This is exactly what happened on 26th of November 2015, albeit with different type of passengers: Horses.
Lufthansa Cargo is renowned for transporting horses to Sharjah on a cargo-only flight and LH8452 on 26th of November 2015, was going to be no different or so it seemed. The flight would take off from Frankfurt, fly to Dammam in Saudi Arabia, then go over to Sharjah in United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and then eventually fly over to the final destination Hong Kong.
Muthu Bala, 48 years old, Warehouse Manager, got himself dressed like 007 for his “call of duty”, while Abdul Majid, 51 years old, Flight Operations Duty Manager, stylish as ever, prepared for what seemed like a normal day at work at Sharjah. Very little that they knew, what looked like a regular day at office would turn out to be a very action packed event.
The flight operating, a Boeing 777 cargo-only aircraft (freighter), took off from Frankfurt carrying around 77,000 Kgs of cargo including 14 beautiful horses. Even though some of the cargo was meant for Dammam and Hong Kong, most of the load, including the horses, was destined for Sharjah.
As the flight landed in Dammam and as the ground staff began offloading the cargo, to their surprise and utter shock, the electronic system of the aircraft, which is used to load and offload the cargo, suddenly stopped working. Everyone was left on stand-by, waiting for the system to be back to normal, as the aircraft maintenance engineer on duty began his diagnoses. With every passing minute, though, the tensions began to rise as the engineer was not able to resolve the problem.
The cockpit crew, the horse attendants on-board and even the horses themselves, had started expressing their frustration as the flight was eventually delayed. Fearing that the horses would have little left to eat and the crew duty hours would also exceed, the flight took off for Sharjah without offloading the cargo for Dammam.
Though Bala and Majid knew what to expect, they were in for some rude surprise. Normally, on a freighter, if the electronic system is down, units may be pushed and moved using manpower. However this is not possible on a Boeing 777. The floor is so resistant to manual pushing that it is hardly possible to move the cargo with the barren hands.
Bala and Majid finally decided to fold up the sleeves, call up as many helpers as possible and began the tedious task to at least get the horses out of the aircraft. Each horse was reacting differently to the physical efforts of my colleagues. The weight and the tap dancing of the horses was also not helping the cause.
As they all say: experience counts. Lashing straps were tied to the containers and then began the Hercules task as Bala and Majid along with their entourage of helpers started to drive the containers out, hoping for some unexpected help from Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk.
After hours of physical efforts, the team finally managed to get the horses out, safe and sound and breathed a sigh of relief, appreciating each other’s extraordinary contribution. Thereafter, the aircraft was attended by Sharjah’s Lufthansa Technik team who began their work to bring back the electronic system.
As the horses were being delivered to the royal customer, I began to wonder, what would it take to get all passengers with their respective seats out from a passenger flight?