What does it actually mean when they say that an airplane has lost an engine and what are the consequences of that ?
Question asked by John
It is a very rare occurrence, but you may hear or read from the media, or hear from a pilot that an airplane has lost an engine. The meaning of that expression is that an engine has failed and is not producing thrust anymore. It does not mean that an engine has physically fallen off of an airplane.
Recently, on 28th of May 2012, a Boeing B777 took off from Toronto, destined for Tokyo, Japan. Shortly after the airplane lifted off the runway, one of the engines failed. Several internal parts of the engine broke off and were expelled through the engine exhaust and showered down to earth below, damaging several cars and property. Fortunately, no one on the ground was hurt. The engine failed to continue to produce thrust and was subsequently shutdown by the flight crew. What implications does this have on the flight of the airplane ? All multiengine airplanes are designed to fly with one engine inoperative, but with reduced performance. If an engine fails, all airplane systems, i.e. electrical, flight controls, cabin pressurization etc, will still operate normally. However, the airplane will not be able to climb as fast as if all engines were producing thrust. If an engine fails at high altitude, the airplane may not be able to maintain that high altitude and will have to descend slowly to a lower altitude, where the air is more dense. The airplane would be perfectly flyable and experienced pilots with their skill and proper training will be able to fly and land the airplane in the normal fashion.
The pilots of this Boeing B777 did everything correctly, flew the airplane precisely and handled the situation in a very professional manner. They flew the airplane with only one engine operating and landed normally and successfully at Toronto airport.
These are the situations where pilots’ skill, experience and training comes through. Pilots constantly train and are tested for proficiency to handle these kind of events, however, very few of us have had to actually face them in real life, because they are so rare. Pilots of this Boeing B777 did a superb job to land this airplane safely and not become a statistic.
A bit more about Captain Dan:
Captain Dan Baz enrolled in Flight School at the age of 16.
He has completed studies in Aircraft Engineering and Master of Business Administration. He has been at the controls of many different types of aircraft, from single engine Cessnas to large intercontinental jets on global routes.
Over the last four decades he has flown thousands of hours up in the blue sky.
Have a question for the Captain ? Send it to Captain Dan Baz email@example.com Every week a question from the readers will be selected and answer posted in this column.