For more than 90 years, Qantas has been moving unique and oddly-sized items around the world, from fragile artwork to live animals, Formula 1 cars and aircraft parts (including engines).
One object that has never been flown until recently? Another plane. Let alone two.
For the first time, Qantas loaded two brand new Jonker JS3 Raptures sailplane gliders into the cargo hold of a passenger Boeing 747-400. With the collaboration of experts, lots of careful coordinating, and a few tight squeezes, the gliders were flown from Johannesburg, South Africa to Sydney, Australia.
The gliders were taken apart in smaller pieces with the fuselage, wings and rudders all packed into specially designed shipping crates.
The Qantas Freight team not only had to calculate if these boxes could fit inside the belly of the 747, but if the seven metres long boxes could fit through the door.
The special crates could swivel 360 degrees (and with a lot of pivoting), slid in well. Once the boxes were locked in, there was 100mm of clearance between the top of the boxes and the ceiling of the cargo hold, making it a near perfect fit.
After landing safely in Sydney, the gliders made their way onward for their debut at the FAI World Gliding Championship in Benalla, Victoria.
Gliders usually travel large distances by sea, but due to timing constraints, Qantas worked closely with Jonker through the challenging logistics to deliver the gliders on time so they could compete in the World Gliding Championships.
Before these gliders even competed in Melbourne, they had broken an altitude, distance, speed and endurance record, having ‘flown’ (in a B747) from Johannesburg to Sydney.