Four-engine passenger aircraft are slowly disappearing from the aviation scene as fuel-efficient, long-haul twin-engine planes replace them. So it was especially unusual when a five-engine jet appeared on a Sydney runway recently.
The Qantas 747 had the usual two engines suspended from its right wing, but there were three hanging from its left wing.
What was going on? Qantas had another 747 stranded in Johannesburg in need of a spare engine. And the airline’s engineers calculated that the most efficient and cost-effective way to get it there was to hang it from the wing as a form of external cargo.
Here’s what it looked like from inside the passenger cabin (image: Qantas):
Besides adding an extra 22,000 pounds — not exactly well-balanced — the extra engine also increased drag on the aircraft. As a result, the 747 had to make a stop in Perth to refuel.
The extra engine — which was not connected to the aircraft’s power or fuel systems –went on a regularly scheduled Qantas flight from Sydney to Johannesburg (QF63). The defective engine it replaced will be sent back to Australia by boat, Qantas said.
The airline noted that this is not new — it has been ferrying spare engines like this since it operated Boeing 707s at the beginning of the jet era. The last time it did so was in 2011.
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