Darn Big Loader

A mammoth "dreamloader"designed specifically for Boeing's Dreamlifter makes the 787 Dreamliner program a dream come true!

Though only four crew members are necessary for loading and unloading, special training is imperative. Think about it, you might be willing to get on the back of an ordinary elephant, but would you even consider, for one moment, mounting a woolly mammoth? DBL training is provided by TLD and additional training for specific functions and equipment on the loader such as Caterpillar (engines), Allen-Bradley (PLC controller), Cybernetix (optical control) and Hydequip (steering) is provided individually. Due to the exorbitant size and weights of the loads involved, other important details in training need to be addressed including emergency movement, alignment, steering and load control.

"One of the major challenges,"says Bunney, "is the turn time necessary to meet the Dreamlifter flight schedule... which necessitated that [it] be unloaded and back loaded as quickly as possible."To reduce the turn time, it was decided the Dreamlifter would not be jacked prior to freight transfer, which meant the loader needed to be capable of following the movement of the LCF as the parts were transferred. "In addition, we did not want any physical contact from the loader to the Dreamlifter,"states Bunney. "This was solved by incorporating optical sensors."Carrying a maximum load, the DBL has the potential of damaging roadways, necessitating the use of 32 independently controlled tires on 16 steerable axels under the loaders. Of course, getting the loaders moved from the manufacturing site to the final location became a project in and of itself, according to Bunney.

Swingin' in the swing zone
Military and civilian cargo and transport planes are loaded though the front or the rear. The Boeing 747-400 freighter is loaded through its lift-up nose section. However, the 787 composite structures are so large they could not be loaded in the same manner. "So we decided to use a swing-tail system where the aft fuselage swings open for loading and unloading, says Kraft. " We knew that would work to accommodate the size of the asemblies and we needed to work with our design partners on a workable solution — we found it."While the swing zone was very difficult to complete during the modification process, according toKraft, the swing tail has performed flawlessly. It is guided by an enormous mobile tail support, which carries most of the weight of the 44,000-pound (20,000-kilogram) tail and continually adjusts to changes in position during the opening and closing of the tail. This reduces wear and tear on the two hinges visible in the aft section of the fuselage.

Currently, there is no plan to use either the Dreamlifter or the DBL for any other use, either within Boeing or commercially. "Our mission is focused specifically on 787 production and making the Dream liner successful,"says Bunney. "We expect to recoup the costs of buying the fleet of Dreamlifters and all the associated expenses for modifications, including the creation of specialized ground support equipment, within the first few years of the 787 production."To date, 38 airlines had logged 473 orders and commitments for the 787 worth more than $70 billion.

Bunney says it best, "When you have a team of people who are fully focused on the goal-and understand the importance of the work they are doing-personal considerations get set aside and you accomplish great things."


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