View Full Version : Can anyone enlighten me please?

1st Aug 2008, 14:56
In October 2002 I was involved in an emergency landing at Manchester on board a plane bound for Heraklion in Crete. It was flight BD8423 with BMI. We had just taken off from Manchester and about 40 seconds into ascent there was a loud bang (explosion like) followed by 3 more smaller bangs, and then flames from the engine were visible down the outside of the plane. The Captain gave some instructions to the cabin crew and shut down the affected engine which caused the aircraft to sway from side to side for a few seconds but it seemed like an age. Everyone was incredibly calm and silent.

I was travelling with my husband and 2 small children (1 a baby on my knee). Only when the plane stabilised and was flying on one engine did the captain address the passengers and thanked us for remaining calm, and said we would return to Manchester to make an emergency landing, but because of the nature of the fault we had to dump fuel before landing. We flew up and down the Pennines at low level, and about 30 minutes later we landed on the outer most runway at Manchester which I understand is reserved for emergencies. There were sandpits on either side of it, and as we were coming in we could see lots of emergency vehicles, we then exited the plane whilst fire crews sprayed it with foam.

Since that incident I have flown many times (reluctantly) and am a nervous pax particularly at takeoff and landing, but really want to overcome this fear, and feel that if I understand what happened it might make it easier. I appreciate it is a long time ago but wondered if anyone can offer an explanation. all reports refer to it as "unspecified Fault" but there most have been some reason it happened.

Below are some links and other information about the incident.

Yours hopefully!

]BBC NEWS | England | Plane makes emergency landing (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2348887.stm)[/

DATE: 22.10.2002
LOCATION: Manchester-Ringway Intīl AP / England
AIRLINE: BMI British Midland
FLIGHT No.: BD 8423
FROM: Manchester
TO: Heraklion
PAX: 138
PAX: 0
PAX: 0

About 30 minutes after departure the aircraft made a safe return to MAN following a pilot report of unspecified technical problems,

1st Aug 2008, 16:12
Hi Willowfly, It sounds like your BD A/C - Airbus 321??
Experienced an engine surge on T/Off??

This has happened on a few occasions in the past, And there has been no major risk to the Aircraft or it's passengers.

Although it would have seemed a major event at the time, This kind of incident is practiced every 6 months in the Airlines simulators.

Aircraft can fly normally on the 1 engine, while the 2nd engine is shut down and secured.

You could say that an A/C engine surge is similar to that of a car engine 'backfiring' but obviously on a larger scale.

To date the Airbus A320/321/319 has had a good safety record, And an engine surge of the nature that you have reported is quite rare.

I can assure you that these engines are put through their testing 'thoroughly' obviously before they are certified to be sold to an airline.

The A/C that you flew on is not that old, And I would say that it's V2500?? engines have not reached their full life cycles.

The cause could also have been a 'birdstrike' which obviously cannot be pre-determined at the time, In most cases of a 'birdstrike' the engine is written off due to the nature of the 'ingestion' - 2 million.

The pilot at the time would have been fully occupied with flying and checking the A/C, And an anouncement is usually made after the A/C is levelled off and secured, It may seem ignorant to some passengers at the time though.

The A/C has to burn off the fuel due the weight, Any attempt to land with a full load could cause the A/C not to brake/stop safely, Or stop at all.

I hope the event has not stopped you travelling.


1st Aug 2008, 17:13
I have never been in a emergency like that, but after a really hard and bad landing I was reluctant to board a plane again, but I needed to. This happened in April.

I was incredibly nervous, and I must off been sweating like a pig! I had to change my shirt and tie just before landing, and again once inside the terminal.

The landing was fine, and I have overcome my fear.

I think you should go on another flight, be calm. Don't worry the pilot and crew know what to do. And the plane will be fine!

And this was on Wednesday this week, I can't wait to fly again now!

It took 4 months, but I am fine now!

I hope I helped,


1st Aug 2008, 20:19

I don't recall the incident or work for BMI, so I'm afraid I can't shed any specifics on what happened, but from what you describe, I'd agree with byalphaindia. It sounds very much like an engine surge (when the airflow into an engine is disrupted, causing it to cough, splutter and send impressive - but pretty harmless - jets of flame out of the tailpipe). Either that or one of the engines sucked in a bird, which would also disrupt the airflow, but could cause serious damage to the engine - not to mention the bird.

