Air Force’s heavy mover measures up in the Sinai
17 November 2015
A giant Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster strategic airlifter has proven its measure following the first landing of a RAAF C-17 into the narrow El Gorah airfield in northeast Sinai, Egypt.
The aircraft moved Australian peacekeepers for the next rotation of troops to Operation Mazurka, the ongoing Australian commitment to the Multinational Force and Observers, who continue to oversee the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
The event comes in the same week as the arrival of the eighth C-17 to join the RAAF's fleet operated by 36 Squadron at Amberley airbase west of Brisbane.
A brief shower of autumn rain added to the complexity of landing the massive aircraft on the constricted runway, with the eastern end of the runway obscured by the downpour as the aircraft touched down at the western end.
RAAF pilot and aircraft Captain Flight Lieutenant Ash Kissock said the cloud cover on the way into the airfield added to the challenge of landing on the unlit runway for the first time.
"The rain made the approach quite difficult, we didn't get a visual sighting of the airfield until quite late into the approach," he said.
"However, it's all part of the conditions we are expected to operate under."
Flight Lieutenant Kissock said the C-17 allows for greatly increased cargo loads to be moved to and from El Gorah.
"The C-130 can carry around 20 tonnes of cargo," he said.
"The C-17 can carry 77 tonnes, which provides a great amount of flexibility when moving people and equipment across the globe."
The Globemaster also proved its flexibility when it was time to depart El Gorah.
The C-17A is 174 feet long while the airfield is only 100 feet wide, with no turning apron and no aircraft tug available.
The departure required the pilots to complete a star-turn, akin to a five-point turn in a car, using reverse and forward thrust before the Globemaster could depart in the opposite direction to which it had landed.
The C-17 flown into El Gorah was at the time assigned to the Middle East-based Air Mobility Task Group, which operates RAAF transport aircraft to move Australian troops, equipments and coalition forces around the region, including tactical flights into and out of Iraq and Afghanistan.