Attention Ballina residents: your eyes are not deceiving you if you spot a pair of Air Force C-130J Hercules transport aircraft flying low to the ground this afternoon.
The RAAF has advised that, subject to weather conditions, the two aircraft will fly down to an altitude of 75 metres, as well as making approaches to Ballina Airport between 3.15pm and 4pm.
It’s part of a training course to prepare the next generation of C-130J Hercules aircrew for future operations.
Flight lieutenant Steven Andrews, a C-130J qualified flying instructor said as part of the six-month course pilots first had to work in a simulator before getting into the cockpit of a real Hercules.
‘Once the students demonstrate in the simulator they can operate the aircraft safely, we bring them into the real Hercules, initially flying around RAAF Base Richmond.
‘We then expand the student’s area of training to include airfields like Ballina to test their ability to apply newly-learned flying skills in unfamiliar environments.
‘The terrain around Ballina certainly presents a challenge for the students, who are accustomed to flying the smaller and more nimble PC-9 training aircraft.
‘The C-130J is powered by four 4600-horsepower turboprops and has a maximum weight of 70 tonnes, which means the students have to think further ahead when flying.’
Introduced to RAAF service in 1999, the C-130J is the latest model of the Hercules transport series that first arrived in Australia with the C-130A in 1958.
The C-130J is capable of carrying up to 20 tonnes of cargo or more than 120 passengers, and is crewed by two pilots and a loadmaster.
‘These students are joining a legacy of Hercules operations that has delivered relief to communities in need, both at home and abroad,’ flight lieutenant Andrews said.