View Full Version : Reverse Thrust: Vibrations, Shudders, Loud Noise normal?

31st Jul 2008, 21:27

Following my previous thread about hard landings, I am pleased to say that the Ryanair landing was pretty good! I have overcome my fear of landings!

Now, I am not a confident flyer at times, despite flying once a fortnight. I do get quite nervous. And no, I am tee-total so I don't drink on flights!

When landing, what does "reverse thrust" actually do? On the 737-800NG aircraft on Wednesday, landing at Seville as soon as the wheels were on the ground the reverse came on? Then the noise built up, and there was some vibrations, slight shudders of lockers? And then the plane came to a stop pretty soon?

This was with Ryanair, whom I will say did a excellent flight on Wednesday to Seville from London Stansted (FR8361 EI-DAY) Hats off the the company for once again another excellent flight!

I just don't like the noises, vibrations, and slight rattling of lockers? Is this normal? And why do the engines make more noise as if we were about to take off?

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your reply. I am very grateful for your time!



31st Jul 2008, 22:05
When landing, what does "reverse thrust" actually do? On the 737-800NG aircraft on Wednesday, landing at Seville as soon as the wheels were on the ground the reverse came on? Then the noise built up, and there was some vibrations, slight shudders of lockers? And then the plane came to a stop pretty soon?

Designs vary from engine to engine but essentially "clam-shell" style doors open when reverse is activated shutting off the rearward thrust flow and re-directing it forwards. It doesn't actually "spin the engine backwards" (as I thought when I was little :O) but it uses the engine's thrust against the aircraft to help it decelerate. This does inevitably make the cabin fittings shake quite a lot.

The vibrations in the in 737NG aren't too bad....but some older types can be positively teeth shattering!

31st Jul 2008, 22:18
Thanks for your reply, I am not sure if it was a NG model or not. Just said "Boeing 737-800" EI-DAY?

But the cabin noises are perfectly normal?

I thought it spun the engines backwards as well! Yeah, the cap did move backwards!


31st Jul 2008, 23:35
Rattling noises are perfectly normal. It's a 70 tonne airliner coming to a stop quick whilst moving over rock solid concrete. Things inside are bound to shake and rattle. The engines spool back up when reverse thrust is selected because the power needed is greater than idle, which is what they would have been in on touchdown, hence it sounds similar to the roar produced on takeoff.

Final 3 Greens
1st Aug 2008, 07:38
I would have thought anyone who held a BA gold card would have flown enough to know about the effects of thrust reversers.

Come on, time to 'fess up - how many flights have you really taken :}

As others have said, noise and vibration is normal, in fact some of us "of a certain age" will remember the PA from the cabin crew alerting pax to that there would be a lot of noise after landing and that this was normal.

The engines spool back up when reverse thrust is selected because the power needed is greater than idle

Sometimes idle reverse is used and this is hardly noticeable.

1st Aug 2008, 07:51
Want noise and vibration, try being on an old 4 engine propjob doing runup.

Reverse thust is a good way to slow down, better than the old way of throwing out an anchor.

1st Aug 2008, 09:18

This is what you'll typically see when reverse thrust is applied, the back half of the engine cover slides back on touchdown as it does there are doors on the inside that block the incoming air and direct it out of the gap created by the engine cover sliding back.
So the more thrust you require to help slow down the more you need to increase power in order to get more air pushing out the gap, thats why the engine noise is loud and sometimes gets louder as more demand for "re-directed' air is needed.
I know some pendant will want to correct me as far as technical terms are applied but as a working stiff that flies airliners for the mere pittance that I recieve, thats the simplest way I can explain what's going on !! HTH

1st Aug 2008, 09:23
Yes all everything you mention is normal, and you have observed the point of it as well.

And then the plane came to a stop pretty soon?

1st Aug 2008, 15:51
I've done more flights, than you've had breakfast. But until recently, I have never cared about what actually goes on.

And on the BA flights, I don't honestly remember if they used the reverse. I never paid attention, mainly due to sleeping or working.

But it is good to know the vibrations/rattles/cabin noise is normal, just wondered.

