Although jet engine failures are rare occurrences in modern aviation, they still occur. If a pilot announces the complete failure of the aircraft engines, most people onboard will enter a state of panicked disbelief. Aircraft are heavy and slow when they lose power, and this shortens the time frame for everybody onboard to quickly respond to an engine’s failure and collaborate to land the flight safely. The action undertaken by the flight crew in such cases is akin to engine failure scenarios in twin-engine aircraft. This blog will explain the possible causes of engine failures in multi-jet engines and the preventative measures to overcome them.
Possible reasons for jet engine failures could be structural, such as having defective aircraft components. Fuel-related issues have an additional role, where contamination of the fuel tank can lead to an utter breakdown of the engines if not checked in time. Another reason could be the failure to use carburetor heat during aircraft descents, leading to induced icing in cold conditions. Meanwhile, mechanical failures can also cause severe damage, such as under-torquing cylinders as a result of damaged rod nuts, fuel pumps, and bolts that can harm sensitive engine parts, or by having worn-out fittings, hoses, and the neglect for proper magneto maintenance.
Sometimes, certain cases of in-flight shutdowns are not directly attributable to engine failures, but they can induce damage to the engines. For instance, a compressor surge is caused as a result of an interruption in the airflow within a gas turbine jet engine and is characterized by a loud explosion with flames emerging from the engine’s tailpipe and inlet. A fuel control fault is another event where the engine is not directly involved in a failure, but can catch fire in its exhaust pipe due to excess fuel in the combustion chamber. Furthermore, fluctuating fuel pressure, oil leaks, cracks in cylinders, and other external factors can also contribute to turbojet engine failures.
Not succumbing to panic at the realization of jet engine failure is crucial for pilots to maintain their decision-making and recall abilities. In such cases, relying on safety instructions provided during pilot training becomes paramount, emphasizing maintaining glide speed, informing everybody onboard by declaring an emergency, and looking for a safe place to land. In addition, pilots should confirm whether the engine has completely lost power by checking the exhaust gas temperature and the turbine inlet temperature gauge. While these mechanical indicators can reflect the failure of a single-cylinder, more advanced individual monitors can display the failure of all engine cylinders. Pilots should also keep their checklist of instructions handy since glancing through it may lead to a successful restart. Furthermore, turning on the boost pumps and switching on tanks can also possibly rev up dying engines. Finally, if there is partial power, a quick re-evaluation can allow a pilot to check whether the aircraft has sufficient altitude to cover the distance to the nearest airport.
Typically, a passenger jet could glide at minimal thrust for 60 miles straight, even during complete engine failure, while slowly losing its altitude, energy, and speed for forward flight. This gives pilots ample opportunity to prepare for a safe landing procedure. Regular servicing of the engine to detect possible damage like oil leaks and ample practice during training are other salient methods to avoid engine failures. Furthermore, the illumination of engine warning lights or unusual dashboard activity are indicators that should be taken seriously to uphold preventive measures.
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