In terms of oh shit moments, this had to be a doozy for the train engineer. Last month nineteen cars on a 90-car train derailed in Montana. Some of those freight cars were carrying 737 fuselages on their way to Boeing, and six of them fell off, with three of them sliding down an embankment towards the Clark Fork River. Luckily no one was injured, and here's what the aftermath looked like:
An accident like this raises a serious logistical issue: What the hell to do with these fuselages? It's not like you can give six-packs to a couple guys named Jim and ask them to throw them back up onto the railcars. These things are loaded and unloaded with special equipment that bypassing rafters don't exactly have tied to the backs of their Super Dutys.
Boeing sent a team out to investigate, with insurance people in tow. The fuselages were determined to be a total loss, and they would not be rail-shipped back, which may have not been logistically possible anyway. Instead, a Montana Rail Link spokeswoman told CBS news, "a crew of 50 with eight heavy-equipment machines was working together to hoist up the three Boeing 737 fuselages" that ended up at the bottom of the slope, with progress "going extremely slow."
That still left the problem of what to do with them, once they'd been hauled up to level ground. So Boeing decided to recycle them—on the spot. According to the Seattle Times,
Pacific Steel and Recycling's Missoula, Mont., branch recycling manager, Mason Mikkola, said in an interview that the company brought out a portable baler it uses to crush cars, and turned the six 737 bodies into large metal cubes. "We've never done fuselages before," Mikkola said. "This is something a little different."
"[Boeing reps and insurance folks] are documenting, making sure every single piece of those fuselages gets scrapped," Mikkola said. "We are hand picking up anything that broke off."
...Boeing wants all of the fuselage remains to be shredded, he said, and Pacific Steel's shredding plant outside of Boise will do the job.
Mikkola said he doesn't know what Boeing will do with the mixture of shredded aluminum and titanium, but said he can't imagine it being sold locally. "I assume most of that stuff will get exported," Mikkola said. "Not much interest domestically because of the mix of alloys."
Image by Michael Gallacher / Missoulian
And you thought transporting cars was a headache.