View Full Version : BA 744 Diversion to MAN (Merged)

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Mini mums
20th Feb 2005, 16:08
BA 747-400 diverted in to Manchester this afternoon around 15:45 - can anyone in the know shed some light on this? Fire trucks followed the aircraft in, but all looked normal.

Curious to know the reason for the diversion, and why the decision to land at Manchester, rather than LHR.

Over to the lions' den . . .

20th Feb 2005, 16:59
Was BA268, Lax-Lhr.

Called "Pan" with fuel problem.

Expected to depart 18.00 to Heathrow.

Liffy 1M
20th Feb 2005, 18:38
Pilot advised London ATC that there was an issue re the "No 2, left inboard" engine (his words).

20th Feb 2005, 20:00
Listening in , the pilot declared an engine shutdown followed shortly after by a PAN alert due to fuel shortage. Between 3000 and 4000 ft he declared a MAYDAY with critical fuel and asked for sterile runway as he would to be unable to go-around.

Hand Solo
20th Feb 2005, 21:25
I suspect something may have been lost in the reporting here. Had the the aircraft had insufficient fuel to go around they'd have known about it a lot earlier than 3000 ft and company policy would have been to declare a mayday much, much earlier than that. Sounds a bit unusual that all 3 flight crew were ignorant of company fuel policy or chose to ignore it.

Human Factor
20th Feb 2005, 21:42
I agree with HS. No knowledge of the incident beyond what I read here but they would certainly have used the M word much sooner if that was the case.

3 donks isn't a big issue on a -400.

Egerton Flyer
20th Feb 2005, 22:50
I agree with john8b on this one, aircraft was 8 miles out when he declared a mayday.
ATC had said 10 minutes before in a conversation with OPS 3 that one engine shutdown and to expect an overweight landing.

Egerton Flyer.....

20th Feb 2005, 22:57
Taken from a Manchester website

BA 268 shut down one engine,the controller on 128.050 asked him if he was
declaring a PAN,he said no,
Then declared PAN PAN,said he couldnt get fuel from the tank,then went to
121.350,called Mayday Mayday,
He didnt have the fuel for a go around,requested a sterile runway.

Hand Solo
20th Feb 2005, 22:58
Well those two posts don't add up. If you think about it logically, the only way the aircraft could have been over max landing weight was if it was still carrying lots of fuel. That doesn't tie up with the suggestion that the aircraft had insufficient fuel to fly a go around.

21st Feb 2005, 04:03
Three flight crew? Does the 744 have an engineer on board, or just a spare pilot for such a long haul sector?


21st Feb 2005, 04:09

LAX-LHR isn't a party for two, isn't it?


21st Feb 2005, 06:31
whay i don't get is why, if he knew fuel was critical, did he not divert earlier in flight. surely it is not worth taking the risk when it comes to fuel.

Clarence Oveur
21st Feb 2005, 06:38
It would appear from the posts above, that it might not have been a problem of the total fuel onboard being insufficient, but rather the useable fuel.

If it was a problem in the fuel system, then it might not have been clear exactly how much fuel was useable until very late.

21st Feb 2005, 06:41
Sorry, was a genuine question. I am not a pilot and have never flown the route. I assume from your reply that there is a third pilot onboard. Thanks.

cargo boy
21st Feb 2005, 06:45
Why do so many have to ask the same questions? If you are not familiar with the a/c and the way its systems work then would the spotters please leave us alone on this forum. It sounds like this wasn't just a diversion because of low fuel but there was a technical problem to do with fuel transfer from tank to engine.

Maybe a 'FUEL TANK/ENG' problem?

21st Feb 2005, 07:55
From one of the cabin crew who was on it:

Engine surge on or shortly after take-off at LAX. Engine shut down, all the way on 3 engines but not enough fuel to make LHR. Some suggestion that fuel may have been dumped at some stage ( 3-engine cruise performance?). I'm not and never have been 747 licensed so I can't comment further.

21st Feb 2005, 08:52
Are you seriously suggesting that after shutting an engine down "shortly" after take-off at LAX, the crew would elect to continue a 10 hour flight on three? If this pans out to be true, that'll be BA off my longhaul prefered carrier list! However, methinks and hopes that it's total bulls##t.

Captain Airclues
21st Feb 2005, 09:15

The subject of Flight Continuation Policy (www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=151273) has been covered several times on PPRuNe.


21st Feb 2005, 09:22
Avman- Correct! ATC at LAX also reported flames from engine exhaust.

21st Feb 2005, 10:02
that'll be an interesting captains special report!

21st Feb 2005, 10:03
Avman Fairly normal on 4 engined aircraft......It's not ETOPS!

21st Feb 2005, 10:14

Are you seriously suggesting that after shutting an engine down "shortly" after take-off at LAX, the crew would elect to continue a 10 hour flight on three? If this pans out to be true, that'll be BA off my longhaul prefered carrier list! However, methinks and hopes that it's total bulls##t.
Any carrier with 4 engines will consider doing that, since getting passengers closer to destination is easier logistically, and engineering support is easier closer to home base. You don't have only one remaining to worry about all the way over, but performance is penalised.

Hand Solo
21st Feb 2005, 11:05
Continuing on 3 engines is actually fairly common among many operators. On the 744 its just means you cruise a bit lower and reduce range by about 10%. Much of what has been reported on here by spotters and second hand from cabin crew is highly speculative and to the qualified mind sounds like total BS. Continuing on three engines - sensible. Dumping fuel in a non-emergency situation then continuing on three engines - extremely unlikely. Pressing on with grave doubts over fuel levels then only discovering at 3000 ft there's not enough fuel to go around - even more unlikely.

21st Feb 2005, 11:12
I am quite interested in this one.

Would the 3 engines instead of 4 resulted in higher fuel burn? I assume they had to cruise at a lower level hense the diversion to MAN?

As far as the comment above is concerned, it would make sense to me for the flight to continue. What were the options, circle above LAX and dump tonnes and tonnes of fuel, emergency landing on American soil, aircraft stuck overseas along with its passengers and crew!

The flight deck obviously double and treble checked their performance before going oceanic to make sure they could do it without worry.

All makes sense :8

Handsolo, you posted that just as I was writing mine, first part of my question answered:ok:

21st Feb 2005, 12:00
Sorry but if the crew got it absolutely right how did they finish up with a Mayday at Manchester and no option for a go-around?

The Captain's Special Report will make interesting reading!

21st Feb 2005, 12:03
What was the MAYDAY call for?? Fuel or engine problems?


pax britanica
21st Feb 2005, 12:07
As a regualr BA pax I read this with some alarm even dis belief, but I did as one person suggested and read the much longer thread which discussed this kind of situation in depth.

My intial reaction was God are they mad to carry on over the Polar route on three engines. However after reading all the details on the earleir post the it was clear four engines are very nice to have ensure a smooth and comfortable take off but once airborne any single engine is pretty much redundant as far as safety (as opposed to optimal operation) is concerned.

I never had a problem flying the same routes or long over water sectors on a DC 10 or 1011 and logically whats the difference when on a three engine 747 and what was a case of 'god werent they reckless' turns into an understanding of a rational and perfectly safe process.

On that subject thought I would take my life in my hand and try and pour a bit of oil on the troubled waters that sometimes occur on this site between the pros and the amateurs. That friction is toa degree understandable which is understandable but would like to make a couple of comments.

On the side of the pax the cabin crew and 'enthusiasts ' I do think we have a legitimate right to ask the odd question without being snapped at or derided . Other than for the freighter guys we are your customers and should be treated as such even if that involves a bit of patience-something I am sure is benerally regarded as virtue among airline pilots.. Customers today do feel they have the right to ask questions about all sorts of services and also about the conduct of professionals in all fields thats the way of the world

On the side of the professionals though I think the non flying folks should perhaps think first and make their points in a way that isnt downright disrespectful at times or just plain thoughtless at others. After all unlike other professionsals the crew are up their with you in the unlikely event things do go wrong.

My views were reinfoced recently when I had the good fortune to have a go in a real 73NG sim at LGW -(Xmas pressie from Mrs PB)

Great fun but a real eye opener even though I always believed that FS 2002/2004 was a million miles from the real thing.

Landing it from a set up 6 mile final witha qualified pilot in the right seat was not that hard. Thats cos all i had to do was steer it and judge the descent . I think I could have a shot at that for real.

What came across though were two things-theres an awful lot going on in your mind to just use the yoke on a clear day -the same process for real at night in the rain with a crosswind leaving aside any actual defect problems would rapidly stretch and probably overload most peoples brain capacity. I know I could not get anywhere near getting it down in those sorts of conditions and they happen every other day in Northern Europe.
I half expected that conclusion but the sim ride really reinfocred it when you folks minds get busy they do get very very busy indeed way beyond the capcity of most people even with the years of training and preactice involved.

The other memory I took away was the sheer power of the machines- they failed an engine at 1500 feet on take off and while I held the yaw easily ( because the guy on my right told me what to do) the performance seemed virtually unaffected. Iwas really surprised at how undramatic the event was and kind of fits back into the original theme of this thread that 3 engines on a 74 isnt a big deal ( Yes I know getting it back on the grounds a completely different story ))

Anyway to cut to the chase

I like this PPrune and admire the attitude Danny and Co have of letting people of all interests particpate. Its interesting , informative to regular users and often fun to read. I do wish some pilots would be a little more customer oriented rather than dismissing non flyers with contempt. Equally if not more important ( since all non PPs are clearly guests here) is that when non pilot people ask questions or post a 'story' they approach it in a respectful and genuine way rather than than a sensational form along the lines of ' I was amazed that a reputable airline could do this etc etc etc'


( By the way the Sim ride was terrific fun and I would really recommend it to people interested in aviation; a real eye opener and run by a couple of terrific enthusiatic and informative profeesional pilots )

Hand Solo
21st Feb 2005, 12:29
Sorry but if the crew got it absolutely right how did they finish up with a Mayday at Manchester and no option for a go-around?

How do you know they did? The only suggestion of this comes from two spotters listening out on different frequencies, neither of whom are qualified to fly the 744. Do you think that perhaps they might have put two and two together and made five? There is an enormous difference between being unable to fly a go around and not wanting to fly one.

21st Feb 2005, 12:34
now, now cargo boy! surely there's no harm in the chap asking

I'm not familiar with the 74 fuel system either but I'm still interested in what's happened here

21st Feb 2005, 12:37
From the BBC News local site:

A jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines failed during a transatlantic flight.

The British Airways flight 268 from Los Angeles was diverted to Manchester from Heathrow because the pilot feared he did not have enough fuel.

A power surge meant a port-side engine was shut down, but the plane carried on using its three remaining engines.

The 747 landed without problems on Sunday afternoon and no-one was hurt.

British Airways said the pilot had noticed problems with the engine one hour after take off.

The aircraft had enough fuel to reach Heathrow but, because of a strong headwind across the Atlantic Ocean, there was not enough to keep flying if it was forced to queue before landing.

A spokeswoman said it was not a major incident and fire engines at the scene were called only as a precaution.

Sonic Zepplin
21st Feb 2005, 13:22

Great fun but a real eye opener even though I always believed that FS 2002/2004 was a million miles from the real thing.

FS is a million miles from the real thing:ok:

Doors to Automatic
21st Feb 2005, 14:07
FS is a million miles form the real thing as it's a lot harder to land! :p

21st Feb 2005, 14:35
Was talking to an Airbus captain a year or two ago, who said he couldn't land FS2002 for toffee.

Nuff said me thinks!!:ok:

21st Feb 2005, 15:06

After an engine failure on a 747-400, two of the major considerations as to whether or not to continue or divert/return will be possible related damage to the adjacent engine, another will be the en-route terrain and the implications of losing another engine.

A 747-400 at max weight on 3 will probably climb to about FL280, five hours into flight with the weight down at about 340 tonnes a second engine failure will see it maintaining about FL220 on the remaining 2 engines. Greenland MSA's probably top out at about 15,000ft so not a problem.

All this would have been considered in developing a strategy for the flight. Give us professionals some respect.

Angel`s Playmate
21st Feb 2005, 15:47
Right said TopBunk !

Sounds like trim tank fuel not avail any more.Valve frozen in.

If they really had fuel shortage problem into MAN, they would have had it known already way ahead of PIK or SNN .


Egerton Flyer
21st Feb 2005, 18:34
Just a quick note.

I understand that quite a few of you are professional pilots,(lucky sods;) ).
But I was at MAN on sunday and unless my hearing is on the way out the pilot did declare a mayday and did say he did not have enough fuel to carry out a go-around.
I'am a spotter but that does not mean I'm stupid, or does it.:8
Before anybody ask I have past my 15th birthday....

Egerton Flyer......

21st Feb 2005, 22:53
The 747-400 can go-around on 2 engines but there is a significantly different approach and go-around procedure on two engines.

All the uniformed speculation here is quite pointless. The truth will come out and will be less dramatic than the Sun readers would like.

I daresay the situation was handled exactly the way pilots flying for any other decent airline would have handled the situation.

They landed safely having kept ATC fully informed of their exact status and everybody walked away unhurt. However, let's not let that get in the way of a good slagging match from the comfort of our armchairs.

22nd Feb 2005, 00:10
MS flight sims are just a damn game. I am a professional airbus pilot and quite frankly anyone who thinks that they are a f **king good pilot because they can land MS flt sims is..... A total TW*T!

I have never flown a computer game that is anything like as real as an aircraft. Every 6 months I do a recurrent check in a class D sim. A sim that is certified for ZFT qualifications, and I still pick holes in its accuracy.

So why the hell do you consider yourselves an authority on flying big jets?

A 744 on 3 engines is safer (in terms of redundancy) than a twin on one. But just try re-planning a route across the atlantic at a one engine out level at an increased fuel burn whilst discussing with your co-pilot and heavy whether you should continue or not.

Get real chaps. Wake up and smell the coffee.... and bacon.

Burger Thing
22nd Feb 2005, 00:37
I belive it was around 2 years ago, when there was a big discussion about the case, where a BA aircraft made a go-around just before touchdown on a beautiful clear day, because of a EGPWS warning due tue a map shift.

Some pilots argued during this discussion, whether this was the right decision or not, since the runway was clear and it should have been quite obvious, that it was a false warning.

That time some pilots (from BA ?) claimed that it was the absolte right decision and in the matter of safety, the company SOP dictates a mandatory go-around (even if the warning is obviously nonsense), I believe one pilot here on this forum argued that the procedure is set, to automatically (call it maybe robotic) let the pilot react that way under all conditions, so he/she will never ever hesitate in a GPWS warning. For the matter of safety, of course... :rolleyes:

Reading through the previous postings here, I start to wonder.... Is is safer to fly a aircraft over the (winter) North Atlantic with one engine out and take a couple of risks, or to land an aircraft on a beautiful VMC day, when the GPWS warning comes on just before touchdown....
:confused: I am really sorry, but the safety policies of BA are a bit confusing to me.

22nd Feb 2005, 01:06
It seems that just as some on here are quick to point fingers of blame without having all of the facts, there are others who will defend the indefensible.

IF and only IF, this aircraft had an engine problem that forced it to shut down one near its origin point of LAX, and the crew elected to fly the aircraft full of passengers across North America, bypassing numerous suitable alternates and maintenance facilities, and the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter, with only 3 engines operating, then had to declare an emergency for lack of fuel and land at Manchester, I would not call them heroes. Of course, we have to wait for the facts to come out and this might not be correct, but let's not jump to conclusions from either side.

The crew might have a perfectly logical and legal reason for doing what they did. Let's give them that benefit. But on the surface, it seems that there might be more than a mechanical problem here.

22nd Feb 2005, 05:33
Flying the Atlantic with only 3 engines operating These days I suspect that most a/c crossing the pond only have 2 operating.

As for the fuel emergency, it's possible that the pilots found that the fuel in the tank associated with the shutdown engine was not feeding to the other engines; i.e. the other tanks were running down to uncomfortable levels while the dead engine tank still had lots.

This seems to be the second recent example of an automated fuel system that suddenly seemed unable to get all the fuel to the engines: Anybody got a towbar? (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?threadid=163308)

22nd Feb 2005, 06:43
<<These days I suspect that most a/c crossing the pond only have 2 operating.>>

Oh really? Presumably you mean 767 and 777 types?

On the subject of PC games - a friend of mine, a 747 skipper, had great diffiulty landing the FlightSim 747 but I could do it most times out of ten. On the other hand, he was a dab hand at TRACON (ATC sim) and when I tried I had about 25 mid-air collisons and the wreckage was strewn everywhere! PC games are fun, but that's all they are and can in no way approach the real world.

mr Q
22nd Feb 2005, 07:58
Fire engine at the scene as a precaution ??
Might have been more practical to have had a (loaded) fuel truck at the scene................................:rolleyes:

22nd Feb 2005, 09:15
I find it a bit odd that people on here are doubting BA's safety.
I don't work for them, and am certainly not a 'fan' of BA, but their safety record is second to none.
As we know, their flight deck recruitment is as difficult to penetrate as a nuns pants, along with their engineering.

As I said, I am not a fan of BA but feel more than comfortable on one of their a/c - no matter what decisions they make!

