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

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A330 Engine Failure in RVSM Airspace

RVSM Airspace… Where do we find it? Over the ocean! A place we may have aircraft within 2 miles to the right or left of our course, and within 1000 feet vertical separation. So close we can see the details of those that we pass.

In RVSM Airspace tracks are spaced 60 miles apart in the Atlantic and 50 miles apart in the Pacific. RNP ... Required Navigation Performance... is not only a type of performance based navigation that enables us to operate within this system, but establishes the required level of performance required to fly these freeways in the sky.

RNP-10 requires aircraft to maintain a course within 10 mile of centerline 95% of the time. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, other aircraft may be diverting at the same time as we are. Remember that old saying, “If it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any at all?”

While we’re open to many problems enroute, an engine failure is a biggie. At best we may have a couple minutes until she stops flying at our given altitude and wants to start down. ICAO mandates we descend 15 miles off our given route. This gives us a potential three miles of separation.

Let's assume that the aircraft below us is at their 10-mile RNP10 limit. They’re also slopping the allowed two miles to the right. Slopping: Language used when we fly to the right of centerline intentionally. Slopping would put the other aircraft 12 miles to the right, leaving us a three-mile window for spacing.

Note to remember: At Mach .80, a 90 degree turn takes about 8 miles.

We will be slowing and the wind could be an issue impacting our turn radius, but two consecutive 90-degree turns will position us almost exactly 15 miles from our previous track--- A 180-degree turn heading the opposite direction, or a 90 one way followed by a 90 the other direction. I remember him telling me not to worry which direction, we can always change our mind later. Apparently not only women have that prerogative.

The goal is to get off the track and get established on a new 15-mile track without hitting anyone in the process. But we must also remember to fly the plane. How do we do that when we lost 50% of our engines? Tomorrow is another story.

Enjoy the Journey~

~ Karlene


  1. Yikes. I'll be back tomorrow to find out. Talk about suspenseful!

  2. No Linda! We want you to take flying lessons! Okay...all is good. Amazing when these machines can lose their power and still fly.

  3. Wow 50%?! I'm just amazed that one can come back from such engine failure! And I'm eager to learn how. Will check back tomorrow!

  4. I'm ever so glad that you remembered to include the important basic: Fly the darn airplane! Fussing with the dead engine or look up the rules about how to get out of fast lane and into a safe 'Parking Zone' are wonderful, but someone still has to drive that winged monster. Maybe that's why the front office has two chairs with access to the steering wheel and pedals! Great post!! I'm looking forward to the next installment.

  5. Heather, do we think real life is stranger than fiction? Sometimes. More tomorrow.

  6. Thank you Craig. often we forget that first rule: Fly the plane. So as the last reminder, it's the first to be remembered. Thank you for your comment!

  7. I'm assuming the sound would be different minus one or two engines. If the passengers ask, it's just the wind.

  8. Funny. I never thought of it that way. Loss of "two" engines, and we could tell them definitely... "It's just the wind!"


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