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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Engine Failure Over the Atlantic

The best way to learn a procedure is to make it real. Create a story. Trust me, you will remember.

We were enroute over the Atlantic, Amsterdam to Denver, and halfway into our flight the number one engine flamed out. The captain pushed the thrust levers to the MCT position, max continuous thrust, and disconnected the auto-thrust by pressing the discrete red disconnect buttons. This kept the operating engine operating at max continuous thrust. He then pulled his speed button, placing the aircraft in selected speed, and dialed it back to “green dot” speed. The A330 slowed at altitude, and green dot would provide best lift over drag in a clean configuration.

He then pulled his navigation knob, and placed the system into a selected heading mode, and turned the heading bug 90 degrees to the right, directing the princess to fly off track. We had been flying on the northern most track, NATA, westbound, and a right turn off the airway would provide the best clearance from traffic on other tracks.

We had already past our ETP, Equal Time Point, and continuing on to our alternate was our only option. While the captain turned the heading bug, I selected a lateral revision off the “from” waypoint, 1L on the MCDU. This is the only place to find the option for an offset. I typed in 15R to build a route that paralleled ours, fifteen miles right of course. It wouldn’t have matter if I typed in R15 or 15R, the MCDU accepts either format.

I told the captain that managed NAV was available. He pressed the button and the plane took control of the Navigation, and intercepted the offset course. Had we not reached our ETP, and needed to return to the departure airport, managed NAV would not have been available and we would have flown the remainder of the offset in heading select.

The turn onto the offset route was quick, and the airplane was approaching the green dot. With an engine failure, the performance page automatically displayed and provided us a driftdown altitude enabling max terrain clearance, which the captain dialed into the FCU. When our speed reached green dot, he pulled the altitude knob and the airplane began her open descent to FL230. Because the auto thrust was off, and we had MCT set, the descent was gradual as we flew to our driftdown altitude. However, today we were over the ocean and terrain was not an issue, we decided that REC MAX, maximum recommended altitude, would be better.

I selected the Prog page, and located our REC MAX altitude, dialed that in, and then when we arrived at our altitude, the captain reactivated the managed speed and the auto thrust. We could have reselected auto thrust and put the control back into managed speed sooner. However, during the driftdown, with managed speed in an open decent, the thrust comes to idle and our descent would have been steeper. We opted for the gradual decent.

I performed the ECAM procedures with confirmation from the caption: ENG START SEL to IGN, THR LEVER to IDLE, ENG MASTER Off….

And thus the story goes... fly your plane.

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. Wow! That makes my stressful days look like a walk in the park! Thanks, I'll remember this story when I'm having a tough time at work and smile.

  2. Heather, I suspect your days are more stressful than this! I know what you do. lol. Like a good keeps throwing the unexpected our way, we arrive at the turn in the river without the paddle... or rather, at the top of climb without an engine. What will we do next to survive? The drama continues...

  3. Pretty interesting and encouraging. I remember that my most stressful days were when I was finishing my final project at University before receiving, but this tells me a lot. I think the most important thing to do in a critic situation like this is staying calm and be self confident.


  4. Hi Mario, Thank you for the comment! Yes, staying calm is the most important thing. When we're calm our brains work so much better!


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