22nd Feb 2005, 09:52
The thing is that it's not because it's standard SOP that it makes it right. All the experienced B744 pilots in the world can tell me how safe it all is, but I still can't get my head around continuing a nine (plus) hour flight with one engine out and no knowledge of any damage that may have occured to the adjacent engine and possibly the aircraft. Lurking somewhere behind some of these SOPs are the beancounters me thinks, just as in ATC these days. I too thought I was safer flying BA. Doubts are now creeping in, not just from this incident I might add. By this I don't by any means mean to imply that BA is not safe, but only that perhaps the extra safety buffer feeling I had is now gone.

22nd Feb 2005, 10:11
1) It is not just BA who operates such a procedure; the 744 is capable of performing on 3, or even 2 engines, within safely defined performance criterea.

2) You doubt and refuse to accept what professionals say without being a pilot, based upon what - a gut reaction? These SOPs are proven and risk-based.

3) Whos to say that if the engine was working a valve still became stuck and prevented fuel flow, if that situation were to arise, or for that matter the same problem were to affect a 2-engined aircraft or an 8-engined aircraft.

4) You question the reputation of the professional crew without any basis for doing so, nor concrete evidence of the event.

5) An engine failure does not necessarily mean bits flying everywhere; equally a seriously destructive uncontained blade failure may not result in power loss initially. Many different causes and consequences all come among a power loss bracket.

Human Factor
22nd Feb 2005, 10:57

A 747-400 has four engines and four hydraulic systems. If one engine quits, it is left with three engines and three hydraulic systems. It is (more than) reasonable to assume that the crew of this particular flight would not have continued if there had been any risk. Yes, they have to fly at a lower level. Yes, it uses more fuel. So what? They did the sensible thing and landed somewhere closer. Wrt their alleged fuel problem. How do you know that had anything to do with the engine failure? It may have happened anyway.

A 777 has two engines and three hydraulic systems. Does this mean it is less safe than a three engined 747-400?

Please explain why you feel that a three-engined 747-400 is unsafe in cruise. After you've done that, please explain why you are happy to fly ETOPS.

If you're that concerned, take the train in future.

22nd Feb 2005, 11:06
Hi guys and gals,
I have read with interest the items within this post, and because of what has been said I felt that I had to register and add some FACTS as to what happened to the aircraft in question.
Before you all start screaming and shouting that I am a spotter, I am not, I am a BA engineer working at Manchester who was on shift when the aircraft arrived at Man.
Firstly, just after take off from LAX the number 2 engine surged, it was contained by the 3 man flight crew, shortly after that there was another surge with EGT hitting 1200 degrees. Lax control reported 20 ft flame from no 2 engine also. The decision was made to shut down the engine and contact LHR Maintrol and after acars message, the decision was made to carry on to LHR as they had enough fuel.
Upon crossing the pond the a/c was told by atc to descend and in doing so the fuel burn increased. The decision was made to come to MAN as they did not have enough fuel left to reach LHR, this was because of a problem getting fuel from trhe number 2 main tank.
The aircraft did declare a PAN and informed the tower at MAN that they would not be doing a go around. It arrived safely at MAN with no injuries to pax or crew. The aircraft was certainly not overweight as it landed with 5 tonnes of fuel onboard.
As for why he came to MAN and not PIK or SNN, the only thing I can think of it is easier to get items to MAN than it is to these other stations.
As I left work on Sunday evening, LHR was sending a 3 engine ferry kit to MAN to be fitted to return the a/c to LHR for an engine change, and the fuel problem was being looked into.
It was a very brave decision by the crew to shut down the engine in flight as these figures also count towards our etops ifsd's, but they all did very well to bring her home with no problems.
Hope this sheds some light for everone.

22nd Feb 2005, 11:06
Ok, Did the crew inform the passengers they were shutting down an engine in flight and continuing?? My guess is that they did not, to prevent anarchy and panic.
BUT, if they didn't they were in the wrong - passengers should be kept informed.

I think the guys on here that are saying the 747 is capable of flying on three engines are wording it all wrong. Yes the 747 can fly safely on three engines BUT IT WAS DESIGNED TO FLY ON FOUR
What they should be saying is that unfortunately the aircraft lost an engine, but the experienced crew deemed it safe to continue.

To say that a 747 lost an engine is not a big deal is wrong, because lets face it most pilots fly their whole career without experiencing it!

763 jock
22nd Feb 2005, 11:34
I'm happy to fly a twin 3 hours from a suitable airfield. Never flown the 747, but 1 engine out strikes me as no big deal...:ok:

22nd Feb 2005, 11:37
BUT, if they didn't they were in the wrong - passengers should be kept informed.

So everytime I suffer an inflight defect I should tell all my passengers.

Is this so that they can all give me advice similar to the ill-informed and ignorant speculation on this thread? Or is it so that they can decide to get off having considered the implications which, of course, they would have little understanding of anyway?

Thanks for telling me, I shall bear it in mind.

22nd Feb 2005, 11:41
Gentlemen, I am not looking at this from a pilot's perspective, but that of a passenger - you know, the ones that pay to fly with your companies. Many are of a nervous disposition as it is. Try and look at this issue from outside your technical boxes.

Can't find any train services between LAX and LHR by the way :rolleyes:

22nd Feb 2005, 11:44
Ha ha, its quite funny to watch how out of hand these forums can get. :D

My point is (surely others will agree), is that an engine failure isn't exactly a minor defect. I agree passengers would have no interest in a brake overheat problem, or a pack fault, but they surely have the entitlement to be inormed that an engine has been shut down - I would be FUMING having not been informed.

22nd Feb 2005, 11:54
I understand that it is perfectly safe to go on with 3. I also believe in BAs safety reputation. However, I find it unlikely that either an uneventful flight with all 4 engines (which the 744 alows to do in principle), or diverting in this case, would be less safe than continuing on 3. In other words, "maximum safety" is better than "perfect safety". I understand that the difference is deemed small enough so that other factors come into consideration. This is just my opinion...

763 jock
22nd Feb 2005, 11:56
Having been informed, what can you do about it from First/Club/Cattle? We need to be careful what we tell the customers, sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!

22nd Feb 2005, 12:03
So you think it's wise to inform passengers of a nervous disposition that you've just shut down an engine, really helpful. I'm all for keeping passengers informed of things but what were they going to do here, fix the engine, demand that the Captain turns the aircraft around or land at the nearest airport, don't think so.

Sometimes it's not helpful to know 'everything'.

Sorry Jock you beat me, I was thinking what to write.

22nd Feb 2005, 12:08
Dear God! Don't tell me please!

edited to say "Feel free to ship the booze trolley down the back tho"

22nd Feb 2005, 12:08
If one engine quits, it is left with three engines and three hydraulic systems

It only looses the engine driven pump, it still has demand pumps, in BA's case the no2 is an electric demand pump.

Stan Woolley
22nd Feb 2005, 12:16
If I'd been a passenger on the flight I would be extremely unhappy if I happened to read some of the FACTS as proposed by baengman.

A very brave decision to shut the motor down because it impacts EtOPS?

5 tons remaining, apparently not all of it useable?

These aeroplanes are so good that it seems to me they are creating a feeling of infallibility, probably encouraged by the beancounters and 'pilots' that no longer fly. Big mistake IMHO.

And yes I'm a real current Boeing Captain , just one who has been and expects will be scared on occasion.

22nd Feb 2005, 12:21

But having been told, then what? Imagine the scenario where one/some/many nervous flyers get hysterical about the situation and want to land immediately. Other passengers, less nervous - want to go on as they'd rather be in MAN than LAX. Before you know it there's a riot going on outside the cockpit door and the plane has to land somewhere even less convenient. Now that's a threat to flight safety!

This may seem a little cheeky but it's meant in all seriousness: where on your ticket, terms & conditions, at the airport or anywhere else does your contract with the airline specify that the plane will be flown in the state in which it was designed to be flown? Laws, regs, SOPs and everything else require the operation to be SAFE - and they don't require 100% of all kit to be servicable at all times.

Putting that technicallity aside, the aircraft WAS designed to be flown with suitable redundancy and fail safe systems - it WAS NOT designed to be flown with four engines - otherwise it would plummet from the sky when one was lost.

The reason that industries such as aviation & rail are so regulated and the safety sytems so involved (in comparison to you getting in your car and driving with a very finite chance that the single hydraulic braking system will fail) is that your average joe passenger does not have the knowledge to make a judgement call on the safety of the operation or otherwise. Thus the governments of the world assume the responsiblity for legislating requirements needed on the public's behalf.

Therefore when you step onto that plane or that train (or that ship or......) then you are handing your safety to the operator in the knowledge that the government has made arrangments to ensure that it is safe. Until you step off the plane at the other end (and trip over the first stairs you see), you play no role whatsoever in determining the operational decisions made.

Avman, you may have bought the ticket but part of that cost is you paying the Captain in the front to look after your life as well as theirs.


Gentle Climb
22nd Feb 2005, 12:49
Having read this thread right through, it is obvious that there are strong opinions from both sides of the cockpit door. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that I trust the two trained people who sit at the front to make the decisions. They know the full circumstances, they know the risks, they know the capabilities of the aircraft.

There occupation is to get me from A to B. It's isn't to tell me every minute details of the flight plan or what the current temperature of the engines is. I merely want to sit and sip a G & T and let the guys who are working do their job.

I make a decision to trust Boeing/Airbus/Cessna to work properly. I trust the operator to manage the aircraft and it's employees with a view to keeping me safe.

As long as the flightcrew get me where I want to go in less than two pieces, I will be happy.

Some of you need to get a life.

22nd Feb 2005, 12:56

Can we just get a couple of facts right.

This Aircraft was not operating under ETOPS. ETOPS in my time stood for Extended Twin Operations.

Even if it was an ETOPS sector, (assuming it had been a 767 or 777), the shutdown was before entering the ETOPS segment of the flight so wouldnt have affected the figures.

Time will tell on this one, but having flown the 777 for BA I am very interested in the fuel system on the 747. On the 777 the fuel is burnt initially from the centre tank (down to a minimum level)and then from the remaining two wing tanks. What is the procedure on the 400?

How much fuel was left in this No 2 tank (which could not be used for whatever reason) that prompted a Pan call and if we are to believe one "spotter"(and I see no reason why not, I even started as a "spotter") who heard a Mayday call?

22nd Feb 2005, 13:05
It operates to ETOPS since BA 744s are maintained to ETOPS standards even though they are not required to be, since overall the costs of maintaining higher engineering standards allows greater operational availability for the fleet.

Don't know about the stats or being in ETOPS segment specifics though?

22nd Feb 2005, 13:16
In the first instance this impacts ETOPS in the way that re heat mentioned, Even though it was not classed as an ETOPS sector or a/c, the B747 has the same basic engine as the B767 and as such any ifsd counts against the engine and hence impacts on the ETOPS rating.
As for the fuel, the no 2 tank had much the same as the no 4 which was 2.5 tons, as for fule feed, I am not a 747 guy but I believe that the centre and tail are used first and then the reserves then main tanks, the problem was that with the engine shut down, they were only able to get fuel out of the the no 2 tank using the over-ride pumps and they shut off at about 3 tons so they could get no more out. Yes I know there is a discrepancy in the figues but that is what the guys were looking into and will be for some time I guess.

22nd Feb 2005, 14:36

Thanks for the info...

It will be rather embarrassing if, at just the time you need to get all the fuel out of a tank following a shutdown, an appreciable amount is "unusable" (assuming all the appropriate pumps were working correctly).

With regard to ETOPS, Maintrol used to class an ETOPS shutdown as one that occurred in an ETOPS segment of the flight, obviously things have changed.

However, I seems rather strange that an airline which wants to keep ETOPS "problems" to a minimum (in shutdown per sector figures) should include in the figures Non-ETOPS (non-twin) aircraft operating on Non-ETOPS flights!! After all there is twice the chance of a 747-400 suffering an IFSD compared to the (same engine equipped) 767!

22nd Feb 2005, 15:05
Landing with 5 tonnes total and 3 tonnes in tank 2 leaves 2 tonnes in the other main tanks.

2 tonnes is the Minimum Desired Landing Fuel in my manual less go around fuel.

Mimimum fuel in a tank is about 0.23 tonnes; so, I would be seriously disappointed that the override pumps failed to deliver that last 3.77 tonnes to the working engines.

The other nasty bit is that you discover this defect rather late in the game:uhoh:

Only in the inboard engine failure case are the override pumps called upon to empty tank 2 or 3. All engine operation does not call upon the 2/3 override pumps to take these tanks down so low.

And I do not see in my manuals or checklists a higher unuseable fuel figure for tanks 2/3 when they're not directly feeding their engine:confused:

22nd Feb 2005, 15:49
As always some of what has been said here is true, some is close and some is way off the mark. (Even BAengman doesn't have all his facts correct). In addition some is just down right rude to the professional crew involved. They are all very competent operators who made a good many decisions. Please do not jump to conclusions.

Paul Wilson
22nd Feb 2005, 15:53
Assuming the account by baengman is accurate, the crew were told to decend by ATC. I was under the impression that the Capt. was in ultimate control of the aircraft, could he have not declined the instruction from ATC? From what I have read and heard, if ATC was told that the aircraft was on 3 engines and needed to maintain as high a level as possible they would not have hesitated to help. If a higher level had been maintained the fuel issue might not have arose.

22nd Feb 2005, 17:26
As a simply paying passenger & member of BAEC (silver) I would like to say that IMHO & based on what baengman said ["Firstly, just after take off from LAX the number 2 engine surged, it was contained by the 3 man flight crew, shortly after that there was another surge with EGT hitting 1200 degrees. Lax control reported 20 ft flame from no 2 engine also"] I cannot understand why this flight didn't return to LAX as that would seem to me to be the safest & most prudent option?

If I was on this flight I would be seriously upset to hear that a decision was taken to continue the flight with 3 engines after the problem occurred so early in the flight - why take ANY risk when you are still so close to LAX?

I fly (flew?) BA because I believed their safety standards were higher than their competitors out of LAX but this now seems to longer be the case?

22nd Feb 2005, 17:56
I cannot understand why this flight didn't return to LAX as that would seem to me to be the safest & most prudent option?

While appreciating your concern the above statement begs the question why is that option prudent and safest?

If a poll was conducted amongst the world's operators of 4 engined aircraft and the question was 'What is your company policy after an engine surge and subsequent shutdown?' I think the answers would be illuminating.

The flight crew of a twin engined aircraft have an easier decision, with the loss of one engine, because there is only one option.

A 747 could lose a further engine en-route and still fly safely.

At some point one has to trust that the people tasked with overseeing flight safety have looked at the various scenarios with dispassionate, but highly informed and educated, knowledge and deemed it safe.

What many are guilty of here is saying that because an engine failed the flight is in grave danger and must land as soon as possible.

The reason this one is generating such shock and horror is because a further problem brought the matter to public attention.

Three very experienced flight crew operated to company SOPs, themselves approved by the CAA, and landed the aircraft safely at Manchester. I am not sure what more they should have been expected to do.

On a technical note, and to add some perspective, a surge will always look dramatic with fuel vapour igniting in the efflux from the engine, it looks very spectacular at night. The flame is momentary and is not in anyway similar to a fire. Also a temperature of 1200°C is 120°C hotter than the 20 sec. allowable overtemp of 1080°C applicable to the RR engines fitted to BA's fleet.

22nd Feb 2005, 17:59
After all there is twice the chance of a 747-400 suffering an IFSD compared to the (same engine equipped) 767!

Surely this is playing with around with probablities? An individual engine is not eight times more likely to fail if the aircraft has eight engines?

Or am I being thick this evening?

22nd Feb 2005, 18:06
I would be seriously disappointed that the override pumps failed to deliver that last 3.77 tonnes to the working engines

The override/jettison pumps aren't designed to get the last 3000kgs or so out, the reason being that you can not inadvertantly 'jettison' all the fuel out of the tank (now that would be embarassing).

From the maintenance manual -
The override/jettison pumps can lose their prime when operated dry (pump inlets not covered by fuel). At a nominal ground attitude (wings level 0.5 degrees nose down) the left override/jettison pump inlet will be uncovered when the fuel quantity in the center wing tank is approximately 7300 pounds (3300 kilograms). The right pump inlet will be uncovered at approximately 3550 pounds (1600 kilograms). The override/jettison pump inlets in the main tanks will be uncovered when the main tank fuel quantity is between 8600 and 10,600 pounds (3900 and 4800 kilograms)

22nd Feb 2005, 18:07
cargo boy.......would the spotters please leave us alone

Hand Solo....The only suggestion of this comes from two spotters listening out on different frequencies

1. I may be a spotter but it is I rumour and NEWS forum. It seems a raw nerve has been touched.
2. Two spotters, one was on 128.05 but didn`t mention when the Mayday was initiated, I HEARD the Mayday whilst the flight was on 121.35. Two hearing it indicates to me that it is FACT and I may be a spotter but there is certainly nothing wrong with my hearing

22nd Feb 2005, 18:15
Some don't understand?

Doesn't matter. We do and that's what we are trained and paid for.


22nd Feb 2005, 18:29

The point is ETOPS rules were put in place for twin operations.

The company went overboard to keep the IFSD figures to a minimum. The first acars to maintrol regarding a westbound trip that was returning to London was met with "had you entered the ETOPS area?"

At the time the "same" engines were being taken off the 400's and put on the 767's as the 400 engines were of a later mod state. All to keep the figures looking good.

My point is that the ETOPS rules were not put into place for the 400 and why include the "same" engines in the IFSD figures bearing in mind the 400 uses the "same" engine in different way. Much longer sectors than the 767 and run at higher thrust settings in the initial flight phase.

The point about IFSD is that a 400 has a greater chance of an IFSD than a twin. I was not talking about an individual engine but any engine.

22nd Feb 2005, 18:38
For what it's worth, as a passenger...

If it's something I'm going to notice anyway I'd rather hear the straight story than sit there wondering what the flame out the back of the engine was or why we're flying under 30,000 ft , or why the flight is so rough, or... I'm not that nervous a flier but unusual events can still get the adrenaline going. Tell me everything is ok and I'll believe you - say nothing and my imagination will fill in the blanks. Thanks to National Geographic lots of people know that if something serious goes wrong the pilots are too busy to inform the passengers.

To be clear, I'm just expressing a preference - not demanding a right to know.

Keep up the good work!

22nd Feb 2005, 18:43
penguin123, as M. Mouse says why is the safest option? The a/c was overweight to make an immediate return to LAX and would have need to dump fuel. This of course takes time and in some cases it can take a lot of time. The crew would only not dump fuel if for example, the a/c had an uncontained fire and it was imperative to land ASAP. Once they had ascertained that the a/c was performing correctly, as they did before leaving the LAX area and was in no danger, electing to continue flight towards the UK presents no great problem. As BahrainLad says statistically having lost one engine you would be extremely unfortunate to lose another and therefore continued flight is acceptable on a 4 engined a/c. Rememeber they were on the west coast of the USA and had many hours of flight over land well known to them with multiple well equiped airfields enroute. This time also afforded them the opportunity to ensure that their Atlantic crossing could be made safely.

As M. Mouse says problems much later on in the flight have brought this to the publics attention. Many of the posters here are professional airline pilots with thousands of flying hours who are basically saying the same thing - continued flight was safe. Please give us all some credit for the jobs we have been trained to do. I'm sure you'd do the same to the solictor carrying out the conveyancing on a house purchase, the doctor prescribing medicines or the mechanic fixing that rusted brake pipe on your car!

22nd Feb 2005, 18:58
At the time the "same" engines were being taken off the 400's and put on the 767's as the 400 engines were of a later mod state. All to keep the figures looking good.

Factually incorrect.

767 engines were being exchanged for engines on the 747 for sound engineering reasons. Nothing to do with the 'mod. state'

The explanation is long and irrelevant to this thread or in fact to anybody outside the company.

22nd Feb 2005, 19:05
Were you flying the 767 at the time Mickey ?

I was!

Was the mod state different?

It was!

22nd Feb 2005, 19:09
spannersatcx, Shutting down the affected engine should stop the fuel leak and preserve remaining fuel for operating engines. All remaining fuel can be used for the remaining engines through normal fuel management. Fuel Leak (Suspected) in Flight Checklist

The amount the override/jettison pumps will leave unused in the inboard tanks in the case of an inboard engine shutdown should be shared with the flight crews. That's about another 200nm. that should be taken off the range for 3-engine cruise.

22nd Feb 2005, 19:19
Can I ask if the sector had been operated in the other direction, i.e LHR-LAX. Would continuing still be the preferred option?

[difficult qu. to answer with out the facts...so please speculate!]

22nd Feb 2005, 19:50
It's unlikely that the flight would have continued to LAX if the problem had occurred at the same time in the reverse direction. The Captain would have first call on the decision but in consultation with the company I'm pretty sure they would have returned to London.

The aircraft would have to be returned from LAX empty on a 3-engine ferry and the passengers booked on that flight would have to be rebooked elsewhere. Far easier to turn round, send the bust aircraft back to its engineering base, put the pax on another BA flight and save a stack of money in the process.

Also, the flight over the Rockies to LAX will involve flight over high ground and assuming (as we always do the) the worst case of a second engine failing, you might be poorly placed. So, best bet all round is to go home and try again.

gas path
22nd Feb 2005, 19:57
Can I ask if the sector had been operated in the other direction, i.e LHR-LAX. Would continuing still be the preferred option?
No! The procedure is, ex main base to return.
The decision to carry on from 'down route' to home is only taken after careful consideration of the enroute wx etc and is taken after consultation with maintrol, and in the case of an engine failure with the propulsion engineers.

22nd Feb 2005, 19:58

You are splitting hairs, your statement is a gross simplification of the engineering decisions taken at the time.

22nd Feb 2005, 19:58
We have had 2 B747 IFSD's over the last week, both aircraft continued long haul flights to destination without the passengers knowing!


22nd Feb 2005, 20:18
gross simplification of the engineering decisions

Sounds like management speak to me!

22nd Feb 2005, 20:23
Facts often do.

22nd Feb 2005, 20:59
We have clearly reached a turning point, we now have more spotters than PPs on the board!

This tread would only be about 2 pages long if we could do without spoon feeding PC pilots, card holders and wannabes all the basics over and over and over again.

Pax safe?
Aircraft safe?

Hat off!

But what do I know? I'm only an airline captain with a Visa card. And it's blue.

22nd Feb 2005, 21:01
m.mouseFacts often do.

Nah, not 'avin that.

You can get away with a lot on proon but that really is beyond the pale. Wash your keyboard out with soap and water.;)

Nice thread this. The headlines in the press when the facts come out in the open will be a leadwriters dream!!:yuk:

Someone somewhere will get a reaming for this event and the main culprits (the beancounters) will as usual walk away scot free.:mad:

By the way baengman, you are either very brave or very stupid considering the current climate within BA Engineering, MAN.:hmm:

22nd Feb 2005, 21:42
The headlines in the press when the facts come out in the open will be a leadwriters dream!! You mean like in today's Daily Excess?: Paraphrasing ('cos I don't have it in the house - who would?):
"Terror as 747 runs out of fuel at 30,000ft" :yuk: :yuk: :yuk:

22nd Feb 2005, 22:18
Interesting thread.

I have no problem with a big 4-jet continuing following an engine loss, as long as there were no other systems failures which would significantly affect the operation. It's an accepted practice and that is what would appear to be the case in this instance.

If the aircraft was forced to accept a lower level by Oceanic, (and that does happen quite a lot), that could affect the fuel burn and one would hope that the crew re-planned accordingly. The arrival at MAN with just 5 tonnes does beg the question as to whether this re-plan was effective, or were there other factors involved.

The knowledge that 3t out of the 5t was unusable is very disconcerting. The 747 drinks fuel at a prodigious rate at low level and I would imagine that there was a certain amount of uneasiness on the flight deck.

It would be interesting to know the route the a/c took (presumably northern or polar), and whether diversions to KEF, GLA or similar were considered.

I arrived at LGW a few years back in a 330 with 12t and diverted to MAN due to extreme winds across southern England. It was a direct diversion from 26L to 24 with no delays and I shut down at MAN with 4t. That's on a reasonably economical twin - you can imagine how quick the remaining three 747 donkeys were drinking the fuel in this recent incident.

Are the AAIB involved at all? I suspect not as there were no damage or injuries. Will the occurrence be investigated in-house or on a wider stage? It seems to me that a long accident chain was put in place and only broken at the last moment.

Finally, I personally support any spotter's right to contribute to pprune, and am disappointed by some of the disparaging remarks on this thread - it portrays us (professional) pilots as snooty, aloof, arrogant armholes. Give them a break - they follow aviation closely and would probably give everything to be able to fly as a profession.

22nd Feb 2005, 22:33
It seems to me there are a lot of people making unqualified assumptions on this topic! Why not wait for the official word and quit speculating. Im sure the flight crew have been fully debriefed and had good reason for the decisions taken at the time. The aircraft landed safely and Im sure lessons have been learnt. Why not wait until they are published??:ok:

22nd Feb 2005, 22:35
landing a 744 with 5 tons and some of it not usable is basically landing on fumes.....

22nd Feb 2005, 22:35
This is not BA bashing. Could have been any carrier. Accident investigations more often than not reveal not one single cause but a series of contributory factors. The very fact that this thread exists is because, by following company SOPs, what the crew believed to be a relatively safe operation (as so many of you go to great pains to point out) was compromised as they found themselves facing additional problems as the flight progressed. It all ended well but, let's be honest, not according to the SOP script. Don't let SOPs fool you into complacency. They're not infallible.

22nd Feb 2005, 22:48
Newt - I agree.
Who is investigating and where will the findings be published? It should be interesting reading.

Valve Kilmer
22nd Feb 2005, 22:53
If it is true, that the BA flight landed with a total of 5 tons remaining fuel onboard, of whitch only 2 tons was usable, I certainly see why the crew stated, that a go around was ruled out.

As far as I remember, we used 200KG/MIN as a rough figure for FF in landing configuration on the -400.

Landing with less than 10 tons of fuel onboard would trigger a voyage report as well!

The decision to continue the flight on three engines, given the very few "facts" available so far, sounds safe, and completely in line with SOP
s for that A/C type, however landing with 2 tons usable fuel, could/should have concerned the crew prior MAN.

Bearcat - exactly my thoughts!

22nd Feb 2005, 23:56
Interjecting with my area of expertise, modern broadcast media have dictated that reality is inconsequential and perception is everything.

BA is currently perceived as the ultimate in safe air travel, perhaps even more so outside of its home market.

This could change, and could change very rapidly. You may consider this not to be based on reality (SOPs, 3-engine ops, ETOPs arguments etc.) but, as I've stated, this won't matter in the final outcome.

Personally, and this is based on reality, I would step onto a BA operated aeroplane without hesitation, and before any other airline in the world.

But the public who keep the airline afloat may begin to think differently.

It would be worth for a bean-counter to commoditise the value of negative reporting vs. the value of a return to LAX (e.g. in this case). They might be surprised at the answer....

Burger Thing
23rd Feb 2005, 01:17
I feel a bit strange, if I read statements by my fellow collegues that in their books the Pilots (or Company) did the right decision to PRESS on. Hey, the aircraft landed safely, the passengers were safe, so what is the big deal? Yes, the aircraft landed, the nobody was hurt. But the fact that this aircraft landed without having enough fuel for a G/A should speak for itself.

Incidents and Accidents are merely a caused by only one problem or technical faults, etc. It involves usually a chain of events. In my opinion the crew (or Company) did a very poor decision, by setting the risk level to a significant higher notch. And obviously they very caught by different (to the planned) wind conditions and ATC.

And an IFSD just after TO is a different story than one somewhere halfway to the destination.


Jack's a dull boy
23rd Feb 2005, 07:02
I would bet that if they had gotten to the stage of tanks 1, 3 and 4 dry, then the tank 2 normal pump would have started feeding - It happens from time to time that one of the pumps gives slightly less pressure than the others, and takes a while to start feeding (according to the fuel synoptic), even in the 4 engine case.

5t is therefore not too much of a drama (following a diversion).

However, in my book it would be quite a bold decision to continue across the very cold and remote bits of the atlantic on three.

23rd Feb 2005, 07:24
It has taken to Page 7 of this thread before we appear to have reached a consensus amongst the "professionals" that this could have developed into an accident and that landing with so little fuel needs some explaining.

Can anybody say how much fuel would have been needed to continue to Heathrow, plus the allowances for holding and diversion and still leave the company minimum landing fuel?

23rd Feb 2005, 08:00
As Jack's a dull boy says, when the fuel pumps for the remaining engines became uncovered, the 3.2 tonnes of fuel in the failed engine's tank would be pumped to it (assuming no further failure).

My money says that they got the FUEL QTY LOW message which comes on when any main tank gets to 900kg or less. This would have been at 3.2 + (0.9 x 3) = 5.9 tonnes (assuming fuel is perfectly balanced in the remaing three engines).

Upon getting this message they will have actioned the checklist. It includes instructions to land at the nearest suitable airfield, and to avoid high nose up attitudes and/or excessive accelerations. This would explain the Mayday and the statement that they are not going to go around.

Upon landing, with 5 tonnes remaining, the fuel synoptic would have 3.2 T in the failed engine and 0.6 T in each of the others. The 3.2 T is still useable, it is just that it's pumps are as strong as the other engines', and so it will only overide them when one of them stops working (ie the fuel becomes uncovered). This would explain baengman's comments about unuseable fuel. I do not believe the fuel was unusable, and I do not believe that the pilots would have been in a position to know that yet anyway, short of turning off all pumps on one of the working engines to see if the fuel transferred, and there are not many people that would have the balls to do that, suction feed or no suction feed!

As for those passengers on here who are worried about the safety implications of the decisions made. A Jumbo can taxy out, takeoff and do a 'no decision height' auto land on just three engines. There are lots of redundancies built into the aircraft, and the extra engine is just one of them. If one of the remaining three engines fails, the aircraft usually has to decend due to the reduced performance, but this is just the same on a two engined aircraft too. On two engines, more fuel is burnt than even on three, but it is policy to ensure that if at any point a second engine fails, there is still fuel enough to get to an airfield and land.

We do not play games and take risks of this nature. We have your lives in our hands, and we also have our own to concider too. We are a well trained profession and give nothing but our best to ensure you safety.

23rd Feb 2005, 08:06
Did anybody consider what would have been the fate of the expedition if in the middle of nothing (the Decision point) they would have experienced a second engine failure? If they hardly made it, with the fuel, on three!? I've always been recommended not to enter into a funnel; never leave runway in the back, fuel on the ground and sky over the head. Why renounce (if not for safety reason) to the extra engine we always have on board?

23rd Feb 2005, 08:10
As a simply paying passenger & member of BAEC (silver) I would like to say that IMHO & based on what baengman said ["Firstly, just after take off from LAX the number 2 engine surged, it was contained by the 3 man flight crew, shortly after that there was another surge with EGT hitting 1200 degrees. Lax control reported 20 ft flame from no 2 engine also"] I cannot understand why this flight didn't return to LAX as that would seem to me to be the safest & most prudent option?
Because an overweight landing may be far more dangerous!

23rd Feb 2005, 08:12
Doves, if they had had a second engine failure at decision point, it would not have been wise to go around anyway. The 747 cannot go around on two engines after flap 20 has been selected.

As I say in my post above, which you might have missed because I have only just posted it, the decision about not going around was based on the checklist they were probably following at that time. In actual fact, had any of the pumps become uncovered, the fuel from the failed engine would have been pumped to that tank.

would seem to me to be the safest & most prudent option?

The best way to ensure 100% safety onboard an aircraft is not to get on it at all. But people do because the risk is low enough that we accept it. The same is true of flying on three engines - provided the fuel and terrain etc, are carefully assessed.

Albert Ball
23rd Feb 2005, 08:14
Bahrainlad, i think the point you make is spot on, perception of how a company operates must come top of the list of pasenger preferences.

One wonders if this had not be BA but a less prestigious airline would we be saying the same thing. The ....."Its BA so must be OK"....way of thinking still seems to prevail in the industry for no logical reason.

I've been in the business for over 30 years and have spent all my time flying Mr Boeings jets, 707,737,757,767 and one thing I have learnt over the years is that any non normal situation invariably gets worse through unforseen problems.

BA's SOP's seem a little strange to me, they have as stated a 3 engine ferry procedure for positioning sick aircraft to a maintenance base from an outstation or diversion airfield but have a different procedure for positioning an aircraft once airborne. It doesn't make sense after all how many passengers would voluntarily buy a ticket for a 3 engine ferry flight accross the Atlantic.

The correct procedure in this case was to dump fuel land back in Lax and ferry the aircraft to the nearest maintenance facility.

I'm not criticising the crew they were complying with their SOP and direction from maintrol, they just found themselves in a non normal situation that got steadily worse.(surprise, surprise)

This procedure is based on beancounter mentality and so it will be perceived by the paying passengers, there is no case for carrying out a 3 engine ferry flight accross the Atlantic with a full load of passengers.

Wake up BA your crew were nearly put in the position of a more famous Concorde Captain for no justifiable reason.


23rd Feb 2005, 08:16
Thanks GS-Alpha for the most precise description of events and consequences so far. Having flown the B737, B757 & B767 and just finished B744 ground school and therefore at the point where I can only forget more than I learn, I can now ask that the hand wringing posts by SLF with their insistence that they be informed of every decision made on the flight deck whether there is anything they can do about it or not, desist. The same goes for others who are not privvy to the precise details of everything we do at the front end.

Whilst many of the enthusiasts and pax who post on here with valid questions are welcome, there comes a point, usually after someone with good knowledge of the daily operation of the aircraft type in question explains in undramatic fashion of the real sequence of events and considerations taken by a professional crew, when the comments by the non-pilots of the type are not necessary and only serve to infuriate those of us with lower tolerance thresholds. Trying to make points about fuel burns and procedures with other types of a/c or worse, comparing what someone might know about PC Flight Sims and the real world or demands by a pax with no real knowledge of what really goes on at the pointy end that the crew should have returned to the airport of departure onle serves to wind many others up and are little more than trying to point score and a waste of time and space on here.

It's bad enough that the likes of the Daily Mail pick up on the story here and then insert the word 'Terror' to their headline without having to deal with the infuriated non-pilots over the crews decisions on how to deal with the problem. Please, ask questions by all means but please think very carefully about dictating what you think they should have done.

23rd Feb 2005, 08:23
Thanks Danny,

Thanks GS-Alpha for the most precise description of events and consequences so far.

Would just like to point out that this is what I think might have happened given the info I have seen posted on here. It is not a description of the events though, as I have no inside information. It is simply an account of what would happen in a normal engine failure scenario.

Paul Wilson
23rd Feb 2005, 08:37
I think there is some misunderstanding on probability going on here.

As BahrainLad says statistically having lost one engine you would be extremely unfortunate to lose another and therefore continued flight is acceptable on a 4 engined a/c.

This is simply untrue.

Say the odds of loosing any particular engine are 1 in 100 (far too high I know but it make the maths easier)

The odds of loosing one engine out of four are therefore 4 x 1/100 = 4%

Now take the case of taking off then loosing one engine, now the other 3 engines don't know that 1 has already gone, so the odds of any particular one out of the three left shutting down are unchanged at 1/100. There are only 3 left so the odds of another shutting down are 3 x 1/100 = 3%

However we have not considered the common cause problem, this is an interesting case because the odds on IFSD depend on two catagories of events.
1.) problems peculiar to that particular engine
2.) problems that affect all four engines (fuel supply, bad maintenance etc.)

So the reduction of odds from 4% to 3% for another engine only applies if the issue effecting the shut down engine does not apply to the other 3. The is difficult to ascertain. I do not have the data, but would suggest that a second failure is in fact at least as likely as a first failure ONCE THE FIRST HAS HAPPENED.

This is known as conditional probabilty.

If you have trouble with getting your head round this, think of the case of tossing a coin.

What are the chances of getting 1 tail = 1/2
What are the chance of getting 2 tails - 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4


Given that you have just tossed the coin and gotten a tail, what are the chances of getting another one = 1/2

In summary :-
Before you set off the odds of one IFSD are 4/100 = 4%
Before you set off 2 IFSD are extremly unlikey 4/100 X 3/100 = 12/10000 = 0.12%
BUT once you have had one IFSD the odds of a second are now just that 3/100 = 3%

With the rider that there may be a common cause which can only increase that 3% chance.

Remembering 3 things -
1.)To make maths easy I have used 1/100 for engine failure chances THIS IS FAR TOO HIGH.

2.) There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

3.) I know something about maths, I know virtually nothing about flying anything bigger than a C172, and, I don't have an opinion about whether the crew did the right thing or not as I am not in position to evaluate the odds of any failure cases and the ramifications of them. Happy to leave it to the chaps and chapesses up front to get me to the snow.

23rd Feb 2005, 08:58
Paul, you seem to know what you are talking about here, so I think you will agree that:

Before you set off 2 IFSD are extremly unlikey 4/100 X 3/100 = 12/10000 = 0.12%

would actually be the chances of two totally unrelated IFSDs? Your previous argument about related shut downs would add another term to the expression, but I like your thinking in trying to calm down some of the concerned readers here...


Paul Wilson
23rd Feb 2005, 09:23
Absolutly correct, I didn't try to quantify what the odds would be for related shut downs, just mentioned that they can only make the odds of an IFSD go up, because any term added to the expression cannot be less than 0.

But some people have trouble with the fact that just because something is unlikely to happen, if it happens anyway it doesn't REDUCE the chances of it happening again.

If shutting down one made a second IFSD a lot less likely, you'd just take off then immediatly shut one down, because "a second shut down is very unlikely" complete tosh of course.

23rd Feb 2005, 09:29
Albert Ball Why is less risky to land back at LAX rather than continue say, to PHX? Or perhaps JFK? Easier surely to continue with a non normal situation rather than add to the problems by dumping fuel? Why not burn the fuel off getting closer to destination or home base, rather than chuck it out of the back and land back where you departed? The risks have been assessed by the FAA/JAA and found to be negligible.

Sky Wave
23rd Feb 2005, 10:12
It seems to me that people are asking the wrong question. The question should not be "should they have returned to LAX" because clearly the answer is NO. As a number of experts have indicated there is no problem continuing a flight on 3 engines with this aircraft. Surely we should be asking at what point the crew could have known that they would only have 5t of fuel by MAN and if they should have spotted this earlier and diverted to SNN.

23rd Feb 2005, 10:33
Sky Wave,

Five tonnes of fuel by Manchester is not a particular problem. Two tonnes by Manchester would have been a problem, and this is the quantity that people are talking about. However, as I have pointed out, it is very unlikely that they only had two tonnes of usable fuel by Manchester. They would have been choosing to go to Manchester rather than Heathrow, because if they had continued, then they would have been dangerously short of fuel - at Manchester they were not.

They could have declared Mayday for many reasons. One would be a definite fuel shortage, and this is the one that everyone has pounced on. Another could have been as I have said, that they were following a drill that says "land at nearest suitable airfiled". They would have already been going to Manchester anyway, but just to make sure they did not have to go around, they would declare the Mayday too. (Just following the QRH FUEL QTY LOW drill).

THERE ARE NO QUESTIONS TO ASK AT THIS POINT, and so ALL questions are the wrong questions. You can be sure that the pilot managers in BA are asking all of the right questions, and if there is anything to be learned from the incident, will pass it on to the pilot community. However, as I say, this is very likely to have been a straight forward non-normal procedure, carried out professionlly and safely.

I am going to retire from this thread now because I think I have explained everything as well as I can.

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 10:43

Thanks for tkaing the time to give opinion and also the underlying logic of your thinking.

As a FQTV, I don't second guess the flight crew (I wouldn't like it if they told me how to do my job!), but the insight that you have provided is both interesting and reassuring, in the event that I am on a 744 that requires an IFSD.

Sky Wave
23rd Feb 2005, 10:46
Thanks for the response GS. I was under the impression that people were saying that 5t is basically fumes for a 744. I've seen these threads get sensationalised by people who don't know what they are talking about before and have no wish to go down that line. If you're telling me that 5t is no drama then I completely agree that there are no further questions to ask. I've also seen a lot of threads where ATC have stated that they will not give priority to anyone who declares a fuel emergency since no such situation exists in their book. Therefore the crew would have had to declare a PAN or a MAYDAY in order to be certain of a priority arrival.

23rd Feb 2005, 10:57
Something seems fundamentally wrong with what occured here, whether it be because of the operator's SOP or the commander's decision is irrelevant.

In my humble opinion, sure, a 747 CAN fly safely on less than 4 engines, BUT, if one has failed (with 20 feet of flame coming out the back), then SURELY the aircraft MUST return back to the closest airfield as soon as possible if it can (even if it means dumping fuel first - how dangerous is THAT really anyway?).

If the engine failed out over the Atlantic then sure, you have no choice but to press on and hope for the best (LUCKILY you have 3 more engines still), but when it is totally OBVIOUS that something is badly wrong (you had to shut down 1 engine) and you cannot be ABSOLUTELY sure what else might be affected because of it, and you are still close to an airport - get down and see what the problem is and maxmimize safety - you DO NOT just "press on" unless you absolutely have to (such as if it occurred over the Atlantic), surely?

How can it be assumed that because 1 engine failed in flight it is still safe to fly on 3 engines out over the Atlantic? This sounds like total rubbish to me, because you CANNOT possibly know exactly WHY the engine failed and if that reason could possibly cause FURTHER engine failures. You are close to an airport, therefore get down ASAP and maximize safety - do NOT press on - you are not being FORCED to press on. Period.

Happens out over the Atlantic, sure, "press on" - (you have no choice anyway, do you now?)

23rd Feb 2005, 11:08
barryt- you really don't know what you are talking about.
This thread has been totally hijacked by people who know nothing saying how it should be. Apart from saying I think my reaction (speaking as a 17 year 747 veteran) would have been exactly the same as this crews. I know what is safe- remember the pilots are also on board that aeroplane and have mortgages and children and no desire to hazard themselves in any way. They followed the book. The book is correct. Would aviation ignoramuses please stop sounding off what their opinion of 'safe' practice is!

23rd Feb 2005, 11:22
I know I said I would not add anymore but barryt has a point in a way. However, would you also say that we should not take off with one pack failed, because redundancy has been reduced? The CAA, JAA, or whatever governing body you care to mention, has assessed the risk and decided that it is OK to depart with certain systems degraded. Similarly, they have assessed that it is safe to continue a flight with one engine shut down. Maybe we should never fly more than gliding distance from an airfield, because at any point, all 4 engines might stop working? Where do you draw the line? When we concider whether to continue or not, we ASSUME that another engine IS going to fail. We then assess this situation across the entire journey, and check that we can still get to an airfield and land safely. If this is not possible for even a 5 mile stretch of the journey, then we turn back, or land at an airfield at some point before that 5 mile stretch.

I would suggest that most people give themselves a buffer on top of their calculations too. That is why this partcular crew would have gone for Manchester rather than Heathrow. JUST TO BE ON THE SAFE SIDE.

23rd Feb 2005, 11:24
Rainbow : - No sir.

I have the greatest sympathy for the commander and yourself. I have a deep suspicion that the "book" here is incorrect.
Common sense tells me you must always choose the path of least risk given a "situation". You certainly DO NOT take further risks to safety. As a paying passenger I expect the "book" and my commander to always take the path with least risk to my safety.

You say you know what "safe is". How could you in this situation be 100% sure that it was ABSOLUTELY SAFE to press on and that what caused the engine to fail will DEFINATELY NOT cause more engines to fail.

Sure, the aircraft has a number of redundant systems, which are there for all of us to PREVENT the aircraft as much as possible from falling out of the sky instantly.

They are BACKUP mechanisms Rainbow. They SHOULD NOT be relied upon as if "nothing was wrong and all is safe" when something goes wrong.

Even WITH all the redundant systems, there could STILL have been something which caused this engine to fail and which was OUTSIDE of a redundant system. Admittedly, the chances are quite small, but still POSSIBLE.

I do not expect the operator to (I hate to use the word "force") the commander to take further risks on my behalf to potentially increase their fiscal "bottom line".

Once again, I have the greatest sympathy for the commander, as I have a sneaky suspicion he would more than likely have preferred to get back to LAX instead of pressing on, but chose not to because the "book" said it was OK, and he might have some serious explaining to do when he got back with possible negative ramifications from his employer.

In this day and age it just seems to me that often company profitability becomes more important than people's lives even.

Bit of a grey area I think, in that (like you say), this poor commander must remember he also has a mortgage and kids etc which he can't easily risk...

23rd Feb 2005, 11:31
barryt- you know nothing- you appear to consider yourself an expert on B747 emergency/backup systems. Please read Danny's post at the top of this page again and try and understand it. Why do people who know nothing start trying to dictate what correct aviation practice is? It is getting appalling that any 'incident' gets picked over judiciously by aviation neanderthals who knowing hardly anything about this business suddenly start dictating what accepted practice should be. If you know nothing, keep your peace and let the authorities handle the outcome. If there are recommendations to be made, let the experts make them, not 'shoot from the hip' instant opinions from a plethora of people who don't know a bean! I'm getting very fed up with spectators here using Pprune R & N to hold unofficial 'court martials' after any aviation event- before even the full news is out.

23rd Feb 2005, 11:33
barryt, I am quite confident that within BA, if the Captain had decided to dump fuel and return to LAX, even if it had been against BA's wishes, he would not have been looking for another job. He would have had to explain why he did it, but saying, "Because I felt like it!", might not be a convincing argument.

Perhaps we should never take off because there is a chance that all of the fuel is contaminated and all 4 engines stop just as we complete the rotation. One engine failing does not actually increase the risk of the fuel being contaminated. Nothing in the system has changed - there is still just the same chance that the fuel is contaminated.

23rd Feb 2005, 11:38

So you say that by utilising the redundant systems and the in built redundancy of the aircraft being able to fly on three engines is incorrect?

So why build in redundancy then if you are unwilling to use it?

Just a thought...

I am not a professional pilot, the aircraft I fly have minimal redundant systems (dual mags etc) which are there to be used, as required, by the POH and the flight schools SOP's.

As SLF I am really not interested in knowing the most minor details of the aircraft and its defect's at that point, I am more interested in knowing that I have two properly trained, motivated and alert people on the flight deck, with more of a regard for their own lives than mine, that also have the experience and empowerment to make the decisions to proceed or not.

Also, I haven't seen anywhere on this thread to confirm that the passengers were not informed as to the situation.... (Although I wait to be corrected on that one)

23rd Feb 2005, 11:42
Rainboe : In no way am I insisting that I always be "informed" of what happens at the sharp end as the top posting suggests.

It seems you have taken on a rather arrogant approach to my comments and have adopted a very defensive approach to this issue, together with the chap in the top posting.

It won't go away, whether you like it or not sir. Nobody is accusing you, or fellow 747 drivers. There is still something fundamentally wrong with what happened and it smacks of the operator trying to minimize their costs at a potentially increased risk to passengers.

Please understand while you are in your ivory tower (being a 17 year 747 veteran and all) Rainboe that "Joe Public" is not always a moron and is entitled to voice his opinion. If that is a bit "prickly" for you, then that's too bad - "thou protesteth much!"

There by the grace of God go I (as a paying passenger)

pprecious : Use redunduncy by all means! But only when you HAVE to, or are FORCED to!

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 11:52

Rainbow is not being arrogant nor defensive, he is replying as a professional in a highly specialised occupation.

Now neither you nor I are professionals in that field, so maybe we ought to leave comment on this thread to them, since the performance of airline crews over the years suggests that they know what they are doing.

Alternatively, you can always go across to Airliners.net and have a chat with the folks there.

The line you are taking strikes me as being similar to the tactics that might be used by an investigative journalist, confronting people with a load of speculative tosh and then accusing them of protesting too much when they comment.

You capitalisation technique is also reminiscent of Red Top subs.

23rd Feb 2005, 11:55

Could you explain why flying a 747 on three engines (with an ability to fly on two) is less safe than flying a twin engine 777?

Emotionally people are saying it is safest to dump fuel and land again. Fortunately SOPs are developed unemotionally and are based on careful and considered analysis.

As flight crew we have the ultimate say but one would have to have extremely compelling reasons to operate outside SOPs. An emotional impulse that it is safer to dump fuel and land would not fall into that bracket.

Three highly trained and experienced pilots with many thousands of hours were happy to continue within defined parameters, refined over many years by many highly experienced and qualified people, but you say it would have been safer not to.

Could you explain your background and qualifications which give you enough insight and experience to say that everybody else is wrong?

When ETOPS was first considered everybody was aghast that it was even considered. I didn't like the idea and said I would never do it. I now do at least 8 ETOPS sectors every month. The change of heart has come from observation, education and experience. That last numbers I saw showed that there are around 1,100 ETOPS sectors flown every 24 hours.

My emotional opposition to ETOPS was not grounded in reality. Similarly so many of the opinions posted on this thread.

It is worthy of note that nobody from any other major carrier operating 4 engined public transport has posted what there particular company philosphy is following an IFSD.

Stan Woolley
23rd Feb 2005, 11:55

I don't believe you always have to be an expert to know when something isn't right.

I'm in the same line of work and it seems clear to me that this flight went wrong at some point, the debate is where and how?

23rd Feb 2005, 11:58
Why on earth did they not go in to SNN or DUB??

I am one who certainly supports their decision to bring the a/c back to the UK, but I feel BA were being a little greedy to try and bypass Ireland.

At the end of the day - Anything could have occured that would have prompted a Go-Around, what would have their options been then?? The headlines could have been a lot worse!!

23rd Feb 2005, 11:58
I love the way everyone just assumes I am not a professional. Why? Because Rainboe says so?

What makes a professional anyway? Rainboe's attitude? (Which is akin to a kid being prodded and having a toy removed from him because he is about to break it).

You are possibly correct. I AM getting tired MYSELF now, of people with seemingly no common sense...

Stan Woolley
23rd Feb 2005, 12:01
Three highly trained and experienced pilots with many thousands of hours were happy to continue within defined parameters,

Yeah and land on a MAYDAY with bog all fuel and no Go-Around capability !!

If this is modern airmanship then give me the old fashioned kind.

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 12:03

Do you really want me to answer your question?

Your initial post suggests that (a) you were "tired and emotional" when you wrote it or (b) you have very little clue about the subject.

Please re-read the posts from GS-Alpha and M.Mouse.

23rd Feb 2005, 12:03
In closing (I have to leave now) I would just like to say that in no way am I "blaming" or holding any of the crew responsible for what happened (so all you reporters out there take NOTE).

But something STILL doesn't feel right about the flight.

Cheers all.

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 12:04
That copy deadline's a killer, isn't it BarryT :O

23rd Feb 2005, 12:19
with bog all fuel

Is that a known fact?

23rd Feb 2005, 12:21
I have over 10,000 hrs on all models of B747, mostly on the 744. During that time I've carried out 3+eng ferries, including across the Atlantic, and flown air-tests on 2+eng. The aircraft is safe and easy to fly in all configurations, provided that you have the knowledge and training to do so. There is nothing, from the sparse information here on Pprune, that would indicate that the crew carried out anything other than a text book operation. Barrack room lawyers please note!

We are very fortunate to have so many experts available to us here on Pprune. It seems a shame that most of them push a pen for a living.;)

Captain Airclues
23rd Feb 2005, 12:23
As I said on page 2, IFSD Continuation Policy has been discussed at length on PPRuNe and so I don't intend to go through it all again. Suffice to say that this crew, and all the other professionals involved (engineers, ATCOs etc), did an excellent job in getting their customers to within 200 miles of their destination in a safe and professional manner.
As GS states, all of the 5t on board was usable by opening the crossfeel valves and using the normal fuel pumps in tank 2. 5t is more that you might have after a diversion from somewhere like LHR due to weather etc. A go-around, radar vectored circuit and landing will use about 2t (I did it a few weeks ago). As we all know, the JAR-OPS rules about reserve and alternate fuel are very different for a two-runway airfield than for a one-runway airfield (once again this has been discussed many times here on PPRuNe), so it would seem sensible to overfly a single runway airfield and continue to EGCC.
If anyone is not happy with this then I suggest that you only fly on two-engined aircraft. That way you can ensure that you will land after an IFSD. However you might be airbourne for three hours on ONE engine before you do so.


Stan Woolley
23rd Feb 2005, 12:24
If it's wrong enlighten me.

23rd Feb 2005, 12:34
BarryT, you refuse to accept the explanations given to you by pilots who are experienced on type so all I can suggest is that you put in the time, effort and money to complete a course for your Air Transport Pilots Licence and then book yourself on a B744 type rating course. Once you have those qualifications under your belt you will be in a position to explain why you are so sure that what the crew did was wrong. In the meantime, perhaps you will leave us to discuss the more technical aspects of this case. You have made your point.

As for Stan Wooley Yeah and land on a MAYDAY with bog all fuel and no Go-Around capability !!Perhaps you would like to enlighten us all to your B744 experience or expertise. As has been pointed out, 5t of mostly useable fuel is not "bog all" and the reasons for the mayday have already been stated. WE are the first to complain when the media sensationalise what are in fact normal SOP's so why shouldn't we do the same when someone who purports to be a professional pilot is no better? It never ceases to amaze how the comforting cloak of anonimity brings out the worst in people. :rolleyes:

Perhaps some of the lay people out there need explaining about the difference between engine failure and engine severe vibration, separation or fire as there seems to be some confusion about why this engine was shut down because of a surge and not because of a contained or uncontained failure. The again, we had to cover all that as part of our licence qualification and subsequent type rating processes and that didn't happen overnight!

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 12:38
Capt A & others

As a frequent traveller, your point about the pax being delivered safely and close to their final destination strikes a chord with me and your recognition of the "system" of different skills that supported this is also well made.

Having delivered some consulting assignment for an operational area within a big airline and seen a glimpse of your world, it seems to me that the problem with some people on here is that they do not realise how well proven SOPs are and how seriously safety is taken within airline flight ops.

Neither do they realise that if a MAYDAY was called, due to SOP requirement, it is not because the aeroplane was about to plunge to its doom, but rather because the aircraft manufacturer, authorities or the airline decided that this is the best way to mitigate the risk profile at that stage of flight, thus making it a non sensational event, just the implementation of safety planning.

I started my 10 months of work with an open mind and came away convinced that I am very safe in 8F!

Stan Woolley
23rd Feb 2005, 12:46

I have plenty enough experience and knowledge to have an expert opinion at least the match of yours !!

Steve Mc Kinnell

23rd Feb 2005, 13:24

Perhaps some of the lay people out there need explaining about the difference between engine failure and engine severe vibration, separation or fire as there seems to be some confusion about why this engine was shut down because of a surge and not because of a contained or uncontained failure. The again, we had to cover all that as part of our licence qualification and subsequent type rating processes and that didn't happen overnight!

The FAA/JAA recently completed a review of the possible engine failure definitions and checklists/procedures and published the results of this study in this link http://fromtheflightdeck.com/Stories/turbofan/

The study includes recommendations from the manufacturers on what are the most common signatures and how to deal with them

23rd Feb 2005, 13:34
"Why on earth did they not go in to SNN or DUB??"

Generally, West Coast US flights to London do not transition Irish airspace at all.

23rd Feb 2005, 14:46

Appreciate your thought process, but your explanation does not fit with some of the available evidence i.e a MAN engineer said there were 5.2 tonnes on board: 2.6 in No 2, and another 2.6 in No 4. (This is from memory as I don't want to trawl through the thread).

If you have been reading this forum for more than a few months you will remember the many threads where BA fuel policy has been discussed, with several expressing concern that one day they will need to call MAYDAY to get in. Well it's happened. I'm very surprised it should happen at the end of a flight where fuel burn is known to be higher. Your explanation seems to suggest the flight crew were somehow surprised by a warning, surely if you can explain what happened after the event, they should be expected to have the knowledge to anticipate this too?


zak dingle
23rd Feb 2005, 15:23
I'm very surprised it should happen at the end of a flight where fuel burn is known to be higher.

can you explain what you meant by this comment Bermondsey?

23rd Feb 2005, 15:41

No problem, I'll take a look at baeng's post for you, in fact here is everything quoted about the fuel remaining...

Before you all start screaming and shouting that I am a spotter, I am not, I am a BA engineer working at Manchester who was on shift when the aircraft arrived at Man. Firstly, just after take off from LAX the number 2 engine surged, it was contained by the 3 man flight crew, shortly after that there was another surge with EGT hitting 1200 degrees. Lax control reported 20 ft flame from no 2 engine also. The decision was made to shut down the engine and contact LHR Maintrol and after acars message, the decision was made to carry on to LHR as they had enough fuel.
Upon crossing the pond the a/c was told by atc to descend and in doing so the fuel burn increased. The decision was made to come to MAN as they did not have enough fuel left to reach LHR, this was because of a problem getting fuel from trhe number 2 main tank.
The aircraft did declare a PAN and informed the tower at MAN that they would not be doing a go around. It arrived safely at MAN with no injuries to pax or crew. The aircraft was certainly not overweight as it landed with 5 tonnes of fuel onboard.

I got involved with this thread because I take pride in the company I work for, and I was not happy with the tone from some of the passengers on here with regards to whether their safety is ever put at risk in such circumstances.

I hope I am clear when I say that I have NO knowledge of this incident except for what I have read here. My initial post was written to try to explain that all of the 'facts' posted here do not in ANY way suggest that safety was ever in question, or that the pilots, air traffic, or maintrol etc, screwed up in any way.

With regards to whether the pilots should have know what was going to happen - why do you suspect they did not? Do you have any evidence of this? I mentioned the FUEL QTY LOW checklist. They did not necessarily wait for the EICAS prompt. They may well have anticipated it and discussed the relevant checklist well in advance? What evidence is there that they did not anticipate it? Policy is to declare a PAN if the aircraft might land without reserve fuel. A MAYDAY is declared when it will.

one day they will need to call MAYDAY to get in

As I have said, they more than likely did NOT declare a MAYDAY due to the possibility of landing with less than reserve fuel, because 5 tonnes is ABOVE reserve! In fact baeng's post doesn't even suggest a MAYDAY was called, although some other poster's who were listening to radio did.

If a MAYDAY was called, where is your evidence that it was due to landing with below reserve fuel? It was more than likely regarding the requirement to avoid high pitch levels as mentioned in the checklist. This incidentally does not mean they could not go around, just that they could not do a full energy go-around. They could quite easily break off the approach and fly a gradual climb. But they wanted to avoid a full energy go-around, such as would be required for a discontinued approach at the very late stages. Hence the information that they would not be going around. In this way, the runway would have been kept sterile for the latter part of the approach.

I really cannot see what all of this fuss is about? My guess would be that the crew did a fantastic job throughout. I certainly have not seen any evidence to suggest otherwise

23rd Feb 2005, 15:45
In the later stages of the flight, wouldn't fuel buirn tend to be lower at a given altitude as the aircraft becomes lighter due to cumulative fuel burn?

Final 3 Greens
23rd Feb 2005, 16:12
Zak, Chippy

Please read the post again.

I think that you are inserting a comma where the poster did not and thus misunderstanding the sentence.

Believe that he is referring to the fact that 3 engined flight burns more fuel than 4 engined flight.

23rd Feb 2005, 16:18
I got concerned that the override/jettison pumps were the only way to get fuel from tanks 2/3 to the other engines.

Jack's a dull boy, GS-ALPHA, Danny et al. have rightly pointed out that the fuel left behind by the override/jettison pumps will still get to the remaining engines.

Examination of the fuel system schematic (http://www.meriweather.com/747/over/fuelsys.html) -- something I should have done first -- shows that the boost pumps in any tank can feed any engine.

Thank you, gentlemen, for the information -- I learned something.

23rd Feb 2005, 16:22
Assuming the routing was correctly setup in the FMS, shouldnt an INSUFFICIENT FUEL message appear on the scratchpad at some stage?

23rd Feb 2005, 16:32

You are correct, but there is no evidence that this point was reached? With two runways available at Manchester, the crew will have put reserve fuel (plus a bit of buffer probably), into the FMS. (This is in fact Reserves fuel now - note the S, because no diversion is necessary because of the two runways). This figure could have been about 4 tonnes or slightly less, and they will have burnt a bit taxying in anyway.

23rd Feb 2005, 17:10
Regardless of the model of 747, 5 tons is very little fuel.


23rd Feb 2005, 17:25

You are correct, that at the end of a flight, jet transport aircraft carry "very little fuel."

At the end of a diversion, they tend to carry even less.

And your point is........?

23rd Feb 2005, 17:27
Your remark does not even deserve an answer

23rd Feb 2005, 17:28
Very little for what?

They landed with more than the legal minimum, are you suggesting the rules need revising?

If so can you expand on your fatuous statement?

23rd Feb 2005, 17:40
I've ended up with less than that after shutdown....without a Mayday, which incidently was perfectly correctly given in this case. The Mayday did not mean 'we're going down, save us!!!!' (extra exclamations added for maximum dramatic effect). It meant 'we are possibly going to land with below Reserve fuel'- Reserve fuel being something below 4.5 tons.
I really feel that the crew did extremely well for many hours under trying conditions with everything 'to the book'. It enrages me that uninformed and ignorant of aviation procedures people are crawling out of the woodwork with their daft 'shoot from the hip' opinions and so easily criticising professionals who have made a damn good job of a trying event. It is seriously making me consider the wisdom of entering into discussions in an open forum with people who don't know what they are talking about. Why do they need to express themsolves so objectionably in a Professional Pilots Forum?

and 4468 made a perfectly sensible point above!

23rd Feb 2005, 17:52
If so can you expand on your fatuous statement?
fatuous \FACH-oo-uhs\, adjective:
1. Inanely foolish and unintelligent; stupid.

Coming from one Pilot to another that seems a rather cruel remark (perhaps, just in the heat of the moment) .... there is no doubt that if anyone wants to start a heated debate then the subject of IFSD's is sure to oblige) :( .... JJ's almost a "2000 posts" man so he can't be all that bad ;)

Sleeping Freight Dog
23rd Feb 2005, 18:05
I'm curious if you take that this happened to a BA flight out of the picture, and substitute another carrier, for instance KE or CI, which have had a perceived history of cockpit problems, on the same agenda, do you get the same reaction. Would they be praising the crew for "plodding on" or chastizing them for
reckless decisions?

23rd Feb 2005, 18:43
So now we are moving on from what this BA crew did to what would be the reaction if someone else did it? It's all getting a little twisted and hard to follow, isn't it? Would you like to expand on what you perceive as their 'history of cockpit problems' and what that means and what point you are going to try and make out of it? If we are going to wonder down peculiar tracks, we might as well thread creep completely!

Captain Airclues
23rd Feb 2005, 19:09
Regardless of the model of 747, 5 tons is very little fuel

But it is more than Reserve Fuel which, by definition is; "Fuel to hold for 30 minutes at 1500ft above aerodrome elevation in ISA calculated with the estimated landing mass on arrival at the alternate or the destination, when no alternate is required". As 4468 points out, this is more than might be on board after a diversion.


Sleeping Freight Dog
23rd Feb 2005, 19:11
Easy Rainbo,

I'm not looking to trash anyone here.
BA is a respected world class airline. KE or CI have had
recent problems of approaches below minimums, take offs on wrong runways etc as well as past accidents, that resulted in changes in their cockpit environment. I'm only saying, if it
was a carrier that has had recurrement problems that operated a 3 engine Trans Atlantic flight under the same circumstances, would the reaction be the same on forums such as this.
Perception is a good part of reality...

23rd Feb 2005, 19:44
Cambridge Dictionary:

fatuous = stupid, not correct, or not carefully thought about


The statement was meaningless and used in a way that implied a very low fuel state i.e. a fatuous statement

23rd Feb 2005, 20:57
I’d like to try to understand the flight crew’s decision path.

1. After taking off from LAX, the engine is shut down. The professional consensus is that the flight crew were correct in deciding to proceed (that’s good enough for me).
2. Having so decided, at the same time they chose to return to LHR rather than go to an airport such as BOS (which presumably would have had fewer disadvantages than a return to LAX).
3. Presumably, they made this decision calculating that they would be very unlikely to have to divert to MAN and require a PAN.
4. At some point (only a few hours into the flight according to my great circle mapper), they made a final decision to cross the Atlantic.
5. Similarly, they decided on the same basis not to divert to KEF or PIK.
6. Can I conclude that reasonably non-forecastable event(s) occurred fairly late in the flight?
Feel free to flame this SLF.

23rd Feb 2005, 21:11
Can I conclude that reasonably non-forecastable event(s) occurred fairly late in the flight?

You won't get flamed for asking logical and sensible questions, especially as you admit to not being a pilot.

Your analysis would appear to be a good guess and your final question is what we would all like to find out!

Unfortunately on every occasion where an event like this comes to wider attention everybody has an opinion on what they did wrong and what they should have done before the full story is known.

Naturally this will always anger those of us who operate aircraft for a living and don't engage in what our American cousins so aptly call 'armchair quarter - backing'.

It is especially galling to anybody working for a decent airline where safety is probably without exception at the top of that airline's agenda.

24th Feb 2005, 07:08
As I said earlier, presumably the track was northerm or polar, so en-route divs may have been a bit thin. However, a div to KEF, GLA, PIK or similar should have been available towards the end of the flight, by which time and the fuel consumption problem would have manifested itself and should have been noticed.

Regardless of what has been said previously, 5t landing fuel, (of which 3t may or may not have been unusable) ain't a lot for any big aircraft, never mind a 3-engined 744.

Planning for the worst case scenario , what would they have done if MAN became unavailable for some reason? (Unlikely I know, but still a possibility that should have been taken into account). When the decision was made to divert (Plan B), what was Plan C? Where were they planning to go if they couldn't use MAN?

It's dead easy to be critical with 20/20 hindsight, (and many have been), but it appears that there may be lessons to be learnt (again) from this occurrence. As I asked before, who is investigating this incident and where will the findings be published? It should be interesting reading.

24th Feb 2005, 08:19
As I said earlier, presumably the track was northerm or polar,
Second time you have referred to a polar route. Perhaps you might study a globe and, being a professional pilot, stop talking nonsense.

......and the fuel consumption problem would have manifested itself and should have been noticed.
Oh really?

Regardless of what has been said previously, 5t landing fuel.................ain't a lot for any big aircraft...................
Perhaps you could take this up with the CAA because it is above the acceptable figure that has been in force since the 744 was introduced in the late 1980s

(of which 3t may or may not have been unusable)
Why not? Perhaps you could use some more unfounded speculation in your answer.

Planning for the worst case scenario , what would they have done if MAN became unavailable for some reason?
Or what about if the UK had been wiped out due to a nuclear bomb, they would have been really stuck then. Suprised they didn't take that into account.

It's dead easy to be critical with 20/20 hindsight
First accurate statement you have made.

........who is investigating this incident and where will the findings be published? It should be interesting reading.
If you are a pilot then the answer should be obvious. Why don't you wait anyway, perhaps you could then give us the benefit of some more of the utter tripe that you post.

24th Feb 2005, 08:34
Final 3 Greens.
Re-read Bermondsey's post and, yes, I did misread it.

24th Feb 2005, 13:30
I find it quite interesting that a lot of second guessing, or arm chair analysis, complete with speculation about what ifs, are being made in this thread.

All of the considerations have already been taken into account even before the plane takes the air. The statistical considerations, the what ifs and last but not least the identification and response to any enroute problems. This is all nicely contained in the recommended operating procedures and/or trained in the flight crew.

The demonstration of the adequacy of this is the historical record itself, both by the operator as well as the aircraft type.

I just don't see the point of the uninformed debating procedures rather than simply asking for understanding.

