“Rapid Response Solutions used a Liebherr mobile crane to lift a plane in an
active airport environment at Royal Air Force (RAF) Northolt in Middlesex, UK.”
The British Aerospace 125 twin-engine mid-size corporate jet was
successfully lifted from storage and positioned on foundation slabs
overlooking the runway where it will serve as a gate guardian.
Rapid Response, a UK-based contract lift specialist, was provided with a
scope of work by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Defence Supply Chain
Operations and Movements (DSCOM) for whom it is a contracted service
Paul Barber, managing director, Rapid Response, explained that the
shape and size of the plane, weighing 6 tonnes, did not present complications
as it had built-in lift points and a documented lifting scheme. However, the
biggest challenges were presented by the active airport environment and the
elements, both of which had to be carefully monitored.
Additionally, the lift was to be executed in an MoD facility meaning an
extensive lift plan was required and all possible risks to its safe completion
eliminated. For example, it was a requirement that the LTM 1095 had 25%
One of Rapid Response’s appointed persons, Chris Livesey, attended
the site three weeks prior to the lift to carry out a site survey. Livesey created
a safe system of work for lifting the plane, including selecting a suitable crane.
KranXpert created the crane calculation drawings.
Barber said: “Our lift supervisor briefed the engineers responsible for the
plane on the lift day and everyone involved in the task was given clear
instructions on their responsibilities. A project engineer was supplied to liaise
between the lift supervisor, air traffic control and the emergency services
whilst the lift took place.”
Rapid Response had a maximum weight from the plane specification
sheets and an estimated weight based on the items removed prior to display.
However, Barber explained that there was still an unknown quantity in the
amount of ballast required to keep the plane level during the lift. From storage
to the new foundation slabs, the plane had to be moved 22 metres across a
grassed area of the airfield.
Barber added: “The lifting points were fixed by the plane’s manufacture
so the only way to correct the centre of gravity was to place ballast in the nose
cone and cockpit of the plane in the form of 25kg hand weights. Several trial
lifts were carried out to get the balance correct.”
When a weather window was chosen to complete the lift, Rapid
Response had a lift supervisor and two riggers on site, while five additional
representatives of the MoD and the Ainscough crane operator completed the
The BAe 125 was part of the famous 32 squadron and was retired from
the RAF in 2015. Of the final four operational aircraft, three were put up for
sale by the MoD and one was installed as a new gate guardian at RAF
Barber concluded: “We love to be involved in specialist lifts like this.
These experiences are few and far between and we are fortunate to have
been involved in lots of history-making lifts.”