Former Ballina man Steven Andrews (pictured) always wanted to fly a Hercules into Ballina Airport, and today he did just that!

Flying Officer Andrews, a former Southern Cross High School student and now based at RAAF Base Richmond, piloted the RAAF C-130 Hercules into Ballina on an orientation flight and then took about 60 local defence cadets on a low flight up the coast.

Touchdown at Ballina airport was preceded by a low approach over the Richmond River.

On hand to greet the Hercules crew were local Army, Navy and Air Force cadets and their parents, along with Flying Officer Andrew’s brother Luke.

Flying Officer Andrews said he grew up in Ballina and did his schooling at East Ballina’s Southern Cross K12 School before leaving in 2002 to join the RAAF.

He was a member of Lismore’s No 326 Squadron Australian Air Force Cadets and had his first training flights from Lismore Airport.

Since joing the RAAF he has flown Hercules aircraft to the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons Islands, the United States and South-East Asia.

“Today is a training flight for the squadron,” he said, adding that ‘I’ve always wanted to fly a Hercules into Ballina’.

Flying Officer Andrews said flying a Hercules was ‘a lot of fun, but challenging’.

He said the Hercules was ‘by far the Air Force’s busiest aircraft’.

Flying Officer Eamon Hamilton of Defence Public Affairs said the RAAF had been using Hercules aircraft for 50 years.

The C-130 which flew into Ballina is the RAAF’s newest Hercules and has the capacity to transport up to 128 people, or 20 tonnes of humanitarian supplies.

Flying Officer Hamilton said RAAF Hercules had been involved in many mercy missions, being the first aircraft into Darwin after Cyclone Tracy and also rescuing Australians injured in the Bali bombings.

He said today’s flight gave local cadets first-hand experience of RAAF personnel and equipment at work.