From the perspective of a clueless onlooker, the most interesting part of the story was probably that the pilots made the decision to keep flying, despite there being several diversion points nearby. That suggests this may have been less serious than it would have first appeared… which is hard to rationalize when we’re talking about the loss of power in both engines.
Anyway, reader Andrew left a comment on yesterday’s post, as he was on the flight, and offered to provide his firsthand experience. Of course this is from the perspective of a passenger, so simply presents the facts on what happened in the cabin. What was the atmosphere like? Did passengers know what was going on?
Here’s what Andrew said about the flight:
It’s hard to say what it felt like as I really didn’t know the engines were shut down/lost power. The turbulence started and the seat belt signs went on as well as the usual announcements. It started to get a bit rough, but nothing too untoward and I peered out of the window from row 40 centre section, aisle seat, and could see a lot of flashing, presuming it was lightning. I have traveled many long/medium haul trips over the last 25 years and have encountered this situation before, so wasn’t overly worried.
As with turbulence there is a lot of knocking going on and after around five minutes I could feel we were descending, but not at a rapid rate. Certainly not a plunge, then we seemed to bank right a little. I assume that we were trying to get out of the storm, there were a few moments when it did seem a little too quiet but with the other noises going on I didn’t pay too much attention to it.
After a further five to ten minutes I heard three thuds from underneath the plane and then the rubber/clutch burning smell. It was then I started to get somewhat panicky thinking lightning might have stuck the plane and we could have some damage. In hindsight knowing what I know now, those noises I suppose could have been the engines firing up again. Then after another five or so minutes the turbulence ceased and the plane was throttling up. During all this the lights were on but the entertainment system was off.
The other people in the plane didn’t seem to panic too much, there were a few moans and squeals as we went through air pockets, but all in all not panic. Mind you if the pilot had given us a running commentary on what was happening there would undoubtedly have been a major panic on board.
The entertainment system came back on and I immediately looked for the flight tracker to see where we were. At that point it said we were at 27,500 feet and slowly climbing. The tracking line from Singapore had a break in it but we had now deviated towards the coast of China.
The captain, who by the accent sounded Singaporean/Chinese, made an announcement about what had happened saying we were in a storm, had to descend and did mention the smell in the cabin which I did not hear all of, but he did mention it had to do with the engine (but for sure didn’t say both engines had lost power). The crew came around 15 minutes later and didn’t seem fazed at all.
After a normal landing in Shanghai we taxied to a spot to be ferried to the terminal by bus. Both engine covers were open and they were looking at the one on the left/port side.
I only found out this morning on a newspaper site what had happened with the engines and feel pretty lucky that we got back in one piece considering we must have been gliding for a while up there with no power.
I am no expert but I must say considering what had happened the pilots did a good job, the descent of 13,000 feet seemed to be controlled and fairly smooth to me. I do think though that they should have landed at the nearest possible airport and not taken any chances at all after they knew what had just happened.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Andrew, and happy to hear everything ended well. This certainly sounds much less severe than you’d expect with the loss of power in two engines at once and a gradual descent of over two miles (or as the Daily Mail calls it, a “plunge”).