Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine) was opened in 1970 to accommodate an increasing number of passenger jet aircraft. Initially the Boeing 707 was a common sight, together with Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 747 aircraft.
Nowdays the majority of jet aircraft flying in and out are manufactured by Airbus, 320 and 330’s on domestic routes up to the 380 on international routes. De Havilland (Bombardier) Dash 8’s are used on some Regional routes, while Rex Aviation prefers SAAB 340’s for country link services from Melbourne.
Major airlines operating from Tullamarine include Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar, Tiger, Virgin and Malaysian, to name a few. A variety of other international carriers have regular flights into Melbourne with a major benefit being that no curfew exists on flight operations, unlike Sydney airport.
Northerly winds can be very strong in Melbourne and often Runway 34 is used where aircraft track to the Plenty NDB (218 KHz) track over the Runway 26 threshold at Melbourne Essendon (YMEN), then perform a right turn to line up with Runway 34.
Runway 34 has a series of high powered strobe lights on the approach. These were installed after an incident on 19 June, 1985, when a Garuda Boeing 747 mistakenly approached YMEN instead of YMML. According to a newspaper report in “The Melbourne Age”, the Garuda First Officer mistook Runway 35 at Essendon for Runway 34 at Tullamarine.
The aircraft was preparing to land on a runway which would not cope with a 747 and air traffic controllers advised the Garuda 747 to abort its landing approach. The aircraft had been cleared for a visual approach to Runway 34 at Tullamarine however when the Garuda aircraft reported visual and turning right onto Runway 34 both Essendon and Tullamarine air traffic controllers realized a problem existed and vectored the aircraft to climb away from Essendon.