Several incidents in Afghanistan last week have shocked the world. With the restoration of power by the Taliban, there has been a massive flight out of the country, and the Kabul airport has become the center of attention.
In several scenes, thousands of people arrive to exit the country by air, as the Kabul region is dominated by the armed group. In one of the most critical moments, which occurred on August 15, a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane took off with 823 people, even though its carrying capacity was only 134 passengers.
How was it possible to transport six times the number of people set by the aircraft manufacturer? Were there any risks to the aircraft and passengers aboard the humanitarian mission?
According to Annibal Hatem, professor of aerospace engineering course at UFABC (ABC’s Federal University), this transport above the nominal capacity of passengers posed no risk to the operation. This is mainly due to the fact that the aircraft used can support the weight of a large number of people without any problems.
Initially, it was reported by the US Air Mobility Command that 640 people had been transported. Children were not taken into account in this initial count, and the agency later corrected the information, bringing the number to 843 people.
This is close to the maximum capacity of the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, which can carry 853 people, although the cargo was not designed for this.
According to Boeing, the manufacturer of the C-17, the model is capable of carrying up to 74.8 tonnes of cargo. Assuming the average weight of a person to be 80 kg, the sum of all on board would not have reached 66 tonnes, i.e. still a capacity of another nine tonnes.
According to the United States Air Force, loaded with its maximum weight and flying at an altitude of about 8,500 meters, the C-17 will have a range of 4,444 kilometers, reaching a speed of 833 km / h.
In some situations, it is possible to carry less cargo (or passengers), to fit more fuel, and vice versa. It is necessary to add the weight of both in each flight so that it does not exceed the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft.
Also according to Hatem, flying is safe, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. Unlike the standard configuration for transporting people, people had to sit on the floor of the aircraft.
When carrying soldiers or other passengers, the C-17 can be standardized to carry 54 people in the side seats of the aircraft and an additional 80 people on pallets going through the center of the aircraft. can be done.
In situations like last week, tapes are placed inside the plane, where people can grab and crouch.
The aircraft is designed to have a lower center of gravity than other aircraft, which facilitates flight stability.
As such, there would be no problem in carrying people above the nominal capacity, although this should not be done, except in exceptional circumstances, to reduce the chances of someone on board being injured.
Another issue related to comfort is the use of the bathroom. Since only three people are required to fly the aircraft (two pilots and a cargo master), there is no reinforced structure for the number of passengers transported. On the other hand, the flight will only last for three hours.
Although no details have yet been released on how the August 15 operation was carried out, it appears that the aircraft took off with low fuel, and may have been refueled during the flight by a tanker.
Being lightweight, it can reach high altitudes quickly, avoiding the risk of being hit by enemy artillery.
On the flight to Qatar, people could be seen hanging outside the plane. After takeoff, video showed people falling from the plane, and a body was found stuck in the landing gear of a C-17.
The C-17 is a high-capacity freighter that started operations in 1993, and can carry up to 74.8 tonnes. It has a wingspan (end-to-wing distance) of 51.7 m, a height of 16.8 m and a length of 53 m.
It has a maximum takeoff weight of 265 tonnes, which includes payload, aircraft body weight and fuel. Its unit value in adjusted volumes is approximately US$341.8 million (R$1.8 billion).
Currently, about 275 of these four-engine aircraft are in flight in the US Air Force or allied countries. It is expected that this model will be in operation till the year 2070.
Its cargo compartment is 26 meters long, 5.48 meters wide and 4.11 meters high. With it, he is capable of carrying a battle tank, two military helicopters or three combat vehicles.
To take off, the cargo needs just 2,359 meters of runway. Landings can only be made at 914 meters or less on a runway with or without a floor.
So far, the total number of people aboard the C-17 has been considered a record for the model, but not for a single flight itself. The record for most people on board a plane is a Boeing 747 belonging to the Israeli airline El Al.
In 1991, he carried 1,088 people on a flight from Ethiopia to Israel (two babies were born during the flight). The country expressed concern for the safety of Ethiopian Jews, and an operation was carried out that transported more than 14,000 people to Israel in 36 hours.
The short time did not allow the receipt of many flights, and it was decided to overcrowd the aircraft to ensure that the maximum number of people could be removed. For this the plane had to fly with low fuel and no baggage was taken.
In the case of Afghanistan, the US Department of Defense called on American airlines, such as American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, to help transport the refugees to other countries.
These flights will not be from Kabul airport, but from other places from where people will be safe after leaving Afghanistan.
This same model of aircraft saved nearly 400 people on a single flight over the Philippines as a result of Hurricane Haiyan in 2013.