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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, November 3, 2020

A350 Thrust Levers

 Position Not Movement

Years ago I wrote a post about the "Non-moving" thrust levers on the A330, and how they took some getting used to when transitioning from the Boeing to the Airbus. But the truth is, they are simply thrust levers. If the autothrust is not engaged they operate like any other thrust lever. Forward for more thrust and aft for less.  With the autothrust engaged, they are placed into one of four positions and the operation is equally as simple. 

The four positions:
  1. 0 ... Idle.
  2. CL ... Climb.
  3. FLX MCT ... Flex and Max Continuous
  4. TOGA ... Takeoff and Go-around

How They Work: 

If you plan to use full power for departure, set the thrust levers to TOGA. If you want a reduced power takeoff, set them to FLX MCT. Moving the thrust levers to one of these two positions will "arm" the autothrust. This means during initial climb you will either receive Max Power  in "TOGA" or a reduced power setting, derate or Flex, when in the "FLX MCT".  The thrust is still in manual, because it's armed. 

When you reach the thrust reduction altitude, you will bring the thrust lever back to the climb detent, CL.  Placing the thrust levers in CL "engages" the autothrust so the airplane now has the ability to give you the power necessary from idle up to maximum climb power. 

They stay in the climb position  "CL" for the remainder of the flight until landing. Yes, even on approach. Conceptually it may appear odd to have a Climb Power setting for arrival and approach. But you don't. It's only available should the aircraft need it. What you need to remember is that in the CL position, when the autothrust is engaged, is simply enabling power "up to" climb power. Whatever the plane needs for a given speed and/or power setting is available. 

If you lose an engine, then the operating engine thrust lever will be placed to MCT, which enables power on the good engine anywhere from idle up to max continuous.

The red button on the side of the thrust lever is the autothrust disconnect pushbutton. If you were to push the button with the thrust lever in the climb detent, the power would go to maximum climb power. Why? Autothrust was disengaged while the position of the thrust lever was calling for climb power.  Manual thrust you get the power that corresponds to the position of the thrust lever. Therefore, prior to pushing the disconnect button, it's important to pull the thrust levers back to match the position with the actual power setting, and then disengage them. 

If autothrust is  engaged and you pull the thrust levers aft to touch the idle stop, you will disengage the autothrust. Bring them back up to whatever power you want, and you now have manual control. 

There is not a lot of mystery about these thrust levers. Initially I thought I would miss their movement as they found their way into my peripheral vision. But not a big deal. There are many more indications  as to advise you to your power setting than the need for thrust lever movement. 

Training update

The Plane! 

I waited (not so) patiently for my operational experience (OE), and then vacation rolled around, backed up to my days off. So, I gave up on the hope of OE and headed south for a 10-day road trip with my husband, to visit my Dad and sister in Palm Desert. The plan on the return trip was to stop in SFO to share what I know on the A350 with my friend who will be attending training soon. Then, heading to Sunriver Oregon to visit two of my grandkids and middle daughter, prior to our return to Seattle. We'll be rolling into Seattle on the evening of the 8th and I leave the very next day, for an 8-day adventure of another kind. 

The day we headed out the door on the beginning of this adventure, I happened to look at my schedule and learned that I had been  assigned an OE trip to depart on the 9th, the day after I returned. My schedule: Deadhead to ATL for a 31 hour layover, then fly to ICN for a 63 hour layover. Which I'm not sure if I will be able to share my first flight because I might be in social media lockdown. However, after my extended delay in Korea, I will be the PF to Detroit for my first takeoff and landing. Six weeks from check-ride to the plane... but I have a plan! 

Enjoy the journey!
~ Karlene


  1. Congratulations on the A350 type rating Karlene. Great job of explaining the Airbus auto-thrust also. Not a difficult as some seem to think, although there are a couple of “gotchas” if not fully familiar with the system. With 17,000+ hours on A320/330/340, I have a little experience with the FBW systems. Good luck on your OE. I have fond memories of taking pilots up on their first flight on a new type. Enjoy! BTW, you mentioned a long layover in China but said you’re going to ICN (Seoul, Korea). What did I miss?? Cheers.

    1. Thank you Rich! Now I know who to ask when I have questions. And thank you for catching that error! I wrote this post a couple days ago, based on the first notice, and then then updated when my schedule changed prior to posting... but didn't quite make it all the way to editing everything. Thankfully we have an airplane that will know where it is going! Haha. Can hardly wait!

  2. Great. May I mention another power setting on the marvelous A350, which is Soft Go Around. Which is only available in 2 engine operating condition. And allow for a reduced power setting in case of missed approach, which is a good help specially when the DA/MDA or the initial Go Around altitude are close to final Go Around altitude.

    1. Thank you Nicolas! Yes, that is a wonderful feature. For those who haven't heard of Soft Go Around before, this feature allows a pilot to use a reduced power go-around as Nicolas says. How you achieve go-around soft, is after you select TOGA, you simply pull the thrust levers back to FLX/MCT. The provides the reduced power when you just don't need full. There will be a go around post coming soon! Thanks for your comment Nicolas.

  3. Do you need the loadsheet to calculate V speeds, or do you have a flight bag?

    1. Flight bag? Load sheet? This is a modern world and the new to flying, new to Airbus, would have no understanding of what you're talking about. So... guess that answer is "No."

  4. Is it necessary to set aileron and rudder trim before takeoff, similar to how stabilizer trim is set? I would imagine the aircraft could be heavy on the left side or right and not just toward the nose or tail?

    When pilots are selecting a speed to fly, do they switch from speed to mach? Can they switch from heading to track, and vertical speed to flight path angle?

    Sorry if this is a repeat question, since I don't think my first question went through.

    1. Dave, there is no aileron trim on this airplane. The stabilizer is automatically trimmed, and also automatically set at engine start if the performance numbers have been loaded. We don't change the speed to Mach... it changes at an altitude I believe... don't quote me but I think at FL280. Would have to look that up. But we can select between speed and Mach to "reference" one or the other. There are some great Airbus systems manuals on the internet... you can search them for more information.

  5. Hello in normal condition when taking off: I mean without deciding the plane takes off with maximum power or flexible power, just "auto thrust blue " Should the pilot pull the lever to TOGA of FLX MCT? I think it's TOGA because just like Boeing, u push TOGA bottom after stabilize when taking off, it automatically going into A/T mode

  6. If you want TOGA power you push the thrust levers into the TOGA detent. If you wan a Flex power setting you put it in them in FLX/MCT


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