Here’s How You Move an Airport’s Roof High Above the Ground

PDX airport in Portland is undergoing upgrades, and getting the job done involves some seriously heavy lifting.

byLewin Day|
Here’s How You Move an Airport’s Roof High Above the Ground
Mammoet
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If you need to move some flatpack furniture, you might hang it out the back of your trunk. Move house, and you might hire a box truck. If you needed to move the whole roof of a structure as massive as an airport terminal, though, you have to get more creative.

Portland Airport (PDX in Oregon, not PWM in Maine) is currently undergoing expansion works, which recently involved the construction of a new roof. Specialist heavy-lift company Mammoet was charged with the job of moving and installing 20 gargantuan roof panels during construction. The largest of the panels measures 236 feet long by 164 feet wide, or a full 38,704 square feet—approaching the size of a regulation football field. Crafted largely out of regionally-sourced wood, the panels weigh between 44 and 696 tons.

The panels were assembled on site between the airport's active runways over the course of a year. Several of the panels had to be installed over areas of the existing terminal building currently in use, further adding to the challenge.

To shift the panels, Mammoet used four Mega Jack 800 climbing jacks to hoist the roof panels a full 55 feet in the air. The jacks themselves rode on Scheuerle SPMTs, or Self Propelled Modular Transporters. These hydraulically-powered wheeled platforms are designed for moving huge and heavy pre-fabricated items, such as bridge sections, entire buildings, or even spacecraft.

The panels were shifted at night, with the terminal closed to keep the public clear of the area. Runways were also closed to allow the panels to make their one-mile journey from the storage yard to the terminal itself. Riding on the SPMTs, the roof sections were moved at an average rate of just 1 mile per hour. Sixteen panels were placed in total, with the remaining four to be installed in 2024.

Hauling such huge assemblies around is no mean feat. Whether you're hauling airport roofs, toll gantries, or even entire houses, the heavy-lift game is all about care, finesse, and not accidentally dumping your load and destroying it in the process.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com

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