325, 474, 8283 – these are the model measurements of the largest and most powerful engine in the history of aviation to date. The “GE90” has a fan diameter of 325 cm, is 474 cm long and weighs 8,283 kilograms. Lufthansa Cargo's Triple Sevens carry two of these steel giants up to 9,045 kilometres through the air on each flight. The “Good Day, USA” has now taken off with three engines for the first time, emulating her "big" sister, the MD-11F.
The third engine was a spare engine for the Boeing 777F fleet. However, the GE90 didn’t just piggyback from New York to Frankfurt. Instead, it was broken down into three separate parts and packed away in the cargo hold. A team from Lufthansa Technik Logistik Services (LTLS) organised the complex transport. The logisticians perform 1,000 such engine transports per year, making them experts in this area. They were assisted by their subsidiary Lufthansa Technik Logistik of America. With this sensitive consignment having an estimated value of more than 30 million dollars, these professionals were leaving nothing to chance. The planning phase took four weeks before the engine could set off on its first big trip.
This began in Peebles, Ohio, where global giant General Electric performs final testing on the engines it builds. It took almost three hours to load the 777F engine onto two trucks. The heavy transporters were then ready to head off. They were more than 1,000 kilometres away from the next destination point: JFK Airport in New York. It would ultimately take them three days on the road to reach it. “Legal requirements in the individual states along the route are the main reason for the long journey time”, explained Michael Stawe from LTLS. “Transporters with a wide load may only be driven while there is still light.” The trucks and their valuable cargo reached the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey in the early afternoon of the second day. They then had to wait there until midnight. Although only permitted to drive during daylight hours otherwise, they could not cross the bridge until after midnight so as to avoid causing delays to regular traffic.
The engine finally reached the airport another 16 hours later. Both trucks were unloaded and the most exciting part of the transport began the next morning, with the cargo items being prepared for transport by air. Palletising, rigging, securing – everything had to fit right. The fan alone, the bulkiest of the three parts, is almost 3.5 metres wide. With such dimensions, extreme precision was required to load it into the cargo hold of the “Good Day, USA”. “We don't have a lot of clearance”, confirmed Stawe, “the cargo door's full width and height are needed.” A great deal of care had to be taken when loading the propulsor as well. As Stawe explained, it had to be very specifically positioned in the cargo hold given that it weighs more than 10 tonnes in total: “Such heavy cargo items are positioned in the aircraft where maximum stability can be ensured. This is between the wings, so we talk about a ‘centre load’.” After the last of the five parts was loaded, the cargo hold was half full and the Triple Seven was 19 tonnes heavier.
The cargo door of the “Good Day, USA” was closed up ready for take-off at 3:49 a.m. Next destination: Frankfurt Airport. After almost three hours of unloading, the engine was finally transported to Lufthansa Technik for storage. Its travels have now come to an end for the time being – who knows when it will be on the move again? But it is now ready and available 24/7 in case a faulty 777F engine has to be replaced at short notice.