A recent engine blowout on an Air France Airbus A380 left it with only three of four engines. The plane made it safely to land. But imagine if three engines blew out. Would the plane have crashed? As it turns out, the aircraft can still fly with only one engine.
Air France Flight 66 was traveling from Paris to Los Angeles last Saturday when one of the engines “exploded”. The flight diverted to Goose Bay, Canada where all 520 passengers and crew members were safely evacuated. The cause of the engine failure is still being investigated.
I’d probably be reporting a similar story even if three engines had blown out…perhaps even all four.
There are many anecdotes I can point to, but I’ll mention British Airways Flight 9. The 747 flight was traveling from London to Auckland via Mumbai, Chennai, Kuala Lumpur, Perth and Melbourne in 1982. Between Kuala Lumpur and Perth the plane entered an area near Jakarta, Indonesia with thick volcanic smoke from Mount Galunggung.
All four engines failed. The crew prepared for water landing, as the plane glided downward at a rate of 15km for every 1km it dropped. But the flight engineer was able to coax back on one of the four engines. That was enough to prevent the crash landing and start the plane on a gradual ascent to Jakarta. The other three engines soon kicked on as well, but one engine saved the day.
My point is simple: flying is incredibly safe. Even with no engines in the middle of an ocean a plane can gently glide down, land on the water, and evacuate every passenger and crew member before the plane sinks.
When we hear horror stories of engines going out, we naturally are filled wtih fear. But while flying is not without risk, airplanes are engineering marvels and are made to withstand intense pressure.
I hope none of us are ever in a situation like Air France 66, but if we…we’re overwhelming likely to be just fine.