I had little involvement with 5th pods on B742. Took a couple off in BAH
, but that was about it. 5th pods need organising. The pod has to be fitted to the aircraft, and removed at the other end. This takes time and can be tricky on the ramp. It definitely does not help keeping the aircraft on schedule. But in the 1970s and 1980s with the severely limited 3 engine ferry capability of the B742, and the lack of freighters, it was a good option.
With the B744 the need dropped off. Except for Qantas, who live on an island miles from anywhere, most airlines found they could do without it. The B744 engines are much more reliable than the early JT9s so they don't fail so often, and the B744 has a very good 3 engine ferry range. BA
will ferry a B744 back to LHR
from anywhere except Australia. There they will loan an engine from Qantas for the return trip ( and remove it on arrival LHR
). Even SIN
can be done with only one stop en-route.
But I had a lot of involvement with the Spare Engine System (as Lockheed called it) or 3rd pod (as everyone else called it) on the Tristar. It was sold as easy to fit and use on scheduled flights. It was neither. It was very awkward to fit. After the first try, we always fitted it in the hangar, and allowed at least 3 hrs. The engine had to be positioned under the wing with the cowlings fitted (they did not go on afterwards, ask someone who found out the hard way!), between the landing gear and the Nbr 3 engine. There was not a lot of space, and you had to be within an inch or two or the chains would not attach.The pylon was fitted beforehand, then the engine wound up with some inbuilt jacks in the pylon.
The aircraft with a 3rd pod was limited to 270kias. This is slow, and because of this it could not operate BAH
non-stop, and stopped in LCA
for fuel. A 7 hr flight ended up at around 10hrs. GF
tried in once on a scheduled flight, after that the flights were closed out as soon as it was known, and pax advised to rebook.
Removing the pod on the ramp was OK
, took over an hour, but then you had to move the engine to the hangar, and the stand was not sprung, so it was much quicker to tow the aircraft to the hangar and remove it there. If the engine was serviceable it could be complete, if there was any doubt the fan blades were removed and a crude aluminium blank placed over the IP intake. The fan blades went into six big wooden boxes that went on a pallet.
We went through this procedure a few times, but only from BAH
. We never used it for casualty engine changes. These were always two-engine ferried back to BAH
to be changed at base. In fact GF
only once performed an engine change away from LHR BAH
(Haeco), and that was in JED
. Bit strange that. We had an engine failure in JED
in around 1977, and two-engine ferried the aircraft to BAH
. This was tricky as the temp would not go down below the 34degC rqd for a direct ferry until 0400, then on the take off (first one for GF
) the aircraft swung off the runway. By the time it was ready to go again, it was too hot. Went well the second night! As we were changing the engine in BAH
, we had another engine failure on a different Tristar, and no engine, so ended up loaning an engine from SV
, and two-engine ferrying the aircraft to JED
for the change.
After a few 3rd pod operations, GF
opened its own RB211 shop at BAH
and changed modules instead. the 3rd pod gear was rarely used after that, it caused too much disruption to the operation.