Case Study: Lifting a Jet
Lifting a Jet onto the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
R. Baker & Son was hired to lift a T-38 Supersonic Jet onto flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum using rented MODULIFT® MOD24 spreader beams and Lift-All polyester round slings from Lifting Gear Hire.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum hired R. Baker & Son, a rigging and demolition contractor in New Jersey, to perform the daunting task of lifting a 7,200 pound Northrop T-38 Supersonic Jet onto the flight deck of the floating museum itself.
The iconic white jet was used as a flight-test chase plane to test the reaction skills of astronauts in training during the crucial Approach and Landing Tests that were carried out in 1977 by the space shuttle orbiter, Enterprise. The shuttle is currently on display in the Space Shuttle Pavilion and the jet was going to be placed directly beside it. The NASA jet was donated to the museum, among 15 to 20 additional aircraft that the museum currently has aboard it’s deck including planes from World War II and Vietnam.
“They have a bunch of stuff that we lifted for them up there,” TJ Inderwies, the Project Manager of R. Baker & Son said. “We’ve lifted almost every plane except the space shuttle and the Concord. So, we’re quite used to these types of jobs. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging, nonetheless.”
The challenges involved were many. With a one-day turnaround, TJ and his workers had a delicate job to do in a short amount of time. The most challenging aspect came in the form of not damaging the plane in any way, shape, or form and to keep it level throughout the lift. This became a tad bit challenging to accomplish since wind conditions worsened as the day progressed.
“The biggest concern was simply keeping it level,” TJ continued. “Plus, there’s also really no picking points on this plane at all for the slings. Not to mention, we needed a proper crane to set it where they wanted it to be set. It’s an aircraft carrier, and although we were over water, it was still a decent reach to get the jet up there. We needed to lift it about 75-80 feet.”
Adding to the pressure of success was an entire mob of journalist and reporters including the New York Times, witnessing the lift and ready to record or write down the first signs of failure that would occur. The president of the Intrepid was also present, too. With so many eyes on them at all times, it was hard to ensure a successful and safe lift for all involved.
First things first, TJ and his crew needed the right equipment to get the job done. They rented a MOD24 Spreader Beam and polyester slings from Lifting Gear Hire.
“The MOD24 Spreader Bars and the polyester round slings that we rented worked perfectly,” TJ said. “This job would’ve been a lot harder if we hadn’t ordered from LGH. The slings were easily adjustable, which was great due to the challenge of creating our own picking point on the plane.”
Due to the fact that the plane had no picking points, TJ and his crew were forced to utilize an inverted “V” basket method. When using this type of application, it’s necessary to make sure that the slings are connected properly and in the best possible position. For this particular job, the best place was underneath the engines in the rear end of the plane where it becomes wider.
“You have to be careful where to place slings on a plane like this,” TJ added. “Some areas are made to be picking points, so to speak, and some areas aren’t. Before we rigged anything to it, we inspected the plane completely. We looked at where we could pick it safely and effectively – it’s strongest points.”
TJ ended up selecting a point just behind the cockpit because there’s a reinforcement wall behind it. The areas where the engines are placed inside the jet are reinforced, as well, so that’s where they were able to position the other sling. However, since it’s not technically a picking point, they had to make adjustments to the continuous slings that they rented. They used 20-ton shackles above the beam to adjust the length of the slings and once that was done, they started the lift. They had to keep the plane and its wings level at all times during the lift.
“We always make sure our rigging is within 75% of what the project calls for,” TJ said. “If the plane weighs 7,000 pounds, we’ll put slings on there are rated for 30,000. We’re not going to put slings on there that are only rated at 8,000. We always go above and beyond what the pick is calculated. For instance, the MOD24 Spreader Beams were too large. The plane only weighed 7,000 pounds, but it’s always better to be too safe then to be too sorry.”
Using extreme caution and gentle force, they carefully lifted and placed the jet onto the elevator using a 45-ton Tadano crane that was fitted with the 14ft MOD24 Spreader Beam. The beam was basketed with 2 approved slings that were geometrically-engineered around and under the fuselage for a safe and level lift. After removing their rigging, the elevator took the jet to the flight deck where they positioned it beside the space shuttle. The project began and was completed on April 27, 2016.
“Everything went smoothly and according to the lift plan,” TJ surmised. “The president of the museum was very happy. She hired us before and she’s always been pleased with our work. There were also a couple of NASA astronauts there, assigned to oversee the lift, and they were very happy as well because they employ extra precautions to ensure the safety of the jet including using softeners and cotton to protect the jet’s paint. The truth, though, is that we couldn’t have done it as safely and effectively without the equipment we rented from Lifting Gear Hire. Our rental representative, Pete Fortunes, was one of the best reps we’ve ever worked with. Anything we needed, he went above and beyond to get it for us. In fact, LGH always does. They have everything we ever need. We’re actually doing a project right now where we are using one of their 6,600 pound air tuggers (winches). All I did was call them up, tell them what we needed, and it was available that afternoon for pickup. Plus, if we ever have any questions or if there is a piece of equipment we haven’t used before, they always take the time to explain it to us. That’s service you cannot beat.”
ABOUT R. BAKER & SON:
Family owned since 1935, R. Baker & Son is an industry leader in rigging, dismantling, demolition and plant and machinery moving services. We service customers in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Europe. Our business continues to expand rapidly due to our stringent safety program, the success of our projects and unsurpassed customer satisfaction. R. Baker and Son is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). Contact R. Baker & Son to discuss how they can help you meet your contracting and subcontracting goals.
Lifting Gear Hire is the largest single organization in North America devoted exclusively to the provision of lifting and moving equipment for rent. LGH holds a comprehensive inventory for hoisting, rigging, jacking, pulling, material handling, and safety equipment. Rental equipment is available from over 20 locations throughout North America, and LGH customers are supported by local Rental Representatives.