How do you fly a plane inside a Jumbo?
Published on 17th January 2017

The cargo hold of the 747 is usually filled with suitcases, not other aircraft

For more than 90 years, Qantas has been moving unique and oddly-sized items around the world. Formula 1 cars, fragile artwork, live animals, aircraft parts (including engines) – just about anything you can think of.

One object we had never flown until recently? Another plane. Let alone two.

For the first time, Qantas loaded two sailplane gliders into the cargo hold of a passenger Boeing 747-400, and flew them from Johannesburg, South Africa to Sydney, Australia. The aircraft are transported by sea but not in this case and we’ll explain that a little later on.

So how do you fly two planes inside another jumbo jet across the world? With the collaboration of experts, lots of careful coordinating, and a few tight squeezes.


Glider in a box starter kit

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 metre long boxes could fit through the door.

Thanks to the special crates that allowed us to swivel 360 degrees (and a lot of pivoting) they slid in.

Once the boxes were locked in, there was 100mm of clearance between the top of the boxes and the ceiling of the cargo hold. It was a near perfect fit.

After landing safely in Sydney, the brand new Jonker JS3 Raptures made their way onward for their debut at the FAI World Gliding Championship in Benalla, Victoria.

Like we mentioned before, 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. Sort of.

You can read more about everything we transport at Qantas here on Roo Tales.


Not one but two of these gliders flew inside our 747

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