Cool: Wamos Air 747 Pushed Back Manually

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Videos

While overall demand for air travel is low at the moment, we are seeing a number of rescue and repatriation flights to pick up stranded travelers, as well as a bunch of extra cargo flights to get supplies around.

Wamos Air is a Spanish charter airline that has a fleet of over a dozen planes, including four 747-400s. They often operate these on behalf of other airlines. One of those planes has been in Central America the past few days.

The 747-400 in question has the registration code EC-KXN, and is 26 years old. The plane flew:

  • From Madrid to Guatemala City (10hr20min) on Thursday
  • From Guatemala City to San Salvador (26min) on Friday
  • From San Salvador to San Pedro Sula (35min) on Friday
  • From San Pedro Sula to Madrid (9hr19min) on Friday

The plane was apparently carrying about 400 tourists who were looking to get back to Spain, presumably from all three of the countries in the region.

While exact details of the situation aren’t known, there’s video footage of the 747-400 being pushed back manually in San Pedro Sula yesterday. While a pushback tug would ordinarily be used, in this case people were pushing back the plane. I can count at least two dozen people helping out.

You can see the video below:

While I have no inside knowledge here, my assumption would be that they didn’t have a pushback tug that worked for the situation. I’m not sure if that’s because the airport just doesn’t have one for a 747, if they didn’t have the part needed to connect the plane to the tug, or what.

The airport does see regular Boeing 787 service from Madrid on Air Europa, so it’s not like the airport doesn’t get big planes. However, a fully loaded 747-400 has nearly double the weight of a fully loaded 787-8, and can weigh over 900,000 pounds.

Kinda cool, eh?

  1. Here at HNL, Wamos ran two charter 747s that went back to Frankfurt and Madrid. Ferrying the people from a stranded cruise ship that was allowed to come into Honolulu harbor due to mechanical reasons. Only time I heard of direct flights to either airport from HNL. Kinda cool.

  2. Ben – do you reckon it may be a ‘powerback’ (where the engines run in reverse thrust on the ground, but at very low power, effectively giving the plane a ‘reverse’ gear), which was common with your beloved (not…) fleet of American MD-80s, especially in places like Dallas and Miami? Therefore the people were there to make sure it was keeping to the centre line, and not actually pushing it? 900,000 lb is a lot for 24 or so people to move…

  3. Ryanair/Spirit will be getting ideas next….would you like to pay extra to not push the plane back? 😛

  4. Actually looks easier than I thought it would be. I bet there were a lot of naysayers when someone suggested it. I would have been one.

  5. I’ve seen C130s start another by sitting in front and blowing enough air over the second one to air start it, and a C7 Caribou crew rope start theirs like a lawn mower engine. Just to see if it could be done. And if they used reversers there would have been cargo pallets all over the tarmac area. Good solution.

  6. @Andy: Engines usually get started after pushback. The video resolution is low, but I’d guess the engines weren’t running at that point, since that would be a major safety hazard.

  7. @David. That reminded me back in the day in the 80’s and early 90’s when AA used to push back using thrust reversers on MD-80’s all the time. Especially at DFW. They never used pushes from tugs.

  8. @Alex, powerbacks are/were only regularly performed on planes with high mounted engines to minimize FOD ingestion, so I doubt this was a powerback.

  9. They probably didn’t have a 747-400 tow bar. Tow bars are rated for each aircraft differently and are designed to give way at a specific loading to prevent damaging the plane itself in case the tug operator makes a mistake. Using a 787 tow bar on a 747 would likely cause it to snap under a normal pushback. Conversely using a 747 tow bar on a 787, while possible, would not give way before the 787 nose gear is damaged if the tug operator makes an error.

  10. One of the cool things about Porter departures from Toronto City airport – planes reverse propeller pitch to back away from the terminal.

  11. @Alex, “900,000 lb is a lot for 24 or so people to move…” It might be easier than you think, since rolling friction << sliding friction. High school physics haha

  12. One person can push a 747 back. The airplane is so well balanced and engineered it is very easy to get moving by just one person. I’ve done it but I must say the first time I saw it done I was amazed.

  13. Remember a QF 707 at SFO who couldn’t wait for pushback so powerbacked on reverse thrust, and blew out the windows of the terminal! Lucky: might find a clip?

  14. At my hometown airport in Monterey, CA, back in the 90s, the United 757s and A320s would typically push back with one engine in reverse thrust. Fun to watch.

  15. Back in the 80’s, powerbacks were common at Port Columbus Airport (CMH) on TWA. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that it wasn’t universally done.

  16. Bring Back the MD 80’s my favorite, from seating 2 starboard, now with middle seats ‘socialized’ back to 2 on port side..these recently ‘retired’ aircraft can fill the void experienced by the 737 MAX debacle…bring back my Fav AA 1087 !

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