Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CQ Plane Spotting Special Post - 2013 The Year in Review at Rockhampton Airport - July to December

During the second half of 2013, Rockhampton played host to both Military Exercise Talisman Saber 2013 (TS13) and Exercise Wallaby 2013, so military and other movements in support of these dominate this part of the 'Year in Review'.  There was also a few other notable events and movements too which have been mentioned by 'IAD' in this review too.

Australian Helicopters started its new role as provider for the Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service (CHRS), taking over from Jayrow Helicotpers.  Bell 412 VH-LSY took up residence at the CHRS building and began operations on Monday 1 July.  It would later be taken over by Bell 412EP VH-EPR which will be the main CHRS chopper to operate out of Rocky.

A rather unique visitor in the form of Mount Isa-based Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Pilatus PC-12/45 VH-NQB called into Rockhampton briefly.

Also in July, Rockhampton had the usual visits from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus A330-203 / KC-30A (MRTT) and Boeing B737-7ES / E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft performing missed approaches.

Rockhampton is a rather fortunate airport given that these unique RAAF aircraft visit at least each month.

The preparations for the joint Australian / American Military Exercise Talisman Saber 2013 (TS13) continued with the first American visitor in the form of United States Navy (USN) Lockheed C-130T Hercules - serial 165314 - coded JW5314 - of the VR-62 Fleet Logistic Unit.

The Hercules - named 'Shenanigans' - was in and out over Thursday 4 July and Friday 5 July.

Over the coming weeks, there would be many more US Navy and United States Marine Corps (USMC) Hercules transport aircraft to touch down at Rocky - along with the odd RAAF C-130J as well.

'IAD' aslo captured the first of many US Navy Boeing C-40A Clipper (B737-7AFC) arrivals into Rocky as well over the course of TS13.  On Saturday 6 July, C-40A 165834 / JV-834 of the VR-58 Fleet Logistics Support Squadron was photographed parked on the Northern hardstand at Rockhampton Airport.

On Monday 8 July, three Australian Army Commonwealth CA-32 (Bell 206B/OH-58A) Kiowa helicopters were captured - along with a RAAF Rescue Sikorsky S-76A VH-HRP "Choppa 3".

Also on Monday 8 July three United States Air Force (USAF) Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft touched down at Rockhampton Airport.

They were noted delivering four US Navy Sikorsky HH-60H Seahawk helicopters, which were 'stationed' at Rockhampton Airport during TS13.

'IAD' also captured one of several RAAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft to visit to Rocky too.

As TS13 started, a pair of US Navy Grumman C-2A Greyhound aircraft arrived into Rockhampton Airport, and remained there for the duration of the Exercise.  They flew daily sorties from Rocky to their Carrier which was stationed off the Central Queensland Coast.

Sunday 14 July was a particularly exciting and historic day as a pair of USMC Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft touched down at Rockhampton Airport.

The Ospreys - 168027 / EP-06 and 168031 / EP-08 of the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (VMM-265) "Dragons", which is part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing - were the first ever Ospreys to call into Australia.

The Talisman Saber 2013 Open Day was also held on Sunday 14 July at the Rockhampton Showgrounds, with an Army Blackhawk and Kiowa, along with a US Navy Seahawk on display.

Early on Saturday 20 July, five United States Air Force (USAF) Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft dropped around 400 paratroopers into the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA).   It was expected that the five C-17s - which flew direct from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and refuelled over Hawaii - were then to land at Rockhampton Airport briefly.  However, local plane spotters awoke on Saturday morning to find a thick blanket of fog covering the Airport, and all five C-17s bypassed Rocky and landed at Amberley Air Force Base.

Rockhampton did see some specially modified USAF Special Forces MC-130 aircraft that popped in over various days and nights during TS13.

Another USAF visitor on Friday 26 July was Gulfstream C-37A (G-V) bizjet 01-0054.

There were also more visits by the USMC Ospreys, along with the spectacular USMC Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopters.

The month - and TS13 - ended with two more USAF C-17s and an Omni Air International Boeing B767-319(ER) - N396AX - all arriving late on Sunday 28 July, to start to transport equipment and personnel home.

One of the C-17s broke down and was on the ground at Rockhampton into August, causing heavy-jet visitors to pop in during the start of the month to be parked on the main taxiway Juliette to be unloaded and loaded.

Along with the RAAF Airbus KC-30A (MRTT), there was also more RAAF C-17 visits, along with another USAF C-17.

However the star arrival - and much anticipated by local plane spotters - was the massive USAF Lockheed C-5B Galaxy 86-0018, which arrived after dark on Friday 9 August.

