As far as excess baggage goes, this was a big one – a Boeing 747 Qantas flight to South Africa left Sydney on Wednesday with a fifth Rolls Royce engine on its left wing, adding six tonnes to its payload.
As Qantas explains on its blog, the 747 is designed to carry an extra engine on the left wing. It isn’t powered up, but rather a clever way to carry additional cargo, instead of having to charter a freighter aircraft to move around parts.
Qantas explained it made the rare move to get the engine from its Sydney engineering HQ to its plane in Johannesburg to get it back in the air sooner. But the extra weight meant the plane had to stop in Perth and refuel before making the 11-hour trip across the Indian Ocean.
Here’s Qantas explaining how it all works:
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.
Qantas says it pioneered popping a fifth engine on the wing with Boeing 707s 40 years ago. The last time in happened was in 2011.
The replaced engine will be shipped home by boat.
The airline made a video about the whole adventure: