Air Force Cadets get a thrill when Hercules lands in Ballina
THINGS got very serious and very real for 120 Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC) as they approached the Air Force C-130J Hercules transport turning on the Ballina runway.
Usually the only reason you would be in this airplane is if you are badly injured and being evacuated out of a war zone or disaster region.
The planes have been used extensively in the middle east and relief operations in Bali and Fiji and are currently heading towards Pap New Guinea as part of training for new pilots.
Luckily for these North Coast cadets it was a day of fun and a rare opportunity to see inside the 'workhorse' of the Australian air force.
Pilot, and former resident of Ballina, Flight Lieutenant Steve Andrews said it was a rare opportunity to bring a Hercules to Ballina.
"I can imagine what will be going through the minds of our passengers, as I graduated from Southern Cross School K-12 in 2000 and was a member of No. 326 (AAFC) Squadron in Lismore," he said.
"They are very busy aircraft and have seen a lot of action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They are very much a battle hardened aircraft.
It is an exceptionally vital aircraft that is very very capable in terms of all-weather aircraft, day or night, whether delivering personnel or cargo.
"This is one fo the few aircraft that can fly at low level and night vision goggles, conduct precision airdrop with very accurate time and target with only two pilots.
"It was really great to bring the next generation of pilots up to my home town."
Australian Air Force Cadet Gemma Kuiters said she was very nervous and excited to be able to see the plane in action as they open the rear doors on the plane.
"It is a lot bigger than I thought it was," she said.
"It will be a good experience to see the different types of aircraft and really just a bit of fun."