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.
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.
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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?
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What was the reason behind Qantas flying a 747 with 5 engines?
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.
Qantas’s had another opinion!
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.
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.
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.
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