Gentle Climb
24th Feb 2005, 15:32
As a member of the public, I hope that you will allow me to make a small point that relates possibly to both this thread and to another that seems to be popular currently. I have mentioned previously in this thread, that I wholeheartedly back the flight crew of the airline that I choose to fly with and that I trust them and rely on them to be competent and business like at work.
Referring to the other thread that I mentioned previously that has details of a situation where a pilot has been arrested for alledged drinking prior to a flight, I am gobsmacked at some responses that infer that 'it happens sometimes', that we all make mistakes' and that raise vocal objection to being tested prior to departure.
The flightcrew have my full backing on the basis that I believe that they are not intoxicated.
You guys have many lives at stake, and I firmly believe that you should be in the best condition when you take your seats.
For the vast majority who I know adhere to this, I really hope that you will niot be offended by my comment.

24th Feb 2005, 15:39
You may rest assured that alcohol played zero part in this 'incident' (what 'incident'?- there was no 'incident', but some still can't believe it)

Gentle Climb
24th Feb 2005, 15:55

I wasn't really referring to the non incident at MCR. That is a scenario that I have no intention of delving in to for a variety of reasons that all have legal and moral repercussion!".
There seemed to be a conflict between some of the posts on the two threads.
Most of the pro's on this thread would wish that the passengers would trust the flightcrew to make the correct decision. I totally agree and I hope I made that clear.
What seemed to go against this ,were some comments on the other thread where the contributor felt that it would be intrusive to be tested at prior to a flight or that being snitched on by a colleague, groundstaff was totally abhorrent.
I totally respect your profession. You are skilled operators of complex equipment working under high pressure. I just need to know that you are fit to do it. (and I know that most are) but sometimes you are only as good as your 'worst' player.
Again, I hope that you will not take offence.

24th Feb 2005, 16:18
Good grief,

time to close this topic,

and thanks again for being an "operator"
and bringing fitness in to question ....
and thinking passenger wise
and bringing unfounded speculations

Let's have a beer Lewis


24th Feb 2005, 16:25
As a BA Boeing driver

I have found this thread very interesting, not only for the (lack of at times) accurate technical inputs but the perception of "non-drivers" regarding SOP's

With regard to SOP's it's all very well to say this is agreed with Boeings, the CAA or whoever so it must be OK, but is it?

For example, to dispatch a 757 with a rear booster pump u/s there is a requirement to carry extra fuel (for the approach situation to make sure the forward one is not uncovered if a GA was required) and also to open the crossfeed for the approach.

All very sensible you might say, but why on earth if the pump fails in flight does the QRH not at least require the crossfeed to be opened (obviously the extra fuel requirement cannot be met without a techstop)?

The response from Boeings (via BA) was that the chance of a fuel pump failure followed by a GA was so remote as to be ignored. But I ask you would airmanship suggest the crossfeed be opened? Alas no, not SOP's!

With regard to the public perception of "what’s left in the tanks" I am sure there are many out there that still think the tanks are filled full before every flight, and very few that are aware that, once airborne, (within certain constraints) the fuel "diversion" from Rwy **L can be the parallel Rwy **R!

They cannot understand how this re-planned operation, with all the support of Flight Planning (as they used to be known), Maintrol (with the appropriate Fleet Management's involvement) could result in a situation of the Captain transmitting a "Pan" call and then in his opinion having to change it to a "Mayday"

I will not speculate as to the reason, apart from suggesting that he obviously felt he did not have all the fuel in the tanks at his disposal!

With regard to comments made about pumps switched on without the synoptic showing it to be producing pressure as happening on occasions (because the fuel output pressure on that pump is lower than the others) could I ask the following question of 747-400 drivers (and perhaps those on other Boeings) and our helpful engineer at Manchester?

If with two tanks feeding any number of engines, with the crossfeed valve open ,what is to stop the rear pump with the highest pressure running the show? (once the fwd pumps are uncovered at low contents level with the increased attitude on the approach)

My perception of the system is that, the single "higher pressure" pump will supply all the fuel (assuming it can satisfy the total demand) and continue so to do until the tank is empty. Basic physics! Once the tank is empty and the "higher pressure" pump output pressure drops the pump in the other tank (lower pressure pump) would then supply all the engines.

All well and good, but would you, as the driver, like to see the one tank supposedly not feeding once the crossfeed (SOP's) had been opened? I too would have used the magic (Mayday) word!

Obviously as the "normal" fuel feed with all engines running (once the centre and stab tanks are empty) is tank to engine. (glance at http://www.meriweather.com/747/over/fuel.html)

It must have come as a bit of a shock (having carried out SOP's at low fuel levels and opened the crossfeed(s)), and on three engines to then be concerned (due to the fuel synoptic and tank quantity indications) regarding the perceived amount of useable fuel on board.

One last thought... I wonder after the IFSD, with the flight planners help, the re-plan (fuel calculation) suggested they could make it to Heathrow direct.

Irish Steve
24th Feb 2005, 20:16
One last thought... I wonder after the IFSD, with the flight planners help, the re-plan (fuel calculation) suggested they could make it to Heathrow direct.

In amongst a minefield of speculation or worse, I seem to recall that somewhere a long time back in this thread, the mention was made of an adverse Flight level change while crossing the Atlantic that changed the plan and the fuel parameters. If that's the case, then it looks to me like the original plan probably would have been OK.

In passing, and it's completely off thread in one respect, there was an interesting and reasonably accurate if somewhat sensationalist program on RTE this evening, french made, talking about aircraft accidents and incidents.

One fact that emerged was that in a particular year, probably 2 to 3 ago, as Air France were still flying Concorde at the time, and they were talking about engine failures during take off, and the ability of even large twins to still get airborne, there were 18 Million take offs, and 200 "problems" after V1 that did not result in any form of subsequent "incident", other than a safe landing. It was mentioned in the same section of the programme that "incidents" occurred on average every 2000 takeoffs on aircraft such as Constellations, which changed with the arrival of jets, and now, with the modern jets, the "incident" rate is down to less than 1 per million take offs.

I suspect that in the absence of spotters with radios, this "incident" might not have even reached this board. That it has, and is provoking such heated comments is slightly worrying, not because it made it here, but because it's generating such heated emotions. Given some of the other emotions that get generated over other subjects, I'm just glad it wasn't an Airbus that had the problem, we'd be at risk of an eternal thread!

24th Feb 2005, 21:20
Steve, the best thing to do with IFSD threads is "don't read them" (not quite achieved it myself :{)

you can just about bet that a row will start on every one .....

here's a few threads .... have a look through them ....



25th Feb 2005, 08:28
I see this story has now made it onto p7 (with a 2" column on p1) of today's Times. Seems the reason for continuing was so that BA could avoid paying out compensation for the delay - saved them £100k apparently. Balpa get a mention too.


Pax Vobiscum
25th Feb 2005, 16:06
The Times also has this picture

and the article Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-2-1499342-2,00.html) has the following quote from David Learmount:

“It was a very odd decision to continue to London. Even if the pilot didn’t want to dump so much fuel, he could have diverted to Chicago.

“You are not as safe on three engines as you are on four and I suspect that, given the choice, most passengers would have opted to return to LA.”

25th Feb 2005, 16:32
Of course, if they had got the level they aked for across the pond, they would have made London, and it would all be a complete non event, much like the DEL LHR 3 engine flight 2 weeks ago.

25th Feb 2005, 17:16

I think that it is time to drop this whole speculative and rather inane thread.:p

25th Feb 2005, 18:08
What a waste of paper. Worst of all is David Learmount's comment "You are not as safe on three engines as on four". Astounding logic. Bit like saying eight engines are safer than seven. He seems to forget that many people will get on two engined aircraft and travel across the atlantic, the pacific and other wilderness areas. Mr Learmount should be undergo a bit of operational experience before being let near his word processor again.

The rest of the article is not much better. 10% facts, 40%speculation, 50% wrong. If cannot trust the accuracy of this story why on earth should regard ANY of the other stories in todays rag as accurate?

Strange time for pilots. If we do a go around, passengers report us to the Police for being drunk. If we continue after an inflight shutdown on a 4 engine aircraft, we are accused of just doing it to save on the compensation. Whilst I would never want us to be immune from scrutiny - we should be left to do our jobs - as we do day in and day out - professionally.


25th Feb 2005, 18:12
speculative and rather inane

mmmmm, I know what you mean, Why should the odd "Mayday" interest anyone?

Lou Scannon
25th Feb 2005, 18:44
A friend who was fairly senior in the media at one time has just emailed to ask my opinion as a retired Captain, but never with BA.

Given the known facts and working out the options from my own experience I have no problems in fully supporting the captain.

Seems to me that there was no perfect solution, but the one he chose appears to address the needs for passenger safety, passenger convenience and company economics most admirably.

As to the idea it was simply to save money on compensation: Until we know that the engine failed for some reason within BA's control and not debris or bird ingestion, that question doesn't even arise. Mervyn Granshaw's quoted comments seemed hardly appropriate.

Now that I am "reduced" to SLF status, I would be happy to travel with him anytime and anywhere.:ok:

25th Feb 2005, 19:25
Ben Webster deserves a letter to the editor signed by as many 747-rated pilots as can be found (not working for BA to avoid appearance of conflict of interest) that support the decision making in this flight.

25th Feb 2005, 21:27
If cannot trust the accuracy of this story why on earth should regard ANY of the other stories in todays rag as accurate?

Now you're getting it!

I've been saying this for years.

Stop buying these hack rags, save a few trees and send a message to the publishers. Hit 'em in the pocket, where it hurts.

Personally I think the Captain should resign, Boeing and Rolls Royce should pay at least £1Million in compensation to ALL the passengers each and British Airways should be liquidated and bring back BOAC/BEA.:p

25th Feb 2005, 22:29
I understand that the engine failed on takeoff at LAX at 100' altitude and the crew/company elected to continue to LHR. Control Tower saw sparks coming from the engine.

While a 74 is ok on 3 engines, it's certainly going to burn A LOT more fuel at lower altitude and higher drag.

I wouldn't go on an ocean crossing with a failed engine due to unknown reasons, unknown damage, unbalanced windmilling, etc. Could the reason the company elected to continue with a disabled aircraft have anything to do with the new passenger compensation regulations?

You would also have to consider the possibility of the other engine on the same side failing. If that happened you'd be in a lot of hurt both fuel wise and landing controllability wise. Also, I'm not sure on the -400, but on the -200 depending on which side the engines are out on, the gear will go down but won't come up, hence probably no go-around capability.

26th Feb 2005, 00:25
Roadtrip you have NO idea what your talking about some of the gear will not come up if you have a sys 1 or 4 hydraulic failure an engine failure is not a hydraulic failure.


26th Feb 2005, 02:56
opps. Faulty memory. 74s were a few years back. Made me pull out a very dusty OM. At least on the 200, the manual states that once the gear is down, you should not attempt a go-around, 2E one side. It is possible, but VMCA2 comes into play, drag from retracting the gear, etc. would make it a not-so-sure thing and maybe having to trade altitude for airspeed, if you have it. I've done it many times in the sim (of course) and an 2E one-side approach is not to bad if it's not rushed and planned carefully for. Of course the 400 with more power is probably better, to a point.

Bottom line is a 2E approach one-side is a very undesirable thing. I guess Boing (and hence the company) thinks it's ok to continue on 3E, but personally I think it's a bad idea with possible damage to an engine.

26th Feb 2005, 09:46

I see much speculation in these threads. I will not be so rude as to comment upon inanity. However, here goes! Reflect on these things. Did the aircraft eventually fly the Great Circle or the Rhumb Line Route? Was not nearly all of the flight across a land mass, serviced with good category diversion airfields. Were not updates on Alternates' WX regularily available. Is not Manchester a BA/SOP Alternate for London, HR,GW? I remember flight planning for a fifth pod ferry. I do not seem to remember that three pod driftdowns were a worry, nor two pod at lower weights.
I think that the Crew had a multitude of escape routes and that, like good Commanders, they planned accordingly. (Wellington would never have won at Waterloo without The Prussians). They most certainly had their Island Alternates stitched up. Oh yes, this Mayday/Pan matter. I seem to remember that the CAA now requires that a fuel shortage be communicated by means of a Mayday call, not a Pan call. If I am correct in this, then the gravity of the situation reflected in a such Mayday call inbound Manchester, may not be reflective of the true gravity of the situation.

763 jock
26th Feb 2005, 10:32
What is BA's emergency fuel level for the 744?
From our Ops Gen "An emergency exists if the fuel remaining reduces to an amount where an approach to land should be started without delay. A MAYDAY call must be made if the Emergency Fuel Level is reached."

I'm sure the crew would have considered the above as part of their planning/contingency and have been well aware that UK ATC will only provide a priority approach in response to a MAYDAY call.

26th Feb 2005, 12:33
the thread 'anyone got a towbar' refers to aircraft diverting with fuel problems with Mayday called. Maybe the BA a/c had similar problems transferring fuel.

26th Feb 2005, 12:38

Your will not be popular on this thread for using reasoned and sensible argument!

If I was a betting man I would say your speculation is probably the nearest to what actually happened of anything written so far.


An emergency exists if the fuel remaining reduces to an amount where an approach to land should be started without delay

With respect that quote from one of your company manuals is very imprecise. In BA the amount is defined generically i.e. 30 minutes holding fuel at 1500' blah, blah. It is shown in kgs. on the flight plan and is the amount that must remain in tanks after landing.

Our SOPs are that if it is likely to land with less than that fuel a PAN call must be made and if an aircraft WILL land with less than that fuel a MAYDAY call must be made.

The article I had the misfortune to read in The Times was cringemaking in the extreme. Since News International took over The Times it has slowly descended to the level of The Sun and the article was nothing less than one would expect, up to its usual abysmally low standards.

As for Mr. Learmount, does he actually know anything about aviation?

Captain Airclues
26th Feb 2005, 12:41

This was mentioned by 'RatherBeFlying' on page 3 of this thread, and the fuel transfer problems have been discussed at length. I suggest that people read the entire thread before posting or we could end up going round in circles.


763 jock
26th Feb 2005, 12:46
Our Ops Gen specifies different figures for the multitude of types we operate. They range from 900 kgs up to 3700kgs. I did not post the figures as they are not relevant to this thread, but they are calculated IAW the 30 mins holding etc as you state.

Just wondered what the actual figure is for the 744?

Valve Kilmer
26th Feb 2005, 13:46
Anyone insinuating, that it is a non event, landing with 5Ts of fuel left in a 744, after inflight replanning, and given the scenario here, are fooling themselves and Joe public, if you ask me. How can you even suggest, that it is a wise and a safe move, to press on to a maintenance station, with less than final reserve fuel available(mayday call was given) upon landing?

I admit the information available is very sparse, if at all true. I can hardly wait, to read the report with great interest. I think there are lessons to be learned for everyone here! We don't wanna see anymore "A310 out of fuel" like accidents.


M.Mouse - what is minimum legal fuel upon landing in MAN for a 744(given the scenario - true/false)?

26th Feb 2005, 14:04
From memory about 4,500 kgs.

How much fuel do most people think airliners land with everyday?

26th Feb 2005, 14:16
I sometimes wonder why what appears to be a perfectly reasonable decision by an operating crew becomes an hot issue on PPRuNe.
OK, so one engine on a 4 engine aircraft is shut down. It still has 3 remaining engines which is one more than a 767 and 3 times the number of engines that a twin has with one shut down which can now operate up to 3 hrs away from a suitable airport. Hardly big deal and worthy of 12 pages on PPRuNe.

So it continues from LAX to the UK. En-Route is passes many airports that it could land if necessary, probably passing reasonably close to Glasgow and Belfast.

It eventually lands at Manchester with 5 tonnes of fuel; perfectly adequate for the landing and a possible alternate; say Birmingham or Liverpool presuming that the weather wasn’t Cat3 at the time.
To ensure that he doesn't get messed about by ATC or other aircraft with lowish fuel he calls a MAYDAY.

The crew have done an excellent job, safety wasn’t compromised, ATC gave him the priority that I would expect, passengers got close to their destination and no doubt someone was able to do a 3 engined ferry if necessary.

Well done guys good safe commercial operation; it's about time that this thread was shut down

26th Feb 2005, 14:17
:) Here's a little thought. If all the nonsense that has been talked about on all the pages on this thread weree talked about through all the hours that it took BA (BOAC:ok: ) to get to Manch then it is a compliment to the crew that they did not run out of hot air over Gander.:p

26th Feb 2005, 14:22
Here's another twerp pushing their agenda on this: Richard North (http://www.legendgames.net/showstory.asp?page=blognews/top3.txt) , who runs an anti-EU weblog and has decided to drink the Koolaid about this story.

26th Feb 2005, 14:23
;) Sky9
Most heartily seconded and agreed with. Must nip off outside wearing anorak. Bye.:uhoh:

763 jock
26th Feb 2005, 14:25
What does the 747 QRH say in the engine failure/shutdown procedure? On all the Boeing twins "plan to land at nearest suitable airport" is mentioned. My guess (never flown more than 2 donks!) is that this is not a requirement on the 747...

26th Feb 2005, 14:49
"Well done guys good safe commercial operation; it's about time that this thread was shut down."

