What the pilots of VH-OJA saw seconds before landing a 747 at HARS

From the ground, and from the cockpit, the Qantas gifting of its first 747-400 to HARS, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at the tiny Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park looked sensational.

As the frame from the cockpit Go Pro camera at top of page shows, the closed roadway under its wheels as it settled firmly on runway 16 was packed with plane spotters and spectators, and inside the airport even more so at many of the vantage points.

That position of the camera exaggerates the thickness of the divide between the main window panes of the cockpit, but this is raw, uncolour corrected footage, that shows both the overcast that lifted quickly lifted to a fine sunny day after touchdown,  and the elevated first officer view of a runway so short and terrain constrained it can be reasonably surmised that anyone who flies a very large jet, is highly unlikely to deliberately land on in their entire career.

At 30 metres across the 1819 metre runway was so narrow that the outboard engines were over grass , yet the deviation from the centreline was only reported as 30 cms, a measure of a very precise landing.

The Go Pro video can be viewed or downloaded here, runs for more than four minutes, includes some reverse view cockpit vision, and takes up 170 Mb.

However to fully understand the landing, this YouTube by the crew behind Super 100 MPH (who do car racing videos) from the ground not only shows just how fast reverse thrust idle was selected (just in case)  and the spoilers were used, but has wild sound of excited children talking to their parents about something they will tell their great grandchildren about, and if claims about rising longevity are right, in the early twenty second century.

Thus are the sounds, and sights, and voices of the twenty teens a part of the story of this iconic Queen of the Skies, for decades and perhaps centuries to come.  A frame from the YouTube is shown below. It doesn’t click through, go here to see it in full.

Not wasting a metre of runway, OJA a split second from main gear contact

VH-OJA took off at an all up weight of 201,000 kgs, compared to a possible maximum take off weight of 397,200 kg, and carried 20,000 kg of fuel, compared to a maximum fuel load of 201,000 kg, making the landing at an aerodrome more suited to small private aircraft safe, but demanding intensive planning.

The photo below shows it about a second after touchdown.

VH-OJA touchdown at HARS: James Morgan

Once the towback from the end of the 1819 metre runway was over the commander of the flight into history, Captain Greg Matthews, gave the keys to VH-OJA, which was also the 12th Boeing 747-400 to be delivered, to Bob De La Hunty, the president and driving force of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.

Captain Greg Matthews hands Bob De La Hunty keys to HARS biggest gift, a 747: James Morgan photo

One day perhaps one of the Qantas A380s might cause as much excitement as its gifting of its first 747-400. And who knows what the future holds for the airport itself, if economical and light regional airliner designs and the growth of the Illawarra between Kiama and Wollongong leads to a reinstating of scheduled services.

If such a future comes to pass, Qantas will have the advantage of an enormous bill board hanging over the roadway near the HARS hangar in the form of the tail of OJA. It would be hard to compete with that for marketing clout!

After the ‘party’ was over the clouds cleared. This is what VH-OJA looked like from inside the adjacent HARS museum later today.

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