A couple of weekends ago the world’s biggest aeroplane came to Perth. Thousands of aviation enthusiasts flocked to the airport to catch a glimpse of it. Not even a two hour delay in Kuala Lumpur before the last leg of its journey to deliver a 116 tonne generator for a mine, deterred people.
My husband and I were equally keen to see it. When we lived in Dubai our house was under the flight path of busy Dubai airport and we loved watching the planes take off one after the other, quite often only about 90 seconds apart. It became a regular pastime especially when we were in the pool with the kids, to watch and identify all the planes.
This plane is in a league of its own though, and none of us had ever seen it. The Antonov 225 was built in Ukraine in the ‘80’s to carry the Russian space shuttle. It has since been converted to carry cargo weighing up to 250 tonnes.
When I told Child No 2 that Ironman and I were going to try and see this plane, she shook her head and said: “You have to be old to think that’s interesting”. “I’m not old!” I replied, taken aback. She only raised her eyebrows as if to say: “If you say so!”
Old or not, we didn’t feel like waiting for 4 hours to see this plane so we decided on a different tactic. All morning my husband watched the Perth airport flight tracker to check in which direction the planes were landing and worked out a perfect spot to see it right under the flight path. We drove there, parked the car and I took some practice photos of other planes coming in overhead. We were quite close to the airport and had avoided the throngs of people and traffic jams and generally quite pleased with ourselves.
Thirty five minutes before the Antonov was due to land, a plane suddenly took off in our direction though, meaning the wind direction had changed and the Antonov would be landing from the opposite side. Our hearts sank. Getting to the airport at that point was out of the question due to the traffic, and getting around the airport to the other side to wait under the flight path there would take much longer than 35 minutes. We weren’t ready to give up yet, we’d come all that way and it was still something we badly wanted to see. After swiftly planning the fastest way to get around to the other side of the airport Ironman said: “Let’s go”. We jumped back in the car and took off.
Twenty minutes later we’d nearly got there when we got stuck in traffic. I sat ready with my camera in hand. We had minutes to spare and we pulled off at the first possible opportunity just as Ironman spotted the Antonov in the distance. It was truly as impressive as we’d thought, even though we weren’t as close as we’d hoped to have been. To see an 88 metre long plane with 6 engines, 7 sets of back wheels and a wing span of 84 metres glide effortlessly through the sky had us in awe.
Within a few seconds it had disappeared from our view but we were happy that we’d gone. It was going to be at Perth airport for another day and a half (it took 12 hours just to unload the mining generator through the front of the plane that lifts up). Like true (old?) enthusiasts we went to the airport the next day to see it where it was parked in front of the international terminal. It was massive, but the true perspective of its size only sunk in when a Boeing 737 taxied past and you were able to compare the size of the two planes.
But we still hadn’t seen the king of the sky fly overhead so the next morning we left home at 4:30am to try and be under its flight path as it took off at 5:30am. We were there by about 5am, with one other hopeful person. We got out of the car and stood chatting to the friendly gentleman in the dark and chilly early morning. We desperately hoped we were in the right spot this time. Plane after plane started taking off and flew straight overhead, most of them taking fly-in-fly-out miners up north. We breathed a sigh of relief, but still worried that the wind might change again and leave us stranded in the wrong spot. The gentleman we’d been chatting to said drily: ”This is as good a spot as you’ll get. I might move 5 feet that way.” By this time there were about 30 to 40 other cars parked there as well with some people still in their pyjamas.
Around 6am we heard another plane take off in our direction, but this was very distinctively a much louder and bigger sound than all the previous ones. I didn’t bother with my camera since it was still dark but had my phone ready to video. It didn’t disappoint. It came straight overhead, and away it went, its first visit to Australia having proven a very popular one. My husband wasn’t videoing and watching it with the naked eye he was struck by the fire in all 6 engines in stark contrast to the dark sky. We were all spellbound by the sheer size of it and the engineering behind getting a machine of that size and weight to take to the skies. It was worth leaving home at 4:30am and standing around in the freezing cold for about an hour. I didn’t get the photos I wanted though and neither does the video do it justice so I suppose these two “oldies” will go and see it again if it ever returns to Perth.