Some might say that 3’s a crowd and it certainly looked odd when a Qantas 747 took off from Sydney Airport for Johannesburg today with an extra passenger strapped under its left wing – a 6-tonne jet engine.
Flight QF63 travelled with an additional 5th Rolls Royce engine on its left wing, fitted between the body of the aircraft and the inner-most engine on the port (left) side of the aircraft.
It’s all about spares and repairs
The extra engine was not powered up for the flight – “we’re essentially ferrying across a very large spare part from our engineering HQ in Sydney (Airport) so it can be fitted to one of our other Boeing 747s in Johannesburg,” Qantas said in a statement.
“We’re undertaking this rare task to get our customers and our aircraft on their way as quickly as possible – rather than shipping the engine across by boat or chartering a freighter aircraft.”
The engine is fitted to anchor points and a supporting strut under the wing of the aircraft, which allows a supporting strut to be attached under the wing.
Understandably, “the fifth engine adds extra weight and drag to the aircraft, meaning today’s flight had to make a quick refuelling stop in Perth.”
“Additional drag is caused by air travelling around the spare engine during flight and, to counterbalance this, our pilots are trained to use the flight controls to ensure the aircraft flies straight, level and safely.”
Once QF63 lands in Johannesburg the spare engine will be removed and fitted to the waiting QF64 flight back to Sydney Airport and the faulty engine will travel back in a more traditional method, by sea.
The last time Qantas undertook the task of carrying an additional engine under a wing was back in 2011 on a 747.
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