If anyone wants to know, I took the interest in flying after watching pretty much all of the Air Crash Investigation episodes on the Virgin Media cable TV (TV-Choice on-Demand)

Just out of curiosity, are "vibrations" during flight normal? And for take-off vibrations are expected in the similar way of landing?

1st Aug 2008, 17:53
The aircraft will normally shake a bit on take-off as well with often the cabin fittings making quite a lot of noise (and again this does seem to get worse as planes get older).

Some particular types have distinctive noises and vibrations as well...the HS 146's flaps being one well known example. The A320 if remember rightly sometimes makes a noise that sounds rather like an electric drill. Most turboprops give off a distinctive 'beating' sound from the propellers on take off which is caused by the revolution speed not quite remaining synchronised as the plane accelerates. So there are lots of noises and shakes...most of which are completely normal.

One which I couldn't identify once was on take-off in the 777...just prior to and after lift off there seemed to be a lot of vibration coming from the undercarriage...I thought that perhaps there was a rough patch on the runway at Gatwick...does anyone have any idea?

1st Aug 2008, 18:20
This is probably wrong, but could it be the tyres? Similar thing in my car on the M25. The noise was due to a tyre deflating whilst moving!


1st Aug 2008, 18:38
One which I couldn't identify once was on take-off in the 777...just prior to and after lift off there seemed to be a lot of vibration coming from the undercarriage...I thought that perhaps there was a rough patch on the runway at Gatwick...does anyone have any idea?

It happens on the 747 aswell, sometimes the undercarriage wheels are still moving and so are being slowed down fast before being stowed when gear is selected up.

2nd Aug 2008, 00:58
The vibrations during rotation are often due to uneven tyre wear. The wheel is still spinning in the air before being stopped as the gear retracts, causing vibrations, this usually has stopped once the gear is fully retracted.

2nd Aug 2008, 02:54

Reverse thrust is simply a way of using aerodynamics to help slow the airplane, rather than so much brake. Airplanes have a lot of weight, and very small brakes. Any deceleration created by reverse thrust from the engines is less energy the brakes must absorb, and therefore lower brake wear and temperatures. Often the biggest limiting factor on how fast an airplane can be turned around at the gate is brake temperatures.

Reverse thrust is very simple. Just like your car engine, the jet engine requires a lot more power to do the work than the work it actually does. What this means is that the net thrust produced by the engine is less than the total power it produces; a lot of the power the engine produces is taken up by moving internal components and by keeping itself running. This includes overcoming internal drag. Your car is the same way; the engine produces a lot more power than what it actually puts out; most of it is required to overcome the internal friction and mechanical resistance of the engine itself, from turning oil pumps to other accessories, to overcoming spring tension in valve trains, to the friction in bearings, etc. The jet engine is the same way; it has accessories, and uses much of it's own thrust to turn it's compressor.

Take away the useful thrust being put out by the jet engine, and what you have left is a lot of drag. When reverse thrust is applied, the actual redirection of the exhuast gasses isn't what's producing the deceleration effect, though it helps contribute. It's the drag that's left over when the thrust portion is taken away. Blocker doors of varying types, or aerodynamic "cascades" alter the direction of the airflow being put out by the engine; the thrust or exhaust gasses are often directed sideways or sometimes slightly forward, instead of out the back of the engine, by blocker doors. Taking away the thrust leaves only the drag...this means the brakes need to do less work to produce the same slowing of the airplane on landing.

The exhaust gasses which went beneath the wing and aft during normal operation, are suddenly made to sound much louder as they are directed by the cascades or blocker doors or vanes in an outward direction. In a sense, it's as though you were suddenly placed beyind the engine; you're now in line with the exhaust gasses instead of having them diverted below and behind you in normal flight. It seems louder. The engine may shake and vibrate somewhat on it's pylon. It's designed to do that, as is the pylon mount.

All landings are calculated without the help of reverse thrust. Reverse thrust is therefor a bonus in helping the airplane slow down, achieving less wear and tear on the brakes, and quicker ground turns when going back out for another leg with passengers or freight.

