Residents tour Soviet-era planes
Aircraft enthusiasts flocked to Port Hedland International Airport to catch a glimpse of two Soviet-era Antonov An-124 cargo jets.
Lucky Pilbara residents and airport staff also geared up for a guided tour of the first massive aircraft before it left to collect Rio Tinto mining equipment in Perth last week.
Antonov Airlines regional manager Australia Shaun Aisen said the visit of the two aircraft had been an excellent opportunity to see inside the global cargo transport.
“There are only three operators of the aircraft in the world — Volga-Dnepr Airlines, Antonov Airlines and Abu Dhabi’s Maximus Air,” he said.
“They fly like merchant ships and go for the top one per cent of the cargo industry, travelling from airport to airport waiting for the next job, can land on dirt with no support equipment — it’s a self-contained aircraft.”
Mr Aisen said the two aircraft making their way through PHIA last week were dropping off helicopters in Karratha and mining equipment but could easily carry trains, cars, generators and even other aircraft.
Ukrainian navigation system engineer Mykola Dokukin, stationed on the plane, said every flight and new country was an interesting experience.
“Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, USA, Canada, South America, Africa and maybe Australia too or places like Turkmenistan and where the temperature is negative 20 degrees.”
When not involved in the flight or maintenance, personnel can retire to crew quarters, with a kitchen designed to seat 30 passengers, use laptops and play boardgames.
“We sleep in flight, relax, have dinner and breakfast,” Mr Dokukin said. “This is a very interesting flight, every day is next countries and more people. The cargoes and work is very interesting and we get paid good money. I like all the countries, the whole world — it’s my second visit to Australia.
“Australia is good but very hot.”
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