There are many who disagree. To my mind they got away with it by the skin of their teeth having been driven by commercial pressure... This time they got away with it - but what about next time?

26th Feb 2005, 14:52
My guess (never flown more than 2 donks!) is that this is not a requirement on the 747...

Strewth, this thread is in danger of actually becoming rational!

There are many who disagree. To my mind they got away with it by the skin of their teeth having been driven by commercial pressure... This time they got away with it - but what about next time?

No it was not commercial pressure it was standard operating procedures in place and used countless times before.

So everytime any airliner lands with around reserve fuel \'they got away with it\'?

What is the policy at Virgin for an IFSD on a 4 engined aeroplane?

26th Feb 2005, 15:54
lay the thread to rest!!!!

26th Feb 2005, 16:14
No it was not commercial pressure it was standard operating procedures in place and used countless times before.

Are you saying that it is "standard operating procedure" to continue a flight to the point where it is necessary to make a Mayday call to ensure the safety of the aircraft?

Were the crew aware, when they made the decision to continue the flight from LAX, that they would need, some 11 hours later, to declare an emergency and land at MAN rather than LHR?

If the answer is "yes" then that would seem to be an abuse of the emergency system.

If the answer is "no", which seems much more likely, then someone or something got the fuel sums wrong in deciding that continuation to LHR was reasonable.

Either of those seems worthy of discussion, and something that we can learn from to improve the decision making process.

26th Feb 2005, 17:07
As a passenger - I ask you not to disturb my sleep by telling me things I can do nothing about it!

26th Feb 2005, 17:23

Either of those seems worthy of discussion, and something that we can learn from to improve the decision making process

This is a rumor and news thread and is certainly not privy to actual validated facts, so I don't see how there is any possibility of discussion to improve decision making when we all seem to have such a divergence of opinions.

This thread is due to die out if no new factual information is forthcoming since we seem to all have had our discussion

26th Feb 2005, 17:28

t eventually lands at Manchester with 5 tonnes of fuel; perfectly adequate for the landing and a possible alternate; say Birmingham or Liverpool presuming that the weather wasn’t Cat3 at the time.

The alternate had to be another runway in Manchester, 5000 kgs isnt enough to divert to another alternate with holding fuel.


26th Feb 2005, 20:36
TO SKY9 and Iain
your postings sum everthing up on this thread. Shall we just put it to bed.

26th Feb 2005, 20:38
bookworm: Were the crew aware, when they made the decision to continue the flight from LAX, that they would need, some 11 hours later, to declare an emergency and land at MAN rather than LHR?
If the answer is "no", which seems much more likely, then someone or something got the fuel sums wrong in deciding that continuation to LHR was reasonable. Or perhaps conditions during the rest of the flight were not as favourable as expected at the time the (otherwise impeccable) continuation decision was made? Things do change as you're chugging along, you know. And when things do change and you can't maintain plan A, then diverting in accordance with plan B seems to be perfectly proper.

At least to this interested SLF who's been reading this ever-lengthening thread with alternating interest and disgust. (I'll leave you to work out which bits of apparent hysteria have provoked the latter.)

Valve Kilmer
26th Feb 2005, 21:34
Sky9 wrote:I sometimes wonder why what appears to be a perfectly reasonable decision by an operating crew becomes an hot issue on PPRuNe.

So do I, and many other - remembering everytime time, the Gods were picking on LCC's for operating with minimum fuel onboard etc.. Wise folks have learned that you eventually get what you give - what goes around comes around. :ouch:

Still waiting for more "non biased" facts to surface!


27th Feb 2005, 02:06

...To my mind they got away with it by the skin of their teeth having been driven by commercial pressure...

On what basis or evidence do you believe that they were driven by commercial pressure?

Quite a serious allegation to make against the crew, particularly from a man of your experience, I'm sure you wouldn't make it without evidence.

Care to share it with us?



27th Feb 2005, 03:39
Interesting thread,

I can tell you this, if an airline pilot, bypassed suitable alternates and crossed the pond, after shutting down an engine (either a 2, 3, 4, engine aiplane), the pilot would likely get a visit from the FAA.

My understanding is when this sort of thing has happened in the U.S., in the past, the carriers crew got some (unpaid) time off.

I believe all loss of engines are required to be reported to the FAA.

Did these guys fill out an ASAP (NASA) report?


27th Feb 2005, 04:28

Please point me to a reference instructing a B744 crew to land at the nearest suitable airport following an engine failure.

As an FAA operator, we have had NUMEROUS B747 flights continue to destination following an engine failure and some have returned to the departure airport. There is no fixed rule, it all depends on the route, weather etc etc.

None of our crews would get suspended for making either decision!

Why would you expect an European airline to report an engine failure to the FAA???


27th Feb 2005, 04:32

You are correct about the FAA situation. If it had been a US crew on a US flight, the crew would not be flying again for a very long time. US rules require that an aircraft which has shut an engine down land at the nearest suitable airport in point of time. A three or more engine aircraft which shuts an engine down may go to a further airport if it is considered "as safe as" landing at the nearest. 10 hours later bypassing numerous alternates like in this case would definitely not qualify as an airport "as safe as" the nearest one . They would be "busted" big time. But they operate under different rules.

So to me the problem is the rules, not necessarily the crew themselves.

27th Feb 2005, 05:35
Don't know if this was posted in the last 15 pages...my apologies if this is a repeat.......

From the Times Online-

Flying faulty jumbo across Atlantic saves BA £100,000
By Ben Webster
Turning back after engine failure would have left airline liable to pay out for delays under new rules on compensation

A BRITISH AIRWAYS jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after an 11-hour transatlantic flight with a failed engine.

The fault occurred on take-off from Los Angeles but the pilot declined all opportunities to land in the US and instead continued on three engines for 5,000 miles to Britain.

The incident happened three days after a European regulation came into force requiring airlines to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations. Under the new rules, if the pilot had returned to Los Angeles, BA would have been facing a compensation bill of more than £100,000.

Balpa, the British Air Line Pilots’ Association, gave warning last night that the regulation could result in pilots being pressured into taking greater risks for commercial reasons.

The regulation requires airlines to refund passengers the full cost of their tickets as well as flying them home if a delay lasts longer than five hours. Passengers must also be put up in hotels if the delay continues overnight.

The BA flight departed at 8.45pm on Saturday and the airline admitted that the delay would have been well over five hours if it had returned to Los Angeles.

BA initially claimed that the engine had failed an hour into the flight. But the airline admitted yesterday that the problem had occurred a few seconds after take-off when the Boeing 747 was only 100ft above the ground.

Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles spotted streams of sparks shooting from the engine and immediately radioed the pilot. He attempted to throttle the engine back but was forced to shut it down after it continued to overheat. The plane then began circling over the Pacific while the pilot contacted BA’s control centre in London to discuss what to do. They decided the flight should continue to London even though it would burn more fuel on just three engines.

The Boeing 747 was unable to climb to its cruising altitude of 36,000ft and had to cross the Atlantic at 29,000ft, where the engines perform less efficiently and the tailwinds are less favourable. The unbalanced thrust also meant the pilot had to apply more rudder, causing extra drag.

The pilot realised as he flew over the Atlantic that he was running out of fuel and would not make it to Heathrow. He requested an emergency landing at Manchester and was met by four fire engines and thirty firefighters on the runway.

Philip Baum, an aviation security specialist on board the flight with his wife and three daughters, said he had heard two loud bangs shortly after take-off. “The pilot came on to say we had lost an engine and he was negotiating about whether or not we should land back at Los Angeles.

“A few minutes later, I was amazed to see from the map on the TV screen that we were flying eastwards towards Britain. I would be disgusted if the issue of compensation had any bearing on the decision.”

BA said financial concerns had played no part in the decision. Captain Doug Brown, the senior manager of BA’s 747 fleet, said the only consideration had been “what was best for passengers”.

“The plane is as safe on three engines as on four and it can fly on two. It was really a customer service issue, not a safety issue. The options would have been limited for passengers [if the plane had returned to Los Angeles].” He said the pilot would have had to dump more than 100 tonnes of fuel before landing at Los Angeles. “The authorities would have had words to say about that.”

Captain Brown said pilots always took the final decision on any safety issue and would never choose to put themselves at risk. “Even without 350 passengers behind you, you are always going to be concerned about your own neck.”
But David Learmount, safety editor of Flight International, said: “It was a very odd decision to continue to London. Even if the pilot didn’t want to dump so much fuel, he could have diverted to Chicago.

“You are not as safe on three engines as you are on four and I suspect that, given the choice, most passengers would have opted to return to LA.”

Some airlines are trying to avoid paying compensation for delays involving technical failures of an aircraft. They are citing a clause in the regulation which excludes delays “caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

But the Air Transport Users Council, which advises passengers on how to obtain their rights, said airlines would still be liable in cases involving engine failure because the cause was likely to be poor maintenance. Simon Evans, its chief executive, admitted that the regulation could lead to airlines taking greater risks. “We recognise there is a possibility that an airline might take a decision to fly in order to avoid paying compensation.”

Captain Mervyn Granshaw, Balpa’s chairman, said: “The EU regulation is poorly drafted and increases the pressure on pilots to consider commercial issues when making judgments in marginal safety situations.”

27th Feb 2005, 07:36
Show us this FAA requirement. Provide a link. Remember this a FOUR engined operation. Not two.

Never have I read such junk from so many people who have no idea about long haul four engine operations.


27th Feb 2005, 08:04
Just a thought for all you "experts":

Would you really want to dump fuel off LAX ( not a normal operation) and land on 3 engines at a high weight and speed; or reduce your weight to a normal landing weight?
Returning to LAX would not have happened within 90 minutes. I know what I would have preferred and commercial pressure would have had nothing to do with it.

Human Factor
27th Feb 2005, 10:02
10 hours later bypassing numerous alternates like in this case would definitely not qualify as an airport "as safe as" the nearest one .

So what you're actually saying is that during the ten hour flight, there were numerous alternates they could land at if required. Doesn't seem quite so bad now does it....

....and they still had an additional serviceable engine compared to what I fly with every day. :rolleyes:

El Grifo
27th Feb 2005, 10:33
Nice one ManagedNav,

Finally a rational, well presented analysis of the sitution from our friends in the press. Now us mere mortals have reasonable handle on the facts.

Had it been left to the talking heads and supermen here on Pprune, the thread would have been shut down long ago with no one really sure what the facts were.

:ok: :cool: :ok:

27th Feb 2005, 11:00
El Grifo

I take it the smilies meant: "tongue firmly in cheek".....didn't they:hmm:

El Grifo
27th Feb 2005, 11:43
Whilst my remark was indeed intended to be flippant, it was also aimed at the purveyors of the utter twaddle, dithering and smokescreen, that has made up the greater body of this subject.

It was nice for once to see a beleivable selection of facts presented in a coherent and apparently logical fashion by the much berated, Gentlemen of the Press.

All the rubbish and obstupefaction that has been spouted by the cynical experts here, does nothing to raise confidence in the travelling public

Simple as that.


Valve Kilmer
27th Feb 2005, 12:06
Human Factor wroteSo what you're actually saying is that during the ten hour flight, there were numerous alternates they could land at if required. Doesn't seem quite so bad now does it....

This is precisely why I think this incident looks bad.

Bookworm wroteAre you saying that it is "standard operating procedure" to continue a flight to the point where it is necessary to make a Mayday call to ensure the safety of the aircraft? I totally agree with Bookworms concerns. Having bypassed numerous diversion fields enroute, they kept on going, until they ended up with broadcasting a MAYDAY call, to ensure safety of the aircraft at MAN. You can hardly call that good airmanship - experienced BA crew or not!


27th Feb 2005, 12:07
I'm not a prefessional pilot, and not quite a PPL yet, but in my ignorance, I'll throw in my two pennies worth.

As a passenger, on a 747, given the option of either turning back due to engine failure, or continuing on three healthy engines, I'd happily continue. I would not want all the grief to be had in turning back...a slower, lower flight to my original destination would be the better of two evils.

As for fuel, I'm guessing that in this case the pilot could not know for sure whether the prevailing conditions would allow him to reach Heathrow. But he must have been sure that, given any conditions (including possible 2nd failure), he had enough fuel to get as far as BFS / PIK / MAN / SNN etc. So worst case, the a/c doesn't reach LHR, but at least gets the right side of the pond.

And given that PAN and MAYDAY are the only 'emergency' options available, what else could the crew do but to do what they did? Maybe they could have diverted a little earlier (BFS maybe), but would that have avoided the MAYDAY call, or would the fuel level have been low enough even then to trigger the 'emergency'?

Now, I say all of this as someone with some aviation knowledge...an ordinary passenger, just wanting to get home, may not have been quite so relaxed!

27th Feb 2005, 12:23
EL Grifo

Well I am pleased that you believe the utter twaddle written in The Times was accurate.

I see that you are a professional photographer, if you need any advice please ask because, as pilots, we are surely as qualified to tell you how to do your job as you are to tell us how to do ours.

27th Feb 2005, 12:29
Lunatic Fringe and Hobie

Here is the US FAR that I spoke about.(Sorry about the delay. Had to sleep). Note that if the crew of a 3 or more engine aircraft (or any aircraft for that matter) goes further than the nearest suitable airport in point of time, that they have to give their reasons why what they did was as safe as landing at the nearest suitable airport. (Paragraph d).

¤ 121.565 Engine inoperative: Landing; reporting.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, whenever an engine of an airplane fails or whenever the rotation of an engine is stopped to prevent possible damage, the pilot in command shall land the airplane at the nearest suitable airport, in point of time, at which a safe landing can be made.

(b) If not more than one engine of an airplane that has three or more engines fails or its rotation is stopped, the pilot in command may proceed to an airport that he selects if, after considering the following, he decides that proceeding to that airport is as safe as landing at the nearest suitable airport:

(1) The nature of the malfunction and the possible mechanical difficulties that may occur if flight is continued.

(2) The altitude, weight, and usable fuel at the time of engine stoppage.

(3) The weather conditions en route and at possible landing points.

(4) The air traffic congestion.

(5) The kind of terrain.

(6) His familiarity with the airport to be used.

(c) The pilot in command shall report each stoppage of engine rotation in flight to the appropriate ground radio station as soon as practicable and shall keep that station fully informed of the progress of the flight.

(d) If the pilot in command lands at an airport other than the nearest suitable airport, in point of time, he or she shall (upon completing the trip) send a written report, in duplicate, to his or her director of operations stating the reasons for determining that the selection of an airport, other than the nearest airport, was as safe a course of action as landing at the nearest suitable airport. The director of operations shall, within 10 days after the pilot returns to his or her home base, send a copy of this report with the director of operation's comments to the certificate-holding district office.

El Grifo
27th Feb 2005, 12:41
Mr Mouse,
This is precisely where folks of your ilk (and of them, there are many) fall firmly on their arse.

I categoricaly did NOT state that the Times article was "accurate"

As for your parting shot, well, let others be the judges.

Live and learn.

27th Feb 2005, 12:42
Thank you for a most interesting post, kellmark. One which should certainly stimulate further debate, doubtless to the chagrin of some?

27th Feb 2005, 12:58
Brand new member here - but been around the aviation game many decades.

I am amused by the 2 vs 3 vs 4 engine issue. Remember the late 60's when Douglas & Lockheed were trying to sell trijets for Transatlantic ops, and many of the more conservative operators were HIGHLY skeptical that the public would EVER accept anything less than FOUR engines?

Yet - only 10 years later Swissair set some kind of record flying a DC-10 from Karachi to Athens after #1 went south on takeoff! The captain had to write a LONG report, but he was not disciplined.

Captain Airclues
27th Feb 2005, 14:56

The JAR regualations are similar, except that I believe that the report has to reach the CAA within three days. I can assure you that the UK CAA will go through the paperwork in minute detail. As all of the company communications were by ACARS, these will also be available in hard copy, so any commercial pressure will be evident. The crew will also be interviewed by the company and the CAA. I'm sure that the eventual report will be factual, unbiased and just, unlike some of the comments here on PPRuNe.


Dagger Dirk
27th Feb 2005, 15:07
Yet - only 10 years later Swissair set some kind of record flying a DC-10 from Karachi to Athens after #1 went south on takeoff! The captain had to write a LONG report, but he was not disciplined.


Anywhere one could read the details of that episode?

27th Feb 2005, 15:19
It's very interesting that after 16 pages of comment we have no concensus.

27th Feb 2005, 15:36
Capt Airclues.

Thanks for your information. Do you know where that is located in the JAR-OPS? I have looked through what I have and cannot find it. It would be helpful if you could let me know.



27th Feb 2005, 15:43
I have followed the debate on this thread with some interest, albeit as slf, as I was on board a 744 that went down to 3 (or maybe 2) engines a little while ago.

It seems to me though that all the debate about were the crew right or wrong is totaly irrelevant. The first question that has to be answered is surely "did the crew follow the relevant SOPS, etc" If they did, then they must, presumably, be blameless. If they didn't, they I would expect a large book to be thrown at them.

If they did follow the rules, then the debate hinges on "are the rules correct?" and I would presume that as the rules have been around for a while without seeming to cause major mishap, they must be by and large correct.

