ALL ENGINE FLAME OUT: How to land an Airbus A320 with no engines

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Below, an excerpt from an older flight crew training manual for the Airbus Industrie A320/A321 airliner, the same model that was ditched yesterday by pilot Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, III in New York’s Hudson River after losing both engines to birdstrike. There were no deaths and — baring one unfortunate person who broke both legs — no casualties.

How would you put a 150-passenger plane into a river with no engines? According to the training manual in another related emergency scenario (All Engine Generators Fault), it pays to keep your head on straight: “Remember one of the golden rules; fly the aircraft. ”

I also asked a pilot buddy of mine, Rick Sanders, what he thought about the whole episode:

My first thought is: the whole incident shows that the “system” works. It’s virtually unheard of for an aircraft to lose both engines, but after it did, the pilot drew on his training, kept calm, and flew the aircraft to a safe landing. Then the flight attendants, using their training, quickly evacuated the passengers. And the fire department and coast guard were there very soon to pick up the survivors.

Another way to put this is: even when everything goes wrong, the ultimate goal (of keeping everyone alive) is usually met.

The “system” consists of more than just pilots learning to fly from point A to point B, it’s a complete set of tasks and procedures, given to a whole team of people, that deal with all likely scenarios, and many very unlikely ones. And it works, because the safety record for commercial aviation is absolutely amazing.

Image: CaribbA319/A320/A321
FLIGHT CREW TRAINING MANUAL
REV 21 MAY 98
POWER PLANT

ALL ENGINE FLAME OUT

01 – TRAINING OBJECTIVE
• To establish a safe flight path.
• To recognize the indications of a dual engine failure.
• To carry out correct procedure.

02 – SCHEDULE
Briefing duration : 20 minutes

03 – EQUIPMENT

DOC references :
• QRH 1.01 to 1.04 (Systems remaining)
• QRH 2.18 (Engine relight in flight)
• FCOM 1.70.80 (Ignition and starting)
• FCOM 3.02.70 (Engine Dual Failure)

04 – INSTRUCTOR’S ACTIONS

Briefing of the following key points.

MAIN
• Monitoring of flight path and parameters.
• Choice of optimum speed.
• ECAM actions (APU use, relight parameters…).
• Situational awareness.
• Relight monitoring and system recovery.

SECONDARY
• Aircraft status : systems, F/CTL law..
• Minimum RAT speed.
• Communications (ATC, transponder, cabin).
• Related consequences (Pressurization, forced landing, ditching…).

05 – TRAINEES’ ACTIONS

Following a dual engine failure the flight deck indications change drastically as generators drop off line, the RAT is deployed and ECAM prioritizes checklists. Control of the aircraft must be taken immediately by CM1, and a safe flight path established.

It is important at this stage to correctly identify the failure as it can be easily confused with all engine generators fault. ECAM will prioritize checklists so to avoid confusion read ECAM carefully to correctly identify the failure. It is vital to establish good crew communications and to apply efficient task-sharing.
Establish communications with ATC, stating nature of emergency and intentions. Consider use of transponder emergency code.
The ECAM actions can be commenced, with attention to optimum relight speed . If there is no relight within 30 sec ECAM will order the engine master switches to be placed off for 30 sec and then on again. This is to permit ventilation of the combustion chamber. Start the APU.

Maximum gliding range is achieved at green dot speed. Think ahead and plan the approach. Depending on the airplane’s position, a forced landing or a ditching may be required if the relight is unsuccessful. Find the relevant QRH page and review the procedure.

The list of affected systems is long and flight controls will be much degraded. If the relight attempts are successful, consider the options of immediate landing versus continuing the flight. If the engines failed simultaneously, was there a common cause ?

At all times, maintain correct speed and situational awareness.

06 – COMPLETION STANDARDS

• Establishes immediately a safe flight path.
• Makes correct analysis and carries out procedure.
• Ensures strict application of task-sharing and good crew communications.
• Makes appropriate decision according to outcome of relight attempt.

07 – COMMON ERRORS

• Incorrect speed choice and lack of monitoring.
• Confusion with ELEC EMER CONFIG.
• Lack of situational awareness.
• APU started too late.
• Engine relight not monitored (stopwatch/parameters).
• Lack of communication.

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9 Responses to ALL ENGINE FLAME OUT: How to land an Airbus A320 with no engines

  1. pork musket says:

    If you haven’t read about the Gimli Glider, it’s a great read: http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=744

  2. georgelazenby says:

    When faced with what airline pilots do every day, it’s almost laughable to call any other working person a ‘professional’. Civilian pilots define that word, and everyone else is just borrowing it.

  3. halavais says:

    Hard to keep clam in the Hudson. Still doesn’t support a lot of wildlife.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is in no way to detract from Captain Sully’s (and Skiles’) amazing landing, because it does take phenomenal skill to put down an airliner as pretty as they did.

    I think something that hasn’t been mentioned, which deserve a note, is that in one way the plane was lucky. Most airline disasters are the result of a series of failures. One minor thing breaks, which would be fine, except the redundant system was turned off because it was glitchy, and then another part fails in an unexpected way, etc etc. In the case two days ago, while losing both engines is bad, it was the only problem the flight crew had to deal with, leaving the incredible skill of the pilot and copilot to shine through.

  5. Vidiot says:

    By the way, it wasn’t just Capt. Sullenberger. There are two pilots on the plane, and both are to be lauded. It wasn’t like First Officer Jeffrey Skiles didn’t have his hands full, too.

  6. Joel Johnson says:

    Jeffrey Skiles is a hack!

    (I kid. And you’re right.)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve kept clam too, but they smell after a while

  8. SifakaMon says:

    re Anon #8: You probably mean the plane was not unlucky. If the RAT (ram-air turbine) had failed to deploy or generate hydraulic pressure (note: unknown whether it had to due to the type of damage to the engines in this case) the crew would have had a dead stick. Then it would have been lucky to have had proper maintenance?

    They were unlucky to have a bird strike at only 3000 feet or so, it did not allow for much glide time. But they were also lucky to have a bird strike on both engines at 3000 rather than 1000 feet, as such a suitable ditch location might not have been accessible and hard contact with ground objects might have been unavoidable.

    As for simultaneous engine loss being their “only” problem, note that this procedure doesn’t cover landing in that situation, it only covers attempting to restart the engines; if you decide to ditch, you need to “Find the relevant QRH page and review the procedure.” That particular procedure is less practiced and I’d be curious to find out what those materials look like. This scenario also doesn’t go over the many side-effects of total engine loss due to foreign object intake either, such as, oh, the engines *falling off*.

    Various recreations of the ECAM checklists can be found by searching the ‘net; the pilot and copilot check the flight warning computers for critical information at this point. This crew did everything they had to do correctly and I don’t feel they are lucky in that respect, just well prepared and professional.

    Personally, I can’t wait to see the bottom of the craft and whether any of the airframe buckled.

  9. Enochrewt says:

    #1 Hell yes.

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