Yesterday I shared the rather insane story of a Singapore Airlines A330 flying from Singapore to Shanghai, which lost power in both engines and descended for 13,000 feet before the pilots managed to restart the engines. This was by no means a “plunge,” but rather a gradual glide, given that planes can glide for quite a distance even without any engine power.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) May 26, 2015
A double engine failure is exceptionally rare, though perhaps the most shocking part is that the pilots didn’t divert the plane, even though they were near several diversion airports.
So what really happened? The Sydney Morning Herald has a quote from an airline spokesperson about the incident:
“Both engines experienced a temporary loss of power and the pilots followed operational procedures to restore normal operation of the engines,” Singapore Airlines said in a statement.
The airline added that one engine returned to normal operations almost immediately.
The pilots followed operational procedures to restore normal operation of the second engine by putting the aircraft into a controlled descent before climbing again, the airline said.
It doesn’t seem like they’ve figured out what caused the double engine failure, and a further investigation will be done by both Airbus and Rolls-Royce:
The plane landed safety in Shanghai, where no immediate “anomalies” were found in the engine, it added.
Rolls-Royce said it was providing “support and technical assistance” to Singapore Airlines, while Airbus said it was in contact with both the airline and the engine maker to determine the cause of the power loss.
But the part of the story which is truly bizarre is that the plane didn’t divert. On one hand I’m by no means in favor of second guessing pilots’ decisions, since ultimately they’re trained for virtually any kind of situation, and we have to trust they’re acting in everyone’s best interest.
This is a very unique case, though. I just spoke to a friend who’s a “heavy” captain for a major carrier, and asked him if there were any circumstances under which he could imagine not diverting after undergoing a double engine failure. He said no, because in such situations his airline trains pilots to divert as quickly as possible (of course after gaining control of the aircraft, which is the first priority).
There’s also a quote from a “senior captain:”
Pilots told Reuters that losing power in both engines was an extremely rare event, but one that they were trained to handle.
“We do occasionally lose power in one engine for various reasons, but you hardly ever lose both engines. If that happens, you follow the procedures in your check-list and try to restart the engines. The pilots successfully did that here,” said a senior captain with a southeast Asian airline.
“If it was a very serious incident, they would have diverted to Hong Kong. But the fact that they continued on to Shanghai indicates that this may not have been as serious,” the pilot said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
And while that makes perfect sense, I guess I’m just shocked that there’s a circumstance under which a double engine failure would be considered “not so serious.”
I know I have plenty of airline pilot readers, so rather than me cluelessly speculating, I’d love to hear what you guys have to say. Pilots are understandably opposed to speculating, but I’d ask the same question I asked my “heavy” pilot friend — are there any circumstances under which you could imagine not diverting after undergoing a double engine failure, assuming you have suitable diversion airports?
Interesting stuff, and I’ll be very curious to see what comes of this investigation.