All the people who want to criticise the crew for carrying on presumably should actually be criticising the rule book, and campaigning to get it changed.

Do I make sense?:confused:

27th Feb 2005, 16:07

makes sense to me. I have flown on BA 744s as SLF several times in the last three years and I would do so again tomorrow if I had a ticket for it, since as you put it, the rules are the same so they are wrong for everyone or no-one.

27th Feb 2005, 16:54
"(d) If the pilot in command lands at an airport other than the nearest suitable airport, in point of time, he or she shall (upon completing the trip),"send a written report , in duplicate, to his or her director of operations, stating the reasons for determining that the selection of an airport, other than the nearest airport, was as safe a course of action as landing at the nearest suitable airport. The director of operations shall, within 10 days after the pilot returns to his or her home base, send a copy of this report with the director of operation's comments to the certificate-holding district office."

It is amazing how defensive some of you are.

Disclaimer: I have flown long-haul worldwide for many years but would never claim to have as much knowledge as some of you seem to have on the subject.

Here's my take on it. Part of my mental checklist in any abnormal situation is to cover my ass (unless it is life-threatening of course). If I were to read the above section and saw that I would have to defend my decision to not land at the nearest suitable airport, I think my ticket takes precedence. That language says to me, "It's OK to continue, but you better pray nothing goes wrong."

Well, obviously this crew rolled the dice and it bit them in the butt. How do you explain flying across the US, Atlantic Ocean with the end result being a fuel emergency? I am sure they did not foresee this but my point is, why take the chance?

Would they have been overweight for a fuel stop in Gander? Was it worth it now in retrospect to continue on? What if they arrived only to find the airport closed due to some unforeseen circumstance?

My airline teaches that it is better to err on the side of safety; A policy that I am thankful that they embrace.

El Grifo
27th Feb 2005, 17:09
So it looks like the Times article was pretty much on the mark, reporting the situation as it was, rather than how it could have been, which in itself is a refreshing change.

Unless Mr Mouse is reading it differently of course. If so, where does the newspaper drift from fairly factual reporting into alleged "twaddle" I have read it over several times an it seems fairly straightforward to me.

27th Feb 2005, 17:40
kellmark, many thanks for the FAR data on the subject ..... it's worth reading .....


27th Feb 2005, 17:41
Incredible.....16 pages of speculation on an incident that took place little more than a few days ago....

Managed Nav.....
It's pointless quoting from an FAA publication....BA will have an Ops manual that will be the deciding factor in the actions of the crew....that and any comms with their base....And as for stopping in Gander..... :rolleyes:

"Oh...hi there chaps just fill her up would you....then we'll take off on three engines and...."

Please....let's give the crew the benefit of the doubt until the incident is investigated.....IF they made a bad decision then they're not the first....certainly won't be the last...and let's hope that we're not the next to do the same....

27th Feb 2005, 18:05
In yet another attempt to try and bring back to this thread some sense of perspective, I would like to suggest that anyone making comments without 'obviously' having read the whole thread (never mind admitting to not having done so) please refrain from doing so. Also, aside from the enthusiasts who claim an interest in this debate, there appear to be a number of professional pilots who have never flown 4 engine LR ops and keep postulating about differences between ETOPS which is not quite the same thing.

Perhaps you should just leave it to the professionals who do have experience in 4 engined ops, particularly those with B744 experience. The level of 'hand wringing' and obvious emotional distress that this thread is causing some of you only goes to show that arguing the toss with someone who has experience in B744 ops and those who don't, only leads to long threads with much hype, uninformed speculation and comments by a few so called professionals that would be worthy of the gutter press.:rolleyes:

It is obvious that continuing after an engine 'failure' (as opposed to a catastrophic failure) on a B744 does not require an immediate land at the nearest suitable airport. The crew will base their decisions on all the information available which includes the indications in front of them, other parameters that are accessible through various on-board systems and advice from their maintrol. Shutting down an engine and continuing on 3 on a B744 is not the dire emergency that some of you think it is. The decision to continue to cross the Atlantic will also have been based on many other parameters including wx and other commercial reasons.

Can we now please leave the debate to those with experience in B744 ops as the signal to noise ratio on this thread is getting uncomfortable with the sensationalist remarks from enthusiasts and a few professionals alike. :rolleyes:

27th Feb 2005, 20:05

As a long experienced 4 eng pilot I can say your self confessed slf reply has more to commend it than many so called professional pilots.

Enjoy your reading.

27th Feb 2005, 21:15
The 747 AFM does not classify an engine failure as an emergency procedure in itself. (At least it didn't during the first 15 years or so of 747 ops) Performance curves, cruise control tables, etc. are provided for engine-out operations.

And if the failure is indeed #2 engine (left inboard), then the trim drag is relatively small. If an outboard engine were shut down, trim drag would be somewhat greater (and thus greater fuel burn).

Considering the Jumbo's redundancy of systems, the only real concern is terrain clearance in the event of another failure. Over the Atlantic that's hardly an issue.

And I'll bet BA engineering dept. had a good look at the telemetered performance and health of #1, 3, & 4 before they passed Gander.

27th Feb 2005, 21:32

I don't know if you were including me in the group of non-worthy pilots (sarcasm intended) who have never flown LR 4 eng ops, but for the record I have a decade of experience flying DC-8's around the globe.

My point was and is that there must have been a gross miscalculation of the EFOA or else it would not have ended up in a fuel emergency. Some are quicker than others to accomplish the mission even if it means reducing the margin of safety a little. I'm pretty sure that they felt they could make it, but they had to know it was going to be close. I contend that it is far better to pop into a MX base (Gander was a bad choice, JFK?) and err on the side of safety than to be the subject of Monday morning quarterback discussion.

This could happen to any of us, but the heat will always come down on the crew if things don't work out. It is easy to be led down a path that you may consider to be your second or third choice initially. If we conduct the flight with a threshold of safety that we will never cross, then we lessen the likelyhood of getting to know the CP on a first name basis.

Irish Steve
27th Feb 2005, 22:24
My point was and is that there must have been a gross miscalculation of the EFOA or else it would not have ended up in a fuel emergency.

PLEASE, read the thing as it was reported, a long time ago in the thread. One of the people DIRECTLY involved said

Upon crossing the pond the a/c was told by atc to descend and in doing so the fuel burn increased.

Or, in other words, if they'd been able to stay at the level they were already at this discussion would not be happening.

If they'd remained at the level they were at, I would be so bold as to suggest that the fuel on board would have been sufficient to reach the original planned destination. I don't know the exact fuel burn of the 400, but the airtime from MCR to LHR in the overall scale of the flight is not that much further.

As a direct result of changes to what had already been changed and replanned, they had to go for a plan C, rather than plan B, and it still happened without any injury or damage.

There's been plenty of threads here in the past about arrivals (especially) at LHR with less fuel remaining than was on this aircraft, but I don't see those crews being given the sort of aggravation that's happening here.

If I had been SLF on that flight, I would be sufficiently confident of the crew's overall control and awareness of the situation that they knew what they were doing. When it comes down to it, they are in the thing too, literally and metaphorically at the sharp end, so if it all goes wrong, they are likely to be the first to know about it in every way, which tends to concentrate the thinking wonderfully.

As has been suggested. maybe some breathing space is called for, so that the real and complete facts can be reported. Then, and only then, there might be a case to be made for informed discussion and debate, which might, or might not lead to changes in procedures. Anything else is verging on unfair on the people that did the job according to the book.

27th Feb 2005, 23:38
Not trying to second guess the crew, just trying to present an opinion. If this were a generic situation brought up for discussion in the schoolhouse, it may be a valid point that the possibility always exists for things like a change in flight level that could alter the outcome of an abnormal situation.

Could they have refused the lower flight level based on their fuel status? Could they have recalculated the EFOA at the new flight level and turned around? Were they totally screwed by circumstances that were not in their control?

The point is not to slam the crew in their decision making, but to learn that within the scope of each individual pilots' threshold for safety, there must be a line that can never be crossed. Contrary to the views of some on the ground, we have ultimate control of the decision making process and should not be afraid to exercise it.

Any pilot worth his salt will tell you of similar instances they have experienced over their career, myself included. I am thankful that nothing worse came of this and I personally view this as a great opportunity for the rest of us to gain useful information that could affect our decision making process should we find ourselves in the same situation.

I strongly reccommend the book entitled "Redefining Airmanship" by Anthonthy Kern.

"I'd rather be lucky than good"

28th Feb 2005, 10:24
as a passenger on this flight i can tell you that most of the passengers were extremely alarmed by what happened as we could all see the flames coming from the engine.

The plane went along on the rear wheels for ages before we actually took off and we only just made if off the ground before the end of the runway. Then the flames, banging and shaking started We then cruised around the pacific for about 30 or 45 minutes at 5000FT and about 300MPH in a big circle just outside LAX whilst they decided what to do. Every so often another big bang or shake came along to keep us awake. The pilot took about 15 minutes before he told anybody what had happened and then said that we may have noticed a few sparks out of the engine !
The stewards told us that we would be landing and that they were dumping fuel - To say that people were unhappy when they decided to head home would be an understatement !

I understand that to a pilot this all might make sense but the feelings of the passenegers should have been considered and we were all sh*tting ourselves. The diversion to manchester due to low fuel was the icing on the cake.

I'm flying on Virgin next time !

Few Cloudy
28th Feb 2005, 10:40
Several subjects occur on this thread - this is just about the passenger info side of things.

I had a popping engine on take off too once at Geneva on an MD-80 (a piece of tyre had gone into it, so that wasn´t our only problem).

As soon as we reasonably could - ie. after getting the ship to a safe height and established a short term plan of action - I informed the passengers to the best of my knowledge at the time, what we had. The cabin crew later confirmed that this had been a very good thing to do as it:

a. Showed the passengers that someone up front had noticed the problem and was dealing with it.

b. Helped a lot later in the flight, when we had to make a precautionary landing and needed the cooperation of our passengers.

This wasn´t the only information we passed on - during each flight phase we tried to keep everyone up to date.

During the approach the Cabin Chief was able to let me know that the passengers were in good shape and some were reading newspapers... A couple of letters from the passengers later showed their appreciation for the information.

Passengers please be aware, however, that there is a lot to do up front when things go wrong and what may appear to be an interminable delay to you - especially after some marked banging and flaming - may be an action filled few seconds to your cockpit crew.


28th Feb 2005, 11:06

It is a matter of deep regret that you and your fellow passengers felt the way you did.

It would not suprise me if BA policy changed in the light of the publicity surrounding this event. Not because it was intrinsically unsafe but because we are governed by perception rather than reality, courtesy of sensationalist and inaccurate reporting and publicity common for all world events.

I am sorry to hear that you will be choosing Virgin next time. Where did you find out that they have a different policy, given that despite the qustion being asked twice, nobody from any other airline has stated what their company policy is?

Finally could I correct one common misconception relating to jet transport aircraft? You say that The plane went along on the rear wheels for ages before we actually took off and we only just made if off the ground before the end of the runway. Presuming that the engine did not fail until airborne what you experienced was the normal (not just BA but all operators) practice of a reduced thrust takeoff. This is where all factors such as, air temperature, aircraft weight, length of runway, surrounding hills are taken into account and the safe minimum amount of power required is calculated and used.

The reasons are various not least that the engines are put under much less stress than when operating at full thrust and also the combustion chamber temperatures are far lower resulting in longer engine life.

It also means, as you correctly observed, that most of the runway length will be used before becoming airborne.

There are circumstances when a reduced thrust takeoff is not permitted e.g. conditions of windshear.

28th Feb 2005, 11:17
My comment that i will fly virgin next time is bit flippant - we are all still really shaken up by what happened. My wife and 2 of my 3 kids were on the plane with me and it really wasn't good. Thoughts of leaving an orphan behind etc etc.

As i stated i do appreciate that a pilot views these things differently but you could see that the stewards were just as rattled as we were.

As an aside, one good thing did come of it - i've never seen people watch the safety briefing before. We had a plane full of attentive people on the shuttle flight down from manchester to heathrow!

28th Feb 2005, 12:15
timzsta is a fATPL wannabee with 200 hours. This whole episode has been something of an eye opener for me.

Picture it this way. I am at an interview for my first job. Panel ask me what I would do following engine failure at take off at the start of 10 hour sector, some of it over a large cold ocean. If I replied "continue to destination" how many pilots here would guarantee me that I would get the job?

Who was it that famously said "just because we can do something it does not follow that we should?".

When I was in the Royal Navy I first became involved in aviation. I was taught about the accident chain. Accidents rarely occur as a result of one single event but as a result of a serious of events. If you can stop any of the series of events happening you stand a good chance of preventing the accident. It seems the accident was prevented only at the last event.

I recall an incident not so long ago when a failure of an engine on a BAe 146 resulted in the failure of the other engine on that wing. In this 747 incident it seems there was quite a serious failure of the engine given the very high EGT recorded. Who is to say some debris from the engine may not have punctured a wing fuel tank causing a slow fuel leak that may not have been noticed until it was too late? Or another engine being damaged or some other system.

Having read this thread I am more enlightened as to the decision making process - at first I thought they were complete idiots to have continued, but it is not as straightforward as that.

In my humble opinion attempting to continue to LHR was the most extreme case of action. My thoughts were more along the line of maybe heading over to the East Coast and land there where it would have been easier to sort out onward travel to the UK for the passengers. If you were worried about the cost of dumping all the fuel and putting passengers up in hotels for a few days then the aforementioned may have been the most sensible way of doing it.

But deciding to cross the atlantic following an engine failure seems like a bold decision to say the least. Perhaps this incident shows that there are "old and bold aviators". At this time of year can anybody hazard a guess as to what the survival time in the North Atlantic is if you should have to go swimming?

Yes its unlikely you would lose the other three engines but you don't have to do many case studies on your MCC course to realise the first problem you have is very rarely the last. Go and have a look at the "atlantic glider" thread as a testament to that.

28th Feb 2005, 12:48
timzsta, I believe that BA has flown a few more miles in four-donks than RN ever dreamed of. The 747's systems are well-proven to prevent "creeping failure" i.e. a cascading of individual failures (lack of redundancy) leading to an accident. Trend condition monitoring of engines gives a better assessment of the health of the remaining three than any military aircraft ever had.

Illigitum non carborundum.

28th Feb 2005, 14:09
I am sure the 747 has fantastic redundancy. What those systems cannot legislate for is getting a lower cruising level then you planned for, subsequently resulting in not enough fuel to get you to where you want to get to. And then not being able to get as much fuel as you thought you could from one of your tanks, for whatever reason, resulting in an emergency being declared. I am sure the trend monitoring is great too - but what happens if it starts to paint an ugly picture halfway over the atlantic?

As soon as you start operating an aircraft in a non-standard way you run the risk of the unexpected happening. System redundancy does not give one carte blanche to press on regardless. For if the aeroplane does not do its best to ruin your day, then sure as hell, somebody or something else will.

Better to be down here wishing you was up there, then up there wishing you was down here.

Can you please answer my 'interview question' - it seems I have much to learn from somebody like you.

28th Feb 2005, 14:45
As a BA 747 captain, perhaps I could add my tuppenceworth. I am not a manager and have no other knowledge of this incident than any other member of the public.
1) Whatever else I may think about British Airways, and I am happy to take it on the chin wrt service, punctuality etc etc, we do NOT compromise safety. When the decision was taken to continue to London there will have been NO question about the safety of so doing.
2) A 747-400 on 3 engines, at the sort of weight it would have been out of LAX, is just as safe as any twin-engined aircraft. I.e. it has FULL redundancy of ALL systems. As with any twin-engined aircraft it can cope easily with any engine failure, including the one on the same side. ALL hydraulic systems (and therefore controls, flaps, gear etc) will continue to operate normally.
3) A 3-engined 747-400 will cruise at a lower altitude and will therefore burn more fuel. The Flight Management System automatically calculates the new fuel burn on 3 engines at the lower altitude and presents the pilots with an accurate estimate of fuel on landing, whether at the intended destination or an alternate.
4) I have no idea why, towards the end of the flight (as I understand it), a 'Mayday' was transmitted. What I can say is that the transmittal of a 'Mayday' will guarantee that you will get a priority approach, so you have no concerns about whether the aircraft ahead will burst a tyre on the runway, be slow to clear the runway, or whatever......because the runway will be maintained clear for you to land on.
In short, the continuation of the flight is a non-event and the declaration of 'Mayday' ensured the continued safety of all on board. It was not an indication of imminent disaster.
It would be a real shame if all the publicity given to this event were to pressurize me or my colleagues into not transmitting a Mayday if necessary, because of all the publicity it might generate (17 pages so far on this site, a full page in the Times and God knows how much elsewhere).

Rossma - I deeply feel for you and your family. As I say, I have no more knowledge of what happened than most other people, and certainly far less than you have. I can say though that the guys in the flight deck will have been working flat out to sort the problem. It is always a balancing act between solving the immediate problem and keeping the Cabin Crew and passengers 'in the loop'. If there's a conflict, flying the aircraft will - and must - come first.