Planespotting at Mount Hotham Airport

For most people a winter drive up the mountains means a skiing holiday, but for me it was a chance to photograph planes at Australia’s highest altitude airport.

Approaching Mount Hotham: Qantas Dash-8 200 VH-TQG

That airport is Mount Hotham, opened in 2000 to serve the ski resort of the same name, which is around 20 kilometres down the Great Alpine Road and 500 metres further up the mountain. The airport itself is located at an elevation of at 1,298 metres (4,260 feet) above sea level, and just below the winter snow line – when I visited light snow was falling.

Landside of Mount Hotham Airport

I timed my trip to fall during ski season, when QantasLink operates flights between Mount Hotham to Sydney. As you can see by the schedule, the flights target people flying in for a weekend at the snow, and then flying back to the city of work on Monday.

2012 QantasLink schedule for Mount Hotham Airport

Inside the terminal were all the usual things you expect to see – check-in desks:

Check in counters at Arrivals door at Mount Hotham Airport

Departure gate:

Departure gate at Mount Hotham Airport

Arrivals gate:

Arrivals door at Mount Hotham Airport

And the luggage carousel:

Baggage collection area at Mount Hotham Airport

The airport is located about 25 kilometres (as the crow flies) from the nearest town of Omeo, so the electricity supply is provided by solar panels and a wind turbine supply.

Solar panels and a wind turbine to supply power, as well as LPG tanks

With the first QantasLink flight soon to arrive, I asked the airport manager whether there was any way to get to the other side of the runway to get a photo – no trouble on that front – he said to just follow the boundary fence all the way around.

Part of the runway atop an embankment at Mount Hotham Airport

The single asphalt runway is 1,460 metres (4,790 feet) long, with the eastern end sitting on an embankment, and the centre section at the bottom of a cutting.

View Larger Map

I climbed to the top of a large hill on the north side of the airport, where I was able to see both ends of the runway.

Southern end of runway 11/29

Northern end of runway 11/29

Down on the apron below was a single private plane – a Piper PA-31-310 Navajo with registration VH-OYM.

On the apron at Mount Hotham: Piper PA-31-310 Navajo VH-OYM

I waited around atop the hill, watching the clouds drift past the sun and threaten to drop snow, when the pilot fired up the Navajo and took off.

Piper PA-31-310 Navajo VH-OYM departs Mount Hotham

The next plane I saw was something more upmarket – Cessna Citation 501 business jet VH-VPM.

Cessna Citation 501 VH-VPM on the ground at Mount Hotham Airport

By that point I had been standing around in the cold for over an hour, and the QantasLink flight was nowhere to be found, and I figured it would be a good idea to phone the automated flight information line to see where it was up to. Turns out the morning flight had been cancelled!

With a few hours until the next scheduled flight, I retreated to the car to warm up, returning to the hill with enough time to see the arrival of a QantasLink Dash-8 200 turboprop – running around 30 minutes late.

Touchdown at Mount Hotham: Qantas Dash-8 200 VH-TQG

After turning around at the end of the runway, the aircraft taxied back down the runway to the terminal.

Having turned around at the end of runway 29, VH-TQG heads for the terminal

A number of ground crew were in attendance, who unloaded the plane, and then shut down the engines.

Ground crew wave VH-TQG into the bay

The plane sat on the ground for an hour, with snow starting to fall from the sky as the light started to fade. I was worried that it would soon be too dark to photograph the departure, but got lucky – the engines came to life, and the crew taxied out to the runway.

The short field performance of a Dash-8 200 sure is impressive – 300 or so metres down the runway and the nose was already in the air!

The Dash-8 200 doesn't need runway to take off!

Up, up and away!

Up and over the mountains bound for Sydney

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2 Responses to “Planespotting at Mount Hotham Airport”

  1. Ives says:

    Wow that’s some historical footage there, given the only way by air is via charter flights. 🙁

    Anyway found this footage of a final approach on YouTube which is pretty neat.

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