The Striker, a $750,000 fire truck, is optimized for use at airports and is often shown to visiting delegations. The truck can travel at speeds of up to 70 mph carrying thousands of gallons of water. Water cannons controlled by a joystick are mounted on the front bumper and in a turret on top.

Atlanta‘s weather forecast shows a slight chance of showers on Sept. 24, but rain or shine, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has devised a wet way to welcome its newest cargo carrier. 

Singapore Airlines Cargo‘s inaugural weekly flight will be greeted by a “water salute” when it touches down Thursday at 9 p.m. at the start of a journey that includes stops in Europe and the Middle East before heading back to Singapore. The flight is the airport’s first by an around-the-world freighter.

The water salute is when the airport’s massive yellow fire trucks, six-wheeled behemoths called Strikers, use their powerful front-mounted cannons to create an archway of water through which the arriving plane will pass, said Warren Jones, Hartsfield’s aviation development director.   

The airport has reason to celebrate. The flight comes in the wake of 10 years of visits to Singapore, where airport officials held multiple talks with the airline and other stakeholders there.  The new flight will create 10 to 15 jobs directly and bring an estimated $5 million annual economic impact to Atlanta, Mr. Jones said.

“The time is right for Singapore Airlines. Imports and exports are picking up, and they are one of the top five cargo airlines in the world,” Mr. Jones said. 

The Metro Atlanta Chamber will help the airport welcome the new airline.

““This new trade lane will enable companies in Atlanta and the Southeastern U.S. to gain access to even more customers and markets across Asia,” said Bob Pertierra, vice president of supply chain development for the chamber, who has traveled to Singapore with airport officials in the past. 

As the economy recovers and cargo hauls increase, the airport hopes Singapore Airlines will eventually expand its presence here.  For now, Atlanta is “very excited” have them here, Mr. Jones said. 

The water salute is used to welcome new carriers or VIPs to Atlanta or to see off organizations and officials on important trips.  Mr. Jones said a water salute was used when the Atlanta Falcons flew to Japan for an exhibition game in 2005.

In 2007, The tradition was curtailed during a Georgia drought, but it has resumed now that water reserves have returned to pre-drought levels.

Singapore Airlines Cargo is the 12th cargo carrier to operate flights into Hartsfield-Jackson.  The Atlanta airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic, ranks 30th in the world in terms of cargo volume. Tonnage dropped 9 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year, according to Airports Council International, an airport trade group. 

According to Hartsfield-Jackson statistics, the cargo that moves through the airport sustains 255,000 jobs and $44.7 billion in business sales in the six-state Southeastern region including Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...