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.