A Boeing 747 Once Flew With 5 Engines

In 2016, Qantas needed to quickly transport a new replacement engine to Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite the fact that cargo planes are frequently used to transport aircraft parts, the Australian carrier chose a different way. In this instance, the quickest way to get the engine there was for it to catch a lift beneath the wing of another Boeing 747. Let’s take a look at how this played out.

QANTAS flying one a 747 with 5 engines
This image shows an unusual configuration of this Qantas Boeing 747-400. This 747, as we can see, has an unbalanced engine layout, with two on one side and three on the other.
Photo source: Qantas
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But is it even possible?

Of course, aircraft with unusual engine configurations are not unexpected in an era of extensive research and development into new engine technology. Indeed, both Airbus and Boeing are known to test aircraft with different engines. Boeing, for example, tested the new GE9X on a 747 before installing it in the new 777X. Meanwhile, Airbus tested the Trent XWB engine for the A350 on the A380.

READ | What can we expect from the Boeing 777X?

However, it’s pretty rare to see an extra engine on an aircraft, and an odd number of them. So why did Qantas operate a commercial Boeing 747 flight with five engines? And how did the airline manage it?

READ | NASA’s SOFIA Boeing 747’s Journey Comes To An End

What was the reason behind Qantas flying a 747 with 5 engines?

 A Qantas' Boeing 747 was left stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa, because of a damaged Rolls-Royce engine.
Photo Source: South African

According to Qantas, A Qantas’ Boeing 747 was left stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa, because of a damaged Rolls-Royce engine. The national carrier of Australia didn’t have to bother sourcing locally because it had plenty of spare parts in Sydney. However, it would have taken longer and cost more money to ship a spare engine to South Africa. After all, it is expensive to keep a 747 stock on the ground abroad when it is not generating revenue. Qantas was therefore unable to wait. However, a significant issue was that the spare power plant was too large to fit in a typical aircraft’s cargo hold.

While there would have been space on the Antonov An 225, when it was still in service, there has been only one in existence, making it expensive to hire. The replacement parts could have also been sent by sea, which would have been less costly but taken much longer.

Antonov An 225
Photo Source: Asia Financial
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Qantas’s had another opinion!

A Boeing 747 Once Flew With 5 Engines
Photo source: Business Insider

Thankfully, Qantas discovered a third choice. It would merely affix the backup engine to an existing 747’s wing. There are anchor points under the wing of the 747 that can be used to secure various objects. A spare engine may be one of them. Since this engine is not linked to the aircraft’s systems, it will not be able to provide additional power to the jumbo jet.

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However, it does affect how the aircraft flies. The aircraft experienced the following effects from the additional engine:

  • Pilots had to adjust for the unbalanced weight distribution of the aircraft because it was unbalanced.
  • The additional engine increased drag on one side of the aircraft, requiring the pilots to change the power on the opposite side to make up for it.
  • An additional engine made the plane heavier, necessitating more stops. In fact, Perth served as a stopover for fuel on this particular trip between Sydney and Johannesburg.
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When the plane landed safely in Johannesburg, the fifth engine was removed and installed on the grounded Boeing 747. Both jets were then able to return to Australia. As for the broken engine, it was shipped back the slow way to Sydney by sea.

Have you heard before about this unique trip? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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By Youssef Yahya

Hello everyone! I’m Youssef Yahya, the founder of Aviation for Aviators. I’m an Egyptian, born and raised in Saudi Arabia. My passion for aviation can’t be described! I fell in love with this field since childhood, these times when I was used to watching “Air Crash Investigation” on “National Geographic” every Tuesday night, this enthusiasm got and will always get evolved on each and every flight. My dream job since 10 was to live in the skies as a commercial pilot, this dream began when I was on an outbound flight operated by, the queen of the skies, a Boeing 747, I was just amazed by how aircraft fly and the amazing mechanism of these birds!!

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