Around the world with 88 tons

The spring evening in Los Angeles is mild. Captain Dirk Vogel, soon-to-be Captain Andreas Huser and First Officer Sebastian Weber enter the cockpit of the Boeing 777F waiting on the international airport’s taxiway. 88 tons of cargo are securely stowed in the hold behind them – everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to electrical and machine parts and a sports car is on board. “Los Angeles is a high-volume station,” Vogel explains. “On average, the tonnage carried is between 85 and 95 tons.” There is a special reason why the crew consists of three members: the flight operates from Los Angeles to Frankfurt without a stop en route. With a flight time of ten hours and 50 minutes, this is Lufthansa Cargo’s longest non-stop flight with the new super-freighter in early 2014. No other aircraft with as much cargo on board can travel the distance of just under 10,000 kilometers without an intermediate stop. The MD-11F only manages 70 to 75 tons on this route. As a rule, the volume capacity is fully utilized with this tonnage.

After a good hour’s preparation Vogel radios the signal: “Lufthansa Cargo 8231 heavy – standing by for start-up.” The permission for pushback has been given. Huser releases the brakes and starts up the two engines, one after the other. The concentration inside the cockpit becomes more focused as the super-freighter turns onto the runway. Then the Boeing 777F accelerates and majestically takes off into the dark Los Angeles night. For Vogel the flight is one more milestone in Lufthansa Cargo’s product launch of the new “Triple Seven”. The 46-year-old, who did his captain’s training on the MD-11F and has been instructor for it since 2004, took on the coordination of the B777F Introductory Team at the end of 2012. Since mid-2013 he has been Fleet Manager of the “Triple Seven”. “2013 was the most exciting year in my career so far. Working so intensively on introducing a new aircraft into the fleet is a unique experience,” he says.

The Introductory Team is made up of the Fleet Manager, Technical Pilot, Chief Trainer and Simulator Manager. They have all received training on handling the B777F in the simulator and at Lufthansa Cargo partner company facilities. “We invested a lot of time in adapting the Boeing material in order to compile operating and training manuals that specifically meet the requirements at Lufthansa Cargo,” Vogel explains. Captain Vogel is responsible for the training of around 100 pilots. Retraining takes about half a year. “

For the experienced captain, working in the B777F is something special, despite the fact that he is a fan of the MD-11F – the “old lady,” as he calls it. “The Triple Seven’s performance is fascinating. Economically and ecologically, it is better than any other freighter. Furthermore, working in a new, highly modern cockpit is a very special feeling. We use the classic radio system for communication with ground staff, for example, much less frequently, as a great deal is done via prerecorded voice-message modules that are activated at the press of a button. That makes our job a lot easier.”