Engine Failures in Jets?


How do Airline Pilots deal with an engine failure in the most critical stages of takeoff?

Everyday thousands of flights depart every minute and Pilots are trained to be well prepared for a critical failure of the aircraft's most vital component, the engines! During pre-flight preparation, pilots will calculate the aircraft's performance data and one key speed is the V1 Critical speed. This V1 speed is a speed at which during the takeoff roll if an engine fails or malfunctions, pilots can decide wether they can safely reject the takeoff and stop the aircraft on the remaining runway available or the need to get airborne first before commencing a return to the airfield. Before V1 a pilot is mainly stop minded and as the aircraft accelerates and approaches V1, which occurs just before rotation speed (VR), he/she is more go minded as due to reaction times it could prove dangerous to stop the aircraft on the remaining runway safely without overshooting into a bigger disaster!

So what happens when the engine fails close to or after V1?

The first thing that will occur is for the aircraft to yaw towards the failed engine side due to a power difference. Pilots will use the appropriate rudder pedal to neutralise this yaw effect and keep the nose of the aircraft straight. At this point if departing from a limiting airfield, pilots may even consider applying maximum available thrust on the remaining engine, for e.g. if terrain ahead was an issue! Once the aircraft reaches rotation speed, the pilot flying will slowly raise the nose up but to an angle suitable for single engine flight. This angle is lower than of course two engine operations. On achieving a safe climb, the gear is raised to reduce drag and increase climb performance. At this point it is very critical for the flying pilot to concentrate on the manual flight handling including trimming the rudder to reduce foot pressure on the rudder and for pilot monitoring to check all flight parameters are safe and within limits. It is for instance very easy to rotate the aircraft to normal angles due to every day operations, therefore risking the speed to trend towards stall speeds and this is where the role of the monitoring pilot plays a key role to announcing such abnormalities and allowing the flying pilot to timely correct such actions.