A Singapore Airlines Flight 836, an Airbus A330-343 flying from Singapore to Shanghai, was flying under a bad weather at 39,000 feet with 188 passengers and 12 crew on board. While over international waters, both Rolls-Royce Trent turbofan engines experienced a total loss of power.
The loss of power is often called a “dual flameout,” and is possibly the most undesirable malfunction to occur aboard a twin engine airliner. Fortunately, pilots are trained extensively to handle such emergencies and the Singapore Airlines crew reverted to their checklists and standard operational procedures in order to restore power, but even with their quick reaction, power wasn’t restored until the jet dropped 13,000 feet.
The loss of power was only temporary. Flight 836 landed safely in Shanghai as originally planned 100 minutes after the nearly catastrophic incident took place and remained on the ground for four hours while undergoing a comprehensive inspection. No anomalies were detected and the same aircraft then proceeded to fly the return route with only a two hour delay.
Airliners utilize multiple engines for speed, power and safety. Having more than one engine provides redundancy for long range flights offering pilots options to keep the aircraft airborne in case of an emergency. The Airbus A330 is certified for ETOPS-180 or any route within 180 minutes from the nearest airport under single-engine power. To be able to fly so far under just one engine’s power is an incredible feat of engineering, and the Rolls-Royce Trent turbofan is one of the most reliable and advanced jet engines ever built. However, a pilot’s choices are greatly diminished if neither engine is making power simultaneously.
The incident occurred on a brand new aircraft (registration 9V-SSF), which first flew on March 12th 2015 and entered service with the Singapore fleet less than two months prior in April 2015. Singapore Airlines operates 30 Airbus A330’s, with two additional airframes on order and one in storage. This comprises nearly one third of their fleet, which also includes the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777. Investigations concerning the incident came up with a theory involving Flight 836 hence the weather system the aircraft was traveling through was to blame, causing microscopic ice crystals to develop on the engine’s fan blades which degrade efficiency and performance.
The unfortunate accidents involving airplanes include the Airbus A400M military transport plane which lost power supposedly due to a simple software glitch, resulting in a horrific crash. Another example is an incident that occurred in 2008, when a British Airways Boeing 777 experienced a dual engine flameout while on approach to London Heathrow. The plane landed short of the runway due to lack of thrust, resulting in a total hull loss and 47 injuries. The Air Accidents Investigations Branch of the British government determined the cause to be a loss of flow in the aircraft’s fuel system as a result of ice buildup. Written by Flight Club.
In the cyber world hackers also have been given credit for stabilizing flights. A good example was the Chris Roberts case where he gained access an airplane’s system using the Cat6 ethernet cable with a modified connector to connect his laptop computer to the IFE system while in flight. After gaining access to the IFE system, he overwrote code on the airplane’s Thrust Management Computer while aboard a flight. The hacker then successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the ‘CLB’ or climb command. He then used Vortex software after compromising the airplanes networks, he used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system. Through all that Chris was able to correct the plane’s vulnerability.