As others indicated, the vibration you feel as the landing gear is coming up after takeoff, is simply wheel vibration due to balance. Generally the main gear will incorporate a feature in the brakes to slow the wheel and stop it from spinning as the gear retracts. Until that time, however, any imbalance in the tire will result in a shaking or vibration which will decrease in frequency as the wheel slows. The imbalance is created through landings when the tire is spun up from a complete standstill to the landing speed of the aircraft. You may have noticed a puff of smoke when an aircraft lands; that smoke is loss of some tire material as the wheel touches down and is quickly spun up. This loss of material naturally causes a slight imbalance, and this in turn causes the vibration you feel.

Wheel assemblies are typically balanced when being built up...much in the same way that a care tire is balanced before being put on your car.

When the airplane comes off the ground, the vibration will be felt until the tire assembly stops rotating. Often the main gear will stop rotating fairly quickly, due to some back pressure which is induced in the brake lines during the retraction process. The nosegear, however, may continue to spin for a short while in some airplanes, while others incorporate a mechanical snubber in the gear well to bring it to a stop.

2nd Aug 2008, 10:47
Folks - Thanks for contributing to a useful discussion - some detailed and informed responses there: I hope you're all comfortable that I've added this thread to the Forum FAQ for newbies (You know, the one that Newbies never seem to actually look at?) in the hope that it might help somebody in the future.

P.S. RYRnick - a good question, but a word to the wise - take care when making assumptions about how much flying you have done relative to the experience of others: You'll often be wrong, and in this case, you're dealing with one of our more hi-time travellers.

3rd Aug 2008, 18:26
Reverse thrust :

I've met more than one person who thought that reversing the engines was done literally - that for a few seconds the inlet air was now drawn in at the rear and the exhaust and thrust went out of the front. While this might amuse the regulars here, it is what a lay person could feel was the obvious way to do it.

Likewise reverse pitch on a propeller plane being thought to be achieved by turning the engine in the opposite direction, issues such as variable pitch being generally not understood. I attempted to draw a comparison with a car's reverse gear, only to be told that this did indeed "turn the engine backwards" when selected.

General noises :

One of the most amusing I recall was in a BAe146, Euromanx, London City to Isle of Man. In the cruise, suddenly a quite noticeable "Kerboinggggg" twanging-spring noise from the cabin wall, like the sort of silly noise The Goons used to specialise in. I guess there was some spring-activated device inside there which had suddenly operated/let go. Any 146 engineers hazard a guess at what it was ? !

4th Aug 2008, 13:16
This link here will show you the other version of reverse thrust that pops 2 doors over the back end of the engine to redirect the airflow forward, incidentally the likes of most military fighters such as the Tornado use this design, if you see a picture of one, you will tend to see a lot of soot staining on the vertical fin, this is because of this air flow being redirected forward.

NationMaster - Encyclopedia: Thrust reversal (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Thrust-reversal)


ford cortina
11th Sep 2008, 15:11
RYRnick. The Boeing 737-800 is a Next Generation (NG) in fact the breakdown goes as follows:
737-100, 737-200. Original
737-300, 737-400, 737-500, Classic (CL)
737-600, 737-700, 737-800, 737-900, Next Generation (NG)

I would have thought that a experienced passenger like yourself, who has more hours of flight that most of us pilots here you would know the difference.

I personally don't believe, you are 28, a ex BA Gold card holder, even out of nappies yet. My suggestion is grow up and don't criticise about things that you have no knowledge of.

11th Sep 2008, 17:07
well done ford cortina (http://www.pprune.org/members/193068-ford-cortina) you take a honest question from a passenger (the point of this section) and turn it into insults, that's quite a talent you got there :D

11th Sep 2008, 17:40
A perfect example of why someone felt the need to start this thread.


ford cortina
11th Sep 2008, 18:14
Well that told me then.... I would have a look at RYRnick's other postings and then maybe you both would understand my frustrations:ugh:

11th Sep 2008, 18:56
I remember the days when the good old chaps up front with their handlebar moustaches and wonderfully English accents would take the time to explain to the SLF what wierd and wonderful noises to expect whilst flying, particularly during landing.

'on landing you will experience an increase in engine noise, there is no need to be alarmed as this is perfectly normal and caused by the reverse thrust braking mechanism of the engines' or words to that effect.

Now we're in the days of 'everyday routine air travel', pre-recorded safety briefings, forward looking onboard cameras and strengthened flightdeck doors is it an assumption that the passengers all know what makes an airframe creak, squeak, whir, bir, shake rattle and roll!

