Open wide – a cargo 747 gets the treatment!

February 25, 2021
Open wide – a cargo 747 gets the full treatment at Dallas Texas as the giant cargo air-lifter disgorges over 100,000kgs of vital cargo.
Boeing 747 pilot Christiaan van Heijst takes up the story.
Fuel Control Switches cutoff. Engines spooling down, our job in the cockpit is almost done: just some more paperwork, checklists, logbooks to fill out.
But at the same time, the ground crews spring to life to get this machine back in the air as soon as possible. Airplanes make money when flying, but cost even more while standing on the ground: the clock is ticking and the pressure is on.
High loaders are brought in to lift cargo pallets down, which are carried on tugs that drive them straight to the warehouse. Over forty massive pallets are crammed in the 747 tonight, with a total weight of over 100,000 kilos (220,000 lbs) of necessary freight.
At the same time, a fuel truck arrives to pump in at least 120,000 kilos of jet-fuel into our wings, carefully and evenly distributed across all the various tanks. Mechanics performing some minor maintenance and inspecting our bird for any possible sign of trouble, a new flight crew on its way from the hotel to the airport as we speak.
Everything coordinated to the last minute, long before we even arrived. A smooth routine playing day in day out, dozens of flights a day at this airport alone.
Walking around my 747 machine, I let my eyes glide over her freshly painted skin. A few shallow dents, scars of a rough but fulfilling life. Engines looking good, tires smooth as ever. Incredible, realizing what kind of stresses they have to endure with my landings.
I chat for a few minutes with the ground crew that managed to off-load our cargo in record time; these guys really know what they are doing. Impressive to witness.
An hour later they repeat the same job in reverse; dozens of heavy pallets are loaded in her main- and lower decks after careful calculations, load plans, and crosschecks.
All cargo inspected, secured, rail-locks up, the main deck checked OK. Fueling finished, maintenance inspection signed off, new flight crew finished their preflight routines and everything falls together like the pieces of a puzzle: ready to leave again.
The world of air cargo in a nutshell: Challenge Accepted.

Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.

You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst