Testing and taking ownership of a Boeing 777F
Even for a commercial pilot, it’s not every day that you get to take the controls of a brand-new plane, much less the world’s largest, longest-range, and most capable twin-engine freighter. Unless your name is Joe Moser and you work for AeroLogic, a subsidiary of DHL Express. He has piloted maiden flights some 42 times in his career.
For over a decade, we’ve been replacing older Boeing 747-400s with modern Boeing 777 freighters. In 2018, we ordered 14 new Boeing 777Fs, 10 of which are already in operation. And in early 2021, we purchased eight more. It’s all part of our “flight plan” for more sustainable aviationname=flight plan sustainable aviation;topic=testing 777f.
To shine a spotlight on this remarkable plane, which features a state-of-the-art flight deck, fly-by-wire system, and an advanced wing design, we followed Joe to the Boeing plant in Seattle for the test and acceptance flight, followed by the transfer flight to DHL’s hub in Leipzig, Germany.
The maiden flight of the B777F
After acceptance is complete, it’s time to transfer the plane from Boeing’s plant in Seattle to DHL’s hub in Leipzig.
The B777F can fly up to 9,200 kilometers (4,970 nautical miles) and carry a maximum payload of 102,010 kilograms (224,900 pounds). The aircraft’s fuel-efficient technology reduces carbon emissions by 18% compared to the legacy B747-400s. With the B777F, we can transport more cargo on each flight, make fewer stops, and reduce carbon emissions.
Before we roll the first commercial pallets onto the main deck, pilots like Joe spend days running down long and elaborate checklists to test every component on the aircraft. “That takes 10-12 days to complete,” says Joe. “The acceptance procedure requires an entire team of specialized engineers and pilots.”
Joe Moser has been flying for five decades. After a career flying passenger jets for multiple airlines, he helped launch Aerologic – a cargo airline and DHL Express subsidiary – in 2007. Joe is now managing director and a transfer pilot. He also works as an instructor and enjoys flying a Cessna in his leisure time.
“I’ve done all of AeroLogic’s B777 freighters since the company started operations,” says Joe. “I’m looking forward to this one.”
The team first starts by testing the cargo loading system. The Boeing 777F is equipped with an enhanced, lightweight cargo-handling system with built-in test equipment that continuously monitors the operational health of the system. It also has a maneuver load alleviation system that redistributes the aerodynamic load on the wing during flight.
Unsurprisingly, Joe says the best part is getting the plane up in the air.
“The most spectacular highlight is the test and acceptance flight,” he says. “We climb to a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet and operate not only the regular systems but also all the backup and emergency systems. A Boeing engineer accompanying the flight assists us in deactivating and reactivating the different components. The flight takes about three hours to complete the checklists.“
Breaking through the clouds
After acceptance is complete, it’s time to transfer the plane from Boeing’s plant in Seattle to DHL’s hub in Leipzig. If you watched the video above, you saw a “very pleasant and uneventful” flight, as Joe put it.
What’s his favorite part of flying?
“Have you ever experienced that moment when you break through the clouds into the bright sunshine and clear blue sky after a takeoff from a rainy and cloudy airport? This is a very impressive moment, every time,” says Joe. “Other than that, I like the phases of a flight that require pilot skills – the approach and landing.”
Speaking of landing, what about his favorite landing strip?
“My personal favorite is Los Angeles at night when you fly over millions of lights during the approach.”
Joe may not get the chance to see those LA lights again, but with more orders on the way, he’ll likely see the inside of a Boeing 777F cockpit sometime soon. And that suits him just fine.
“Nothing will prevent me from doing these test flights as long as I have the opportunity.”
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