A comforting word from an experienced professional goes a long way.

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 19:22
ford cortina

I am with you - this guy is Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4.

To anyone who doesn't like this post, p!ss off :}

From an arrogant FQTV.

11th Sep 2008, 19:54
Thanks to everyone above to have given me my refresher course...
Now my turn to open the "squawk box"...
Thrust reversers achieve TWO (2) things...
When deployed (i.e. "idle") - they cancel (or "block") the residual idle thrust...
With power - they vector the thrust in a somewhat "forward" direction resulting in a braking vector...
There are two types of reversers...
(1) Clamshell type - look the picture above of the KLM Fokker twinjet...
This type is used for low bypass engines, and mounted on the turbine exhaust.
(2) Cascade type - look at the picture of the 737 (?) above...
This mostly used for high bypass engines, to deflect FAN air towards forward direction.
In the 747, originally, each engine had a set of FAN and TURBINE reversers. The turbine reversers (on the exhaust) were often subject to malfunctions. Most, if not all airlines decided to suppress the TURBINE reversers, and kept only the FAN reversers - Think of it this way = very little thrust comes from the turbine exhaust, most of the thrust comes from the fan anyway. Very little "effectiveness" got lost with this modification.
For the old timer crews or passengers, I flew the DC8-60/70s, in which the inboard reversers (engines nš 2 and 3) could be use IN-FLIGHT as air brakes (on the DC8, spoilers/speed brakes cannot be used in flight). The use of reversers in the air was quite "drastic" with noise and vibrations, so that we made a cabin announcement anytime we had to resort to the use of reversers in flight.
Happy contrails

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 19:58
For the old timer crews or passengers, I flew the DC8-60/70s, in which the inboard reversers (engines nš 2 and 3) could be use IN-FLIGHT as air brakes

As could # 1 + 3 on the HS121

11th Sep 2008, 20:09
To anyone who doesn't like this post, p!ss off

From an arrogant FQTV.

Yes. Clearly so.

11th Sep 2008, 20:19

Way to go! a true gentleman no doubt.

Would you per chance happen to have (or had) a handlebar moustache? I'm sure the SLF were grateful to have had a thoughtful commander who kept them informed during the flight (even today it can be a traumatic experience for many even in calm flight conditions).
Boy I miss the good old days!

Conan The Barber
11th Sep 2008, 20:22
Well SNS3, it seems F3G is dripping sauce all over his posts tonight.

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 20:24
I've been watching the US election shows.

Got my lipstick and am in search of a pig :ok:

My role model is Rainboe.

11th Sep 2008, 20:36
That explains it. There should be a warning on any coverage of the US campaign or election..."Watching this program has been shown in the State of California to reduce intelligence and cause brain lesions, warts, and gas."

Watching the campaign coverage from home is annoying, and I usually turn it off. Watching it abroad is just embarassing.

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 20:47
Well its good to see who the next commander in chief will be.

I liked the old cowboy actor, he was great, presumably he must have watched a lot of election programs in the state he governed.

11th Sep 2008, 20:53
How quaint and typical of an American to consider that anyone outside the US must be "watching it abroad."

As a US Citizen, when I travel abroad and watch TV, I'm watching it abroad.

When you watch TV at home you're watching it domestically. When you travel outside your own country, you're watching it abroad.

There's nothing typically American about considering being abroad, to be abroad...it is after all, abroad.

Your own folks were abroad and causing a little trouble when they were soundly defeated and sent home with their tail between their legs (by us), of course. Now to come see you on your island, we have to go abroad.

I should add that the quality of your fish and chips is falling. Do something abou that, will you? And do try to keep a stiff upper lip while you listen to those cabin anouncements. They're important, you know.

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 20:57
Your own folks were abroad and causing a little trouble when they were soundly defeated and sent home with their tail between their legs (by us), of course. Now to come see you on your island, we have to go abroad.

I didn't realise that Malta ever invaded the US.

Sahha u grazzi

11th Sep 2008, 21:01
Ah, it's Malta for you. You must be an expert in world affairs, then. We all know how Malta defines current events.

It also explains why you travel so much...what else could one do?

11th Sep 2008, 21:07
Fly straight over the top of your place matey! :ok:


Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 21:11
We all know how Malta defines current events..

