See the links above to watch my news video responses to this incident. I know that it is very concerning to see the footage from the passengers onboard this flight. There was a catastrophic engine failure that exploded with such force, that it blew off part of the engine’s protective shroud and cowling. This is why you can see what looks like flames coming from the engine.
Normally, engines never fail. If you think about the cars you have had or all of the vehicles on the road, how many times have you had or have witnessed a catastrophic engine failure? It is extremely rare and unusual for this type of event to happen. In aviation, engines are designed to withstand extremes. They are operated for tens of thousands of flight hours in various weather conditions.
As pilots, in major airline operations, we are amazed at the reliability of the engines and the aircraft systems. They are created with redundancy and strength, down to tolerances of fractions of millimeters. Typically, if a rare instance happens when we have to shut down an engine, the failed engine pieces normally stay self contained within its protective shell. It is extremely unusual to have parts exit the engine compartment causing severe damage.
When you have highly experienced and well trained pilots, you can be assured that you will have a safe and successful outcome in most situations. I want to point out that this is a perfect example of why we need to stop trying to push toward fully automated, pilotless jets or for drone aircraft operated from an office building on the ground. We work in constantly changing, very dynamic environments everyday. There is no way to “program in” the millions of factors and effective responses to handle everything that we do. It takes all we have to give in skill, knowledge, and experience when we are faced with major emergencies. Our training, leadership, coordination, and decision making become critical factors when we often are called to the tasks for which we put our lives on the line each day in order to keep you safe. You can feel confident in knowing that when you have two experienced and well trained pilots on the controls at the head of your airplane who have skin in the game, you are in the best and safest of hands.
The airlines’ product IS safety. In most cases, especially when it comes to major air carriers in the U.S., you can feel comfortable knowing that every plan and precaution is taken when it comes to putting passenger safety first. The regulatory agencies are in place to oversee that all requirements are being met when it comes to manufacturing, testing, certifying, and flying these aircraft. The airlines go far and above not only meeting those base expectations, but with history and knowledge, we know what needs to happen to get the jobs done safely. The unions also play a major role in helping to keep us all safe. One major airline alone flies 25,000 flights a day. There had not been a major accident in over 19 years. Now THAT, is an excellent record.
The crew of United Fight #328 did an excellent job in handling the circumstances they found themselves in. They were able to get the aircraft and the passengers safely back on the ground. As we move forward with what has now been a voluntary grounding of the 777-200 PW 4000 aircraft in order to take the time to properly inspect each component in every engine, we know that this event will teach us some lessons. Decreased time between these type of engine inspections and follow up maintenance will probably be mandated.
Wishing you Blue Skies and Smooth Flights!