Two former RAAF Boeing 707 tanker transports have departed Richmond where they have been laid up for over three years, bound for a new home in the US with Omega Air Services.
The aircraft – N624RH which was formerly A20-624, and N629RH which was A20-629 – departed Richmond about 20 minutes apart on October 23 bound for the US via Pago Pago and Hawaii. A third 707 – N623RH, formerly A20-623 – is scheduled to depart Richmond by October 26 after a delaminated rudder trim tab has been repaired. All three are former Qantas 707-338Cs which were acquired by the RAAF in the 1980s, and all three were placed on the US register in June this year.
The aircraft are initially bound for different locations in the US. N624RH – the final RAAF 707 to be retired – will fly to Brunswick in Georgia where it will receive a major check before entering service with Omega early next year. For the short term, it will retain its wingtip mounted hose and drogue refuelling pods, but it is planned to convert this to Omega’s twin point fuselage mounted hose and drogue system at a later date. N629RH will fly to Omega’s San Antonio home base in Texas where it will also receive a major service and will be equipped with the twin point system, and is expected to enter service with Omega in late 2012.
N623RH will initially be placed in storage at Victorville in California for about two years, but is scheduled to be the first of the three aircraft to be re-engined with P&W JT8 engines – common to the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 airliner – which provide 20 per cent more thrust, are Stage 4 noise compliant, and consume 30 per cent less fuel than the current P&W TF33s. It is not known whether the other jets will be re-engined.
Omega has also acquired the RAAF’s former 707 simulator which is located at Richmond. The sim is scheduled to be removed from the 285SQN simulator building with the assistance of CAE Australia in early November, and transported by ship to the US before being installed at the Pan Am training facility in Las Vegas. It is expected the sim will be installed and certified by March next year.
The RAAF retired the last of its 707s from service on June 30 2008. On that day, the operating squadron 33SQN ceased operations at Richmond, and stood up the following day at Amberley to prepare for the delivery of the first Airbus KC-30A MRTTs. But the MRTT delivery has been delayed by more than two and a half years, with the first example arriving in June this year.
During the interim period, the RAAF has been forced to use USAF tankers or to lease Omega’s 707 and KDC-10 tankers for major exercises and deployments, and for the Super Hornet delivery flights. Omega lost one of its two 707s in a fiery crash on takeoff at NAS Pt Mugu near Los Angeles in May this year.
Omega personnel arrived at Richmond in June this year for an initial survey, and were followed in September by maintenance and flight crews to begin working and training on the 707s. Simulator training was conducted on the former RAAF sim, and flight tests and an FAA inspection were conducted in the week prior to departure. Anecdotal reports suggest the aircraft were in relatively good condition considering they were only placed in preservation storage designed to last six month, with few new parts and just one engine change between the three being required to make them airworthy.