The C-5 Galaxy came to Rocky to load the four US Navy HH-60H Seahawks and take them back home as TS13 had officially concluded. A personal highlight for 'IAD' was the take-off the USAF C-17 and then the C-5 Galaxy. To get enough height to clear Mt Archer, the C-5 performed a 270 degrees right turn after take off, and flew directly back over the Airport to the delight of the crowd of spotters that had gathered, before it disappeared over the city.

Another Omni B767-300 - N387AX - came into Rocky to take the last of the US troops back home.

For TS13 Omni Air International was the only passenger charter operator, while the Australian Defence Force utilised their own RAAF aircraft.

August ended with the Federal Election campaign in full swing and both RAAF B737BBJs and both chartered Alliance Fokker F-70s - VH-JFB and VH-JFE - calling in.

September proved to be a quieter month, although there were again more visits by RAAF KC-30’s.

Virgin Australia's (at the time) new B737-800 VH-YFR was spotted at Rockhampton wearing commemorative titles celebrating that is the 100th aircraft operated by Virgin Australia / Virgin Blue Airlines.

On the lighter side, R-Mach Aviation took delivery of Lancair 4 N43D.

As September drew to a close, the action picked up again at Rocky with preparations beginning for the upcoming Singapore Armed Force's Exercise Wallaby 2013.  Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Lockheed C-130H Hercules transport aircraft made numerous visits, while Polet Aviakompania (Polet Airlines) Antonov AN-124 RA-82068 returned to Rocky, making two trips from Singapore delivering RSAF Chinook and Apache helicopters.

The RSAF Super Pumas also arrived from Oakey as they do each year.

October started with a usual RAAF KC-30 visitor - this meant all four operational RAAF KC-30s had visited Rocky during 2013.  October also saw the first 'wave' of heavy-jet passenger charters into Rockhampton in support of Exercise Wallaby with Air New Zealand B772 ZK-OKC and B744 ZK-NBV, Qantas B744 VH-OEB and B744ER VH-OEG, and Singapore Airlines B772s 9V-SVH, 9V-SVK and 9V-SVO all touching down at various times over the month.

Six RSAF F-16C/D Block 52 Version Fighting Falcon jets touched down for around two weeks of operations out of Rocky during Wallaby 2013.  They usually flew during the afternoon and evening, making a spectacular sight as they departed Rocky after dusk with full afterburners glowing behind them.

Finally during October, there was a pair of RAAF Super King Airs, along with a pair of Australian Army Chinooks to pop into Rocky.

November brought in more heavy-jet passenger charter flights for Wallaby 2013 with Singapore Airlines B772’s 9V-SRL and 9V-SRK, along with Qantas B744s VH-OJC and VH-OJI calling in.

An interesting 'light' visitor was brand new Hawker Beechcraft 350i Super King Air N841KA which called in late in November on a pilot training flight.

A pair of RAAF F/A-18B Hornet fighter aircraft made an unscheduled, but most welcome visit to Rockhampton on Friday 22 November, while on a flight North to Townsville.  RAAF Wedgetail A30-004 was captured spectacularly by 'IAD' on Monday 25 November performing a missed approach on Rocky's Runway 33.

The last few days of the month brought the return of the Polet Anotonv AN-124 RA-82068 to Rocky.  It would again make two visits this time to take the RSAF Apache and Chinook helicopters home to Singapore.

Interestingly, with the Antonov still on the ground, the Qantas B744 VH-OJI that called in on Friday 29 November was parked in front of the Rockhampton Air Traffic Control Tower.

VH-OJI made a spectacular return to Rocky on Saturday 30 November, drawing a large number of interesting on-lookers to the Airport.

As the year drew to a close, it was reported in early December that Virgin Australia had notified the Rockhampton Regional Council of its plans to cancel its direct flight between Rockhampton and Townsville early in the new year.  The flights between Rocky and Townsville are currently operated by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) ATR 72 aircraft.

December also saw the Polet Antonov AN-124 RA-82068 return yet again - along with multiple visits by RSAF C-130H Hercules transport aircraft - signalling the end to yet another Exercise Wallaby.

With a RAAF Exercise on in Townsville, Rockhampton played host to some C-130J arrivals, along with missed approaches by C-17s, KC-30s and Wedgetails.  At the conclusion of the Exercise, Australian Army Sikorsky S-70A-9 Blackhawk helicopters called in making their way South.

On Sunday 15 December, VistaJet Bombardier Global Express XRS OE-LGX called in briefly.

While Rockhampton receives the occasional bizjet visitor, this was certainly the 'best' for the year!

And so concludes the 'Year in Review' at Rockhampton Airport for 2013.

My sincere thanks to 'IAD' for compiling the material for this Blog Post!

On behalf of the Central Queensland Plane Spotting Blog, I'd like to wish all contributors and followers of the Blog a very safe, happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!  Happy plane spotting!

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