When a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III began its flight up the Clarence River on Friday May 12, social media posts began appearing almost immediately.
At 11.14am, as the plane continued its river-hugging flight, Maclean’s Gail Driscoll just happened to have a camera in her hands.
“I was just lucky that I was out on the deck with my camera, getting ready to take photos of a cheeky young butcherbird,” she posted on the Independent’s Facebook page.
“At first, I panicked, thinking it was going to do a crash landing on the river; then I remembered I had my camera in my hand!”
Many posts commented on how low the plane was flying. “What was it doing flying so low in the area?” Lynne Ryan wondered.
“I don’t know, but we honestly thought it was going to crash,” replied Melissa Morris.
The military’s Defence Media team wasn’t too interested in providing residents with any explanation, however; replying to the Independent’s inquiry with a terse, “Media has been informed that it was flight training”, in an email marked ‘unclassified’.
Luke Tenkate posted: “I flew from Baghdad to Kuwait in one of those.”
The Royal Australian Air Force’s website states: “The C-17A Globemaster III provides Air Force with an unprecedented capacity for strategic air lift.
“It allows Australia to rapidly deploy troops, supplies, combat vehicles, heavy equipment and helicopters anywhere in the world.
“…It can carry up to 77 tonnes, ranging from an Abrams Tank, four Bushmaster vehicles, three Black Hawk helicopters, or be converted to an aero-medical evacuation capacity.
“Based at RAAF Base Amberley, the eight C-17As provided the backbone of the air-link for Operation Slipper in Afghanistan.
“Capable of landing on dirt strips as short as 3,500 feet, it carried supplies and personnel between Australia and the Middle East.
“In addition to supporting personnel on deployments, Air Force C-17As have been an integral part of disaster relief and humanitarian missions.
“Recent activities have included Operation Queensland Flood Assist, Operation Christchurch Assist, Operation Philippines Assist, Operation Southern Indian Ocean, Operation Bring Them Home and Operation OKRA.”