Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Flyers screamed as A320neo flight with faulty engine shook violently


sfty, indigo

Mumbai: In theory, a twin-engine aircraft can land safely with a single engine. But onboard an Airbus 320neo flying with only one engine, it does little to assuage fears, recall some passengers, as the plane shakes violently or the failing engine growls menacingly.
“About 30 minutes after departure, there was a loud sound, like a firecracker. From my 12C seat, I saw a flash outside the left window,’’ said sports historian Boria Majumdar, who was on a Mumbai-Kolkata flight that faced engine failure and returned to Mumbai recently.
“Some started screaming as the plane shook violently. It was like being in a car that had sped through three speed-breakers,’’ said Majumdar.
Soon after, the Indian aviation regulator grounded the A320neos equipped with engines that were prone to fail mid-air. In fact, there had been three in 16 days. Over the past year, the frequency of A320neo engine failures has been so high in India that the country now has a fairly large group of passengers who know what being in an aircraft with a failed engine feels like.
“Thirty minutes after we took off from Ahmedabad at 9.10am, there was a sudden, loud sound as if something had been sucked into the engine,’’ said Dhaval Gokani, 28, a marketing professional who was on board the IndiGo Ahmedabad-Lucknow flight that suffered an engine failure on Monday.
“The aircraft began shaking and we could see worry on the faces of the cabin crew who were on their breakfast rounds. The cabin filled with voices of enquiring passengers. It was scary, a situation where it’s not possible to predict how it will unravel,’’ added Gokani, also a frequent flyer. But minutes later, the commander’s voice came on. “The captain announced that there has been an engine failure, but we’re being supported by the second engine, which is working well, and we will land in 25 minutes. His voice was rather calm,” said Gokani. It proved infectious and the passengers settled down, only to erupt in applause when the aircraft landed safely at 10.04am.
Majumdar’s IndiGo flight, which suffered an engine failure on March 5, had taken off around 6.40pm. Half an hour into the flight, the plane started juddering. “I tried to stay calm. Passengers were talking nervously. The Captain made no announcement. Around 7.10 pm, the flight landed and the passengers clapped and cheered loudly. When we stepped out of the aircraft, we saw ambulances and fire brigades lined up with lights flashing,” he added.
For Kris Lakshmikanth, founder-chairman, Headhunters India, who was on board the January 10 Mumbai-Bengaluru IndiGo flight which suffered an engine failure, there was much drama onboard too. “During take-off itself, I realized something was amiss as the engine was making an unusual sound,” said the frequent flyer. “We were barely at 2,000 feet when there was the smell of smoke inside the cabin. I was seated in the front row and saw the faces of the cabin crew strapped in their seats in front of us turn pale,” said Lakshmikanth. “My co-passenger was a former Indian Air Force pilot and he said the engine seems to have failed. It was unnerving. Some passengers began crying,’’ he said. They learnt about the failure only after landing. “When the aircraft landed safely, the cabin erupted in applause. Before disembarking, I went to the cockpit to congratulate the crew. The co-pilot, who was rather young, appeared scared,’’ he added.
A senior commander, requesting anonymity, said pilot experience plays a crucial role in such situations. “The average age of the cockpit crew has gone down from 40 to 30,” he said. With the aviation market booming in India, pilots in their 20s are getting to command aircraft. Technological advances have increased the reliability of aircraft and so one doesn’t get to handle difficult situations as frequently. So when an engine fails, it can be trying for younger pilots, he added.
14/03/18 Manju V/Times of India