Saturday, 7 April 2012

Fear number 7 - engine failure

Hello again

This is a re-run of the top ten fears our clients used to have newsletter.  No.7 today.  The list of top ten fears (not in your order)

1/ Lack of Control
2/ Enclosed Spaces
3/ Turbulence
4/ Air pockets
5/ Crashing
6/ Noises
7/ Engine Failure
8/ Terrorist Threat
9/ Falling Out The Sky
10/ Panic Attacks

Fear No.7 – Engine Failure

Now we are talking about a major subject for a lot of people, which is Engine Failure.

There is a lot of misunderstanding around engines. These engines are not like your car engine. These things cost a vast sum of money to make and buy. There is a huge amount of money spent on maintaining them too.

Right, let’s take the worst scenario possible.

You are flying along and all four engines fail. What do you think would happen?

A/ The Aeroplane would plummet

B/ The Aeroplane would glide until the pilots landed it.

The answer is B.

The aeroplane is a huge glider. This is the same regardless of how heavy the aircraft is. The engines give it the momentum to get up there and keep it going forward at great speed but it is the Wings that keep it flying. Before you ask, these can’t fall off as the Aircraft is built onto the wing at production. The wing is one piece of integral metal not like the Airfix model idea.

Anyway, the aircraft will glide if the engines stop working.

On our courses, we go into a lot more detail about this.

Here are a few key points.

1/ When the pilots plan the take off, they allow in their calculations as if one engine stopped working so they could still take off. By the way, this is so ridiculously rare due to the modern Jet engines being so incredibly reliable.

2/ All four engines temporarily stopping on an aircraft has only happened once on a commercial aircraft about 20 years ago. It was volcanic dust which no-one knew could do that then and even then, the pilots managed to start some of them up again. Now aircraft don’t fly near volcanoes. That is also why the aircraft in UK were grounded a couple of years ago when the Icelandic volcano erupted - just in case (safety first)
3/ The pilots practise the scenario of engine failure several times per year in their simulators and they have to practise flying without engines and landing safely. If they don’t get it right, they don’t keep their licenses.

4/ The pilots know at all times on a journey, exactly where they can land if they needed to.


The world of aviation is not like other transport industries. Airlines can’t afford for things to go wrong. Modern Jet Engines are so incredibly reliable now and safety ALWAYS comes first.

So, if you did ever have an engine failure on one of your flights, which is highly unlikely, it is not a problem for the pilots.

Aircraft can fly at speed on one engine safely if needs be and do remember that they can glide with no engines.

Oh, but what about two engine aircraft then?

Two engine aircraft have enough power in the other engine to take off if necessary. In fact, two engine aircraft have even more power per engine than a four engine aircraft. They have to because Airlines put safety first. Without safety there is no business.


Take care

Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear







1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, guys.

    Why are jet engines so amazingly reliable? Huge design effort, absolutely crazy metals that are supremely strong and temperature resistant, plus the fact that it is a "rotary" engine rather than a "donk",

    What do I mean by that? A car engine, for example, has a large number of bits and pieces, moving up and down, round and round, plus an ignition cycle that is based on an (almost) explosion of fuel and air. This "otto cycle" engine design places huge strains on the parts of your car's engine.

    A jet engine, on the other hand, is smooth in it's action. The only moving parts are continually rotating, so there's none of that noisy banging up and down you find in a piston engine.

    Also the ignition of the fuel is a continuous process... The fire inside the engine burns continuously... Air flows in the front, and fuel is added to the hot section resulting in continuous power... And none of the stresses a "donking" piston engine suffers.

    The metals a jet engine are made of are also far stronger than those in your car... The fan blades on the front, for example, are "grown" such that the very crystalline stucture of the metal contributes to ridiculous strength.

    The genius british boffin Frank Whittle invented the jet engine back in the days of WW2 but his design was limited by the metallurgy. That is no longer the case, and engine design, performance and reliability have consequently inproved out of sght.

    That is not to say they never fail... They do, on occasion. That's why your airliner has more than one, and why THE biggest part of an airline pilot's training is in how to handle the full range of possible engine failure scenarios.

    The worst thing you have to worry about from an engine failure in a modern airliner is the inconvenience... Your pilots will, most likely, choose to land at a nearby airport as a precaution, and you'll be delayed while your plane is fixed or alternative arrangements are made.

    But if all you have to complain about is "inconvenience".... life is pretty simple, ain't it?