In this episode: PilotsEYE.tv captures the production, pick up and delivery flight of a brand new Boeing 777F from Seattle to Frankfurt, Germany.
It’s the most efficient and economical cargo plane of our time. The Boeing 777-“Freighter” combines the advantages of a short fuselage with the large wings of its passenger version, enabling a record breaking payload of over 100 tons for the first time on a twin jet aircraft.
For three months PilotsEYE.tv bore witness to the birth of this newest “giant of the skies”: from its production to its sale to its ferry flight out of Seattle for the plane’s new home airport in Frankfurt, Germany. With additional information and commentary by both flight captains in regular flashbacks, this newest PilotsEYE.tv episode offers the rare opportunity to experience at first hand the most important waypoints on the flight path to a brand new plane: the D-ALFE, the fifth family member of Lufthansa’s growing Cargo Fleet.
A Signature worth 220M $ – That’s how you buy an airplane
While the majority of the purchase price is transferred immediately upon ordering, the final installment – another substantial eight-figure amount – is only paid after the last set of signatures by Boeing and Lufthansa.
The tension among the 12 negotiators is palpable. After extensive testing and minor repairs, this is the time to record the plane’s final condition and set the terms for potential reimbursements or deductions. It is only after the magic words “Gentlemen, the money has arrived” are uttered, that the room breathes a sigh of relief, the tension releasing itself into a spontaneous applause, as the symbolic starting key is presented to its new owners.
PilotsEYE.tv presents a rare glimpse into the final moments of a 220 million dollar (list price) transaction.
Rocket launch – from 0 to 39,000 (feet) in 13 minutes
What happens, when a cargo plane with no cargo – and thus quite the lightweight – sets off to its first long distance flight home? Records will tumble! With over 140 tons below the maximum takeoff weight of 348t, the brand new 777 finishes the ascent to cruising altitude in just 13 minutes, barely a third of the usual time. “Wow. That’s a personal best!”, agree both pilots, “but it could have been even faster.” – to spare the engines, takeoff was achieved at only 80% power.
Testing, testing… – We literally turn off every engine…
„Actually, we switch off every single thing we can – but not at the same time, of course,” says Boeing’s Gary Meiser with obvious enthusiasm. “And every fault, every flaw we notice during those first two test flights, can instantly be repaired or replaced on site.” While fleet commander Claus Richter adds “I don’t even want to know about all the things they switch off, now,” the eyes of Lufthansa Test Pilot Manfred Schridde light up in anticipation. Performed in strict adherence to a pre-set guideline, the tests are two hours of “pure fun” for the test pilots, providing numerous important insights into the plane’s behavior.
Aircut – Oriental Design optimizes Engines
On its quest for potential increases in power output, US jet engine manufacturer GE-Aviation found inspiration in the Middle East: the “Shamshir”, or Scimitar, whose signature curved blade can now be found on the intakes of GEA engines. With their characteristic broadening towards the tip, the fan blades cut down on engine noise while simultaneously increasing its output. Contrary to their predecessors, though, metal is no longer the substance of choice – and PilotsEYE.tv explains why.
Walking the Line – A testpilot’s tour of the production facilities
During the plane’s “laying of the keel” in one of Boeing’s production line manufacturing units, PilotsEYE.tv was given the chance to capture the first nuts and bolts of what would soon become the “D-ALFE”. With up to five planes being processed simultaneously, over 1200 new Triple Seven’s have been “born” in these halls since 1995, and the unmistakable glow of pride is evident in many a face, as Manfred Schridde, Lufthansa’s Chief Technical Pilot, meets his American pendant on site. Step by step, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Gary Meiser takes his guest through the different production stages of Lufthansa Cargo’s new “Number 5”.
When autopilots get bored – pick-up flights are strictly a “people”-thing
As a rule, the autopilot usually takes control just a few minutes after takeoff. But fresh off the production line, the delivery flight of a brand new airplane has different rules. Fleet Commander Claus Richter explains, why the pilots continue to fly by hand long into the trip.
Friendly takeover – iPads in the cockpit
“A single iPad equals one NAVKIT equals 30-50kg less charts and maps” and “70 flights without a NAVKIT equal one iPad.” Between talk of data flows, apps and his personal vision for the future of Lufthansa Cockpits, Captain Richter lays out the reasons behind one of the most fundamental technical evolutions of the last decade.
(For the „Math-Enthusiasts“: assuming each additional ton of cargo equals 227kg of fuel per flight | each ton of fuel equals 700$ | each ton of cargo equals 158.90$ | 50 kg less cargo = almost 8$ savings per flight)
Big planes – Really big factory
The airplane assembly plant in Everett, WA, about 50 kilometers north of Seattle, is the biggest and most vital production facility of US aerospace corporation Boeing. Until recently, the enormous factory could lay claim to the title of “largest building in the world by volume”. On over 13,000 cubic meters, it houses the assembly line for four different Boeing aircraft models: starting with what is most the likely the best known passenger airplane of all time, the Boeing 747, to the 767, the 777 and the 787 “Dreamliner”.
To provide the best possible view, Lufthansa Pilot Manfred Schridde even scaled the roof of the Hilton Hotel across the runway, as he offers his expert services on a guided look at the Boeing Factory.
Lifts like a dream, looks like a nightmare – The Boeing Dreamlifter
Taking into account, that even Boeing’s CEO actually apologized to the design lead for the aesthetically rather questionable modification of “his” 747, you may be forgiven for calling the Dreamlifter “a nightmare”. Four models of the record breaking cargo plane are operational all over the world to ferry the pre-mounted parts of the 787 “Dreamliner” from production facilities as far as Japan and Italy back to Everett for the final assembly.
Little flaws are human – Let’s buy them back
„Buyback“ is the internal term for corrected production errors. Days before the actual pick up, nine technical experts from all relevant Lufthansa production areas are already hard at work, putting every part of the new plane through its paces. Every flaw, every issue, every possible cause for complaint is marked with a red sticker to be repaired by Boeing. Will everything be fixed before the delivery, or will this mark one of the rare occasions, where the flight will be permitted, anyway?
Full of Features – Exclusive Bonus Material only on DVD and Blu-ray
Bonus I – Close-Up: Dreamlifter’s landing
Bonus II – Close-Up: Boeing Factory Everett
A necessary comment – This is the Captain speaking
As a very special treat on the DVD and Blu-ray menu, it’s sure to catch the eye of aviators and fans of the trade, alike: in addition to the original soundtrack, audio track 2 features a running commentary by flight captain and Lufthansa Cargo fleet commander Claus Richter. To gain the most complete picture regarding the film’s events and its production, PilotsEYE.tv veterans recommend treating yourself to the commentary’s numerous explanations and background information only after the first course of the main film.
Pushed until Runway – No Taxiing in Everett
„Taxiing“ is the term for a plane’s movement while still on the ground. On its way towards the runway, this is usually the purview of the pilot in command. But things in Everett are rarely “as usual”, as every brand new plane coming out of Everett is towed all the way up to the runway. Why? PilotsEYE.tv provides the answers.
Full disclosure for aviation enthusiasts
Not just for use in the simulator, but interesting for all enthusiasts eager to learn more about their passion: PilotsEYE.tv offers all relevant – including several handwritten – flight documents as a free download. Check out operational flight plans and weather charts, as well as ATC clearances, or follow the route in “kml”-format on Google-Earth – featuring, for the very first time, 30 second time lapse pictures. The „PilotsEYE Flight Briefing” is available as a PDF