Cape Town - A Qantas flights from Sydney to Johannesburg recently took off with an extra passenger on board – a 10 tonne Rolls Royce engine.
And while this might seem slightly unlikely, since the Boeing 747 already stamps an impressive silhouette in the sky with four powerful engines and a distinctive upper deck - the 747 does in fact have the ability to carry a fifth engine, fitted between the body of the aircraft and the inner-most engine on the port (left) side of the aircraft.
The flight took place on Thursday, 7 January 2016. Qantas said in a statement that the extra engine isn’t powered up for the flight, "We were essentially ferrying across a very large spare part from our engineering HQ in Sydney so it can be fitted to one of our other Boeing 747s in Johannesburg."
The airline said the rare task was undertaken to get its customers and aircraft on their way "as quickly as possible – rather than shipping the engine across by boat or chartering a freighter aircraft". The last time Qantas carried an engine like this was back in 2011.
A Qantas Boeing 707 taking to the skies with a fifth engine fixed to its wing
So how exactly is a 747 able to carry a spare engine?
The wing of the aircraft is fitted with anchor points, which allows a supporting strut to be attached under the wing. The strut is fitted with a winching mechanism so the engine can be hoisted up and secured safely for its journey. 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 had landed in Johannesburg – it was simply a matter of removing the fifth engine and then putting it onto the aircraft that will operate QF64 to Sydney. The spare engine removed from the plane will be taken home by boat, the airline confirmed.
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