Hopefully some general points will help allay your fears. Modern airliners are incredibly reliable, and most pilots go years if not decades without ever having to shut an engine down 'for real.' Most captains I know have only had one or two engine failures in careers that span twenty or thirty years. However - and partly because it's such a rare event - we practise engine failures incessantly during our simulator sessions (every six months). And for good measure, before every departure the pilot flying the aircraft will brief the non-flying pilot on what he will do in the event of an engine failure before or after take-off, so the drills are always fresh in our minds. Rest assured then that we spend our whole careers training and being tested for an event that may never happen - but, if it ever does, our actions will be very well rehearsed.

Another point that many passengers don't realise is that all airliners are designed to safely cope with an engine failure during take-off. Each time we fly, we calculate certain speeds, one of which is the take-off decision speed (known as V1). If an engine fails while we are on the runway but before reaching V1, we can safely stop the aircraft on the remaining length of runway. Once passed V1, we are committed to flying. If an engine fails now (as happened on your flight) the remaining engine(s) have enough performance that we can safely continue with the take-off, accelerating to a safe speed and climbing away to a safe altitude. Safety underpins the whole system, and it works very, very well.

Needless to say, an engine failure after V1 means that the pilots will be extremely busy for a few minutes - flying the aircraft, securing the failed engine, talking to air traffic control and briefing the actions that will follow. Inevitably there will be a delay in speaking to the passengers, but flying the aircraft will always take precedence over communicating with the pax (or even ATC). We are, however, well aware that this sort of event will be quite distressing for many of the passengers, and a briefing will be given as soon as possible.

Looking at the odds, you're extremely unlikely to ever experience another engine failure, but if you do, at least you should have a better idea what's going on!

Please enjoy your flying - us pilots do!

1st Aug 2008, 22:34
Many thanks for your re-assuring responses. I have flown numerous times since this happened, but each time I am more anxious. I think if I hadn't got straight back onto an A/C after this, I would probably never have flown again (and about 50% of the PAX did decide not to travel again that day).

At first we did think it was a bird strike, but I think the engine surge is also completely possible - would this cause a large bang?

It would be great to hear from anyone else who works for BMI or recalls this.

2nd Aug 2008, 11:10

For info only - The incident with Thomsonfly was captured on Video and is now available on YouTube HERE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KhZwsYtNDE).

I do not pretend that the TFly incident was necessarily the same as yours, but the video may go some way to reassuring you that such events are not unique, and can be (and were) handled skillfully by thee Flight Crew involved

Final 3 Greens
2nd Aug 2008, 12:47

but I think the engine surge is also completely possible - would this cause a large bang?

Yes, like a huge car backfiring.

You might find this video interesting YouTube - 777 PW4000 Engine Surge on 747 Testbed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE2LeVQ2DtM)

I fly as a passenger nearly every week and I know that experiencing an engine surge would upset me - so I take my hat off to you for getting back on to an aircraft and then sticking with it. :ok:

2nd Aug 2008, 14:15
The worst engine surge I have experienced was on departure from HKG . Fortunately, I knew what the noise was and it was not so severe as the ones described here. I am told that the most usual cause is an unexpected disruption to the airflow into the front of the engine. This might be a small cross wind or pocket but unseen and unknowable. When the engines are working hard on the departure, it is the most awkward time for them to experience this.

We were climbing out from Kai Tak in a BA 744 when one of the Starboard engines experienced a surge and shook the a/c a fair bit. We were sitting just over the wing and the noise was close by. But we continued the climb and it was not severe, so we were able to continue our journey all the way to London, but there was no cabin announcement, so I knew it was not serious. That has been the worst in over 40 years of paxing.