You mean like when the cowboy guy met Gorbachev to discuss how to end the cold war, hosted by Malta?

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 21:14

Drop in sometime, be my pleasure to drive you round and show you the sights :ok:

11th Sep 2008, 21:20
Most of the 75 to 90% of recriminations did not exist in the old days...
Most flight crews were nice - and so were the passengers...
In the old days, all we had to do was to fly airplanes, and tell passengers about reversers.
Nowadays, we are too busy pushing buttons and programming the FMS.
I recall the good old days... before Osama forced us to change security policies... I never failed inviting passengers (and their kids - take your cameras) for a visit in the flight deck and see the view from the front windows... the cockpit door remained unlocked. If they wanted to hijack us to Cuba, ok, I would go shake hands with Fidel and get some Romeo y Julieta cigars as gifts for friends...
Even the little ladies who were scared of airplanes were invited to sit on the jump seat behind me, for takeoff and landing... to see how simple airplane flying was. You see, terrorists did not book travel for all-inclusive tours to Cancun, or Punta Cana, so I was not concerned about their AK-47s in their carry-on...
I remember never failing to visit the cabin as well, and shake hands with passengers, and answering questions. Occasionally, we were delayed for departure, and I was not afraid to offer a word to passengers waiting in the boarding area, as to the why of our delays... This is not what the geeks and nerds call CRM and SOP nowadays, this is being civilized and respectful of the passengers (who paid a travel agent, which pays my airline which pays me a salary). Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen.
Sorry BladePilot - no handlebar mustache under my nose, but I probably belong to the same brotherhood... I am just known to smoke a cherry or maple tobacco in my pipe (on non-smoking flights) - and as to getting fired, that's ok... I probably violated at least one rule on every flight, never had an accident and now... retiring from flying in 67 days anyway...
Happy contrails

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 21:31

You will be missed.

I hope that you are only missed in the air and not on here.

Unfortunately, I never experienced the "elegant" era of air travel, but my 32 years memories do extend back to a time when flying was a nice experience and your colleagues and you were a joy to meet.

Julian Pettifer wrote a book named "Diamonds in the Sky" and crew of your era were (and still are), although I quote his title out of context.

Very best wishes to you.

11th Sep 2008, 21:48
Final 3 Greens -
I know Malta quite well, did 6 month based there as chief pilot of ACMI of two 727s in the mid 1980s - to KM airlines... Was in a hotel in Bouguibba (spelling?) and did not fail to get a car bumper sticker and a T-shirt "I love Gozo"...
Would love to visit again... who knows...?
Valetta - the Blue Grotto - A beautiful cathedral in, was it Medina (top of the hill)...?
But this time as SLF and tourist, and enjoy the great seafood.
Happy contrails

Final 3 Greens
11th Sep 2008, 21:51

I can't PM you, but if you do decide to come our way, please PM me.

The place is Bugibba (but not perhaps as nice as it was when you stayed)

However Medina (the silent city) is pretty much the same and the seafood is still very good, especially the cipulazza (scorpion fish) - did you try that?

KM airlines are now an airbus operation (as I am sure you know) and are good friends of mine.

12th Sep 2008, 08:10
Enjoy your retirement you will be missed.

Maybe I could entice you out of retirement some day to work as a consultant in good old customer relations (I think this is where it went wrong the day we started refering to 'customer service') and good old fashioned crew etiquette which I have to say always seemed to come so naturally to folks way back when...

Kids and Grannies on the flightdeck what memories!

12th Sep 2008, 09:42
I used to work on engines, and the descriptions above of reverse thrust are excellent. Yes, I thought they went backwards too when I was a kid!

As for Malta, I've often followed F3G's posts. Nice to know he lives there.

I spend as much time as I can there. Will be there for a couple of weeks at start of October, in fact.

For over 20 years, I used to stay in Marsaskala, but can't anymore (F3G will probably know why). So now I stay up the busy end, in St George's Bay.

I know Malta isn't everyone's cup of tea, being very small, etc. But I think it's one of those things you either get or don't.

But there are some amazing views, and above all, I have a lot of good Maltese friends, and when you have one of those, they are friends for life. Can't shake 'em off!