funny how to take a pushback tractor tow it all the way to the runway (A good few miles from the cargo aprons.), with the rear hatch open. Once at the runway, the towbar is disconnected, drove around the plane and brought in before engine start, Great plane!