2nd Aug 2008, 17:56
End of August 1978 I was flying on a BA 747 from Singapore to LHR via Muscat. It was on takeoff from Muscat just at the point of rotation that I noticed flames coming out of the left hand inner engine followed by a very large bang which shook the aircraft and quickly followed by a sinking feeling as the aircraft seemed to level. This must have been in fact a change of pitch of the aircraft to a very shallow climb. All this was at midnight local time. Passengers were now very awake. The cabin crew were not allowed out of their seats for 40 minutes and when they were allowed up they looked white as sheets. We were not allowed to unfasten our belts. There was a short announcement from the flight deck that there was a problem with an engine and we would be landing in Bahrain shortly. We landed fast and hard and seemed to be surrounded by fire engines. We taxied to the gate and were put up in a hotel for a couple of days. The rumour in the hotel was there had been a broken fuel line, but I have no idea if it is true. In my opinion if you fly with reputable airlines you will be as safe as is possible. I unhesitatingly fly with BA from a safety point of view despite the alarming incident I mentioned. Research your carriers to put your mind at rest is the approach I have always taken. Also tell the cabin crew of your nervousness and they will be most helpful in my experience of flying with my sister who is extremely scared of the whole process.

2nd Aug 2008, 20:04
Many thanks once again for your responses. I am pretty sure it was an engine surge from what you have all described, and specifically from the links to the videos you gave me. There is another one of a Swiss Air flight experiencing an engine surge which also looks similar to what we experienced: YouTube - Swiss Air A330, Having Engine Surge (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-UU0pgF5oI)

Would it be normal procedure to shut down the engine following a surge? This definitely happened and it sounded as though the other engine was labouring.

gdiphil - your experience sounds very very similar to mine - did it make you nervous following this?

Thanks again.

2nd Aug 2008, 23:53
To get a little technical on you:

When an engine fails (or has to be shut down for a surge, fire, etc), two things happen to the aircraft:

1. Only half the power is available - that means, the pilot will lower the nose, as to not loose speed. It is like driving up a hill in your car, and the car gets slower and slower, even though you are giving it full throttle. What can you do? In a car - not much, but in an airplane, by lowering the nose, we can adjust the "steepness of the hill", that means it won't climb as much, but you can maintain the speed (you need the speed to fly). That makes for the "sinking" feeling, mentioned earlier.

2. The remaining engine will pull the plane to the opposite side.
Both engines working together give an even pull on the plane, but only one left will pull it sideways, just as if you are held by both arms leaning backwards, and then one is let loose. You will not fall, but turn a bit, until stabilised on the one still holding you. Same goes for the plane, it will sway around a bit, until the pilot has manipulated the controls to find a new equilibrium for the aircraft. That way the airplane can be flown and landed, if not comfortably, though safely.


6th Aug 2008, 17:50
Willowfly - No not at all, I am not a nervous passenger. I am careful about which carriers I fly on. If you pm me I will tell you which ones I would not fly with. I do pay attention to the safety briefing no matter how many times I fly, and I have done a heck of a lot. The one thing I do not like is flying on little aircraft, it just feels wrong to me. For example, I hate those 50 seater jets that are used by the big carriers in the States on routes that are not busy enough for a proper jet such as a 737. I will not fly in a helicopter unless it was to save my life and the reason for that is simple, my father was killed in one. I have been travelling the world by air since June 1962. Despite the interesting episode I described in my earlier post I would unhesitatingly fly. I have a return trip to Majorca, a return trip to Bogota and a return trip to Sydney, all from London, coming up in the next five weeks. I understand your concerns but go for it, security hassles are much more stressful.

Admiral346 - thanks for the technical explanation, I have on occasions wondered what was going on.

1st Nov 2008, 12:00
Just returned from a trip to Cyprus flying Jet2 LBA to Paphos. I coped - with the help of Diazepam. I had felt so much better after the responses on this thread and was feeling positive, but as the days got closer to the flight I felt my anxiety levels rising. Using the Diazepam definitely helped, I still felt anxious but didn't feel sick, faint or have palpitations. I guess I am always going to be a nervous pax. I must say the very loud mutterings of a couple behind me recounting all air tragedies since year dot for the duration of the flight probably didn't help matters. Plus after boarding an hour late for the return flight the FO announced that we would have a 2 hour wait on the plane for the next available slot. The plane didn't have any A/C and some electrical fault meant that the lights kept going out - hmmmm!

1st Nov 2008, 15:23
Listening on an iPod can help block out insensitive fellow pax!! Also, be prepared for delays with bottled water and a cereal bar in your bag. This helps to keep your blood sugar stable.