The service life of the "Zero-G" parabolic aircraft came to an end with a spectacular hoist over the fence at Cologne-Bonn Airport. The heavy load experts from Riga Mainz hoisted the 82-tonne Airbus A-300 from the airport's apron using a Liebherr LR 1600/2 crawler crane and a sophisticated combination of attachment equipment. The aircraft will now become a museum exhibit on show to the general public.
Both the specifications for the crane job at the airport, such as its limited set-up height, and the requirements for attaching the sensitive load were very stringent. In fact there are only three attachment points on the entire aircraft with the required load capacity – both main sets of landing gear and an area at the front of the Airbus' fuselage.
The attachment equipment weighed a total of 19 tonnes and included two cross beams and three load spreaders developed by Riga Mainz. A remote controlled chain hoist was used to adjust the crane hook precisely over the overall centre of gravity, even when it was loaded. This made it possible to adjust the required angle of the aircraft to the horizontal to generate no upthrust in the event of wind and inflows from the front. This solution satisfied a major requirement specified by the customer.
"Zero-G" required around one hour for its last "flight" over the airport security fence. The Airbus, which measures around 54 metres in length, was turned almost imperceptibly slowly into its final position. The LR 1600/2 with its curious load then covered a distance of around 20 metres on a specially laid gravel bed.
Placing the future museum exhibit on three foundation points proved to be something of a long-winded procedure. Minor corrections had to be made to the construction before the crane driver Markus Knabe was able to position his unusual load with millimetre precision. Airport manager Michael Garvens did not hold back with his praise after the job had been successfully completed: "Absolute precision work and a great result."