Tuesday, 15 September 2015

BA Aircraft Engine Fire

Last week, you will of course seen the engine fire on the British Airways aircraft about to take off from Las Vegas?    We have resisted writing a blog (despite a lot of requests to do so) until there were more facts to talk about.  We can't talk about the cause of the fire as this is still being investigated.   Whatever happened, will be learned from. Anything that needs changing in terms of mechanics, procedures or training...will be changed.  Already, we know that the flight deck and crew did a great job and followed their safety training procedures really well.
Chris Henkey
Captain Chris Henkey

In the meantime, we thought we could reassure you by reminding you of just a few of the many safety procedures that commercial aviation have in place. 

  • Before every flight, the engines are checked as part of a legislated schedule by at least two engineers.
  • Before the pilots take the aircraft out, they have already talked through the flight plan and discussed the various 'what if this happens' scenarios.   This means that they are already prepared in case something goes 'wrong' - no matter how rare that thing is.  (It is the equivalent of you getting into your car and spending 30-60 minutes discussing with your partner, what each of you will do in case of a tyre burst, engine failure, clutch failure, icy road, oily road, intense rain...etc. etc.)
  • The pilots have calculated the take off speed and what point they can 'pull back the stick' and fly away.
  • There are a couple of really neat things that they have also discussed which you might not know.  1. What do we do if we lose an engine on or before take off?   2. If we have a problem,  up to what point do we still have enough runway left to bring the aircraft to a complete stop.  The principle is called V1.  This is shown below:

Image result for picture of v1 on runway

V = 0 no speed
Up to V1 = stop no problems
V1 = enough power to take off and also enough runway left to stop if necessary
VR = Rotate or take off

There are lots of reassuring points to mention here. Your pilots are planning every flight for the any scenarios such as an engine failure well before they take off.  Also, the engines are 'revved up' at the beginning (V=0) as that is a good place to see if any problems occur. 

  • All down the runway, the pilots will be talking to each other, monitoring speeds and aircraft performance (inc engines).  At any point, they are totally ready to take action in case of any of these rare situations should occur.  Incidentally, this scenario and others are practiced in the simulators every 6 months.
  • The cabin crew on all airlines in western world commercial aviation (including low cost!) are trained to deal with this situation...and so much more.  They are sat at their emergency doors during the take off 'roll' primed to evacuate the aircraft if needs be.
  • Cabin crew are trained to evacuate an aircraft, with half the doors blocked within 90 seconds.
  • Fire crews practice responding to aviation incidents regularly so that they can be on the scene of an incident within minutes.
A thought. 

An incident like this is very shocking when you watch the footage. The images that you see of billowing fire are AFTER everyone is off the aircraft.  There is a heck of a lot of back up procedures in place in the very unlikely event an incident happens.  Bizarrely, most injuries from this type of incident are related to going down the slide rather than anything else. 

Another thought.

The passengers on this flight will probably fall into two broad categories.  One group will be reassured by the flight crew and cabin crew reactions. They will find reassurance from the speed at which the crew stopped the aircraft, activated the slides and evacuated the aircraft.  They will find reassurance from the minimum amount of injuries.  Another group will unfortunately be very disturbed by this incident and feel they have had a 'near miss.'  That is why there is always help out there for anyone that needs it.

Take care,

Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear

Future Dates

Premium courses: Manchester November 8th; Gatwick November 22nd; Birmingham February 28th
Children's Course: LGW November 22nd
Ground courses: Heathrow October 4th

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