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A Plane Lost Both Engines Over the Ocean So Pilots Had No Other Choice

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10:47   |   Jun 01, 2019

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A Plane Lost Both Engines Over the Ocean So Pilots Had No Other Choice
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  • “Would the lead steward please come to the flight deck... immediately”. Sounds like
  • one of those in-flight announcements from a dramatic plane crash movie. No one would
  • ever want to hear this in reality. Unfortunately, it’s exactly what the passengers on Air
  • Transat Flight 236 heard as their plane ran out of fuel somewhere above the Atlantic.
  • It was supposed to be a regular flight for Air Transat from Toronto, Canada, to Lisbon,
  • Portugal. The weather was fine that August evening, and Flight 236 took off without delays
  • at 8:52 pm. It had 306 people on board; 293 passengers and 13 crew members. Most of the
  • passengers were Canadians, excited about their summer vacation in Europe, and Portuguese
  • expatriates going to visit their family across the ocean. The flight captain was Robert Piché,
  • a 48 year-old pro with 16,800 hours of flight experience. His co-pilot was Dirk DeJager,
  • a 28-year-old who had 4,800 flight hours. The Airbus A330-243 they operated was fairly
  • new, with only 2 years of active service. And, with 362 seats, not all of them were
  • full for this flight. It had two powerful Rolls Royce Trent engines, and, one interesting
  • detail, 5 tons (4.5 tonnes) more fuel than it required when it took off. There were no
  • red flags, no warning signs of an emergency. Yet, 8 hours later, when the plan should have
  • touched down in Lisbon, it was nowhere to be seen.
  • At 04:38 UTC, the right engine of the aircraft started losing fuel. The pilots didn’t know
  • about it yet. At 05:03 UTC, after over 4 hours of a totally
  • normal flight, the first alarming message came through. The onboard computer informed
  • the pilots that the oil temperature had dropped and the oil pressure was higher than normal
  • on engine 2, that same right engine. The experienced pilots believed the message to be a false
  • alarm. They informed the maintenance control center about it but stayed calm, assuming
  • there was no reason to worry. At 05:36 UTC another warning came through
  • – this time about a fuel imbalance. The pilots, again, thought it was a false alarm
  • and followed protocol for the situation. They tried to transfer fuel from the left wing
  • tank to the right wing tank to recover the imbalance. But that didn’t help because
  • the fuel line was already damaged and the aircraft was losing fuel at an alarming rate
  • of 1 gallon (3.7 litres) per second. As a result, the oil temperature continued to drop,
  • and the oil pressure continued to rise. It was at this time that the pilots realized
  • something must have actually gone wrong and called the lead steward to the cabin. They
  • asked her to look through one of the passenger windows to see if the fuel was leaking from
  • under the right wing. But the night sky was pitch black, and she couldn’t tell. You
  • can imagine what was going on in the pilots’ minds at that moment: an emergency landing
  • with a full tank is always a huge risk, but ignoring the warnings and continuing with
  • the flight would be an even greater risk. At 05:45 UTC, the pilots made the decision
  • to divert the plane to the Azores and land it at Lajes Air Base. 3 minutes later, they
  • informed Santa Maria Oceanic air traffic control they had a fuel emergency. This message informs
  • ground services that an aircraft has less fuel than needed to finish the flight.
  • At 06:13 UTC, when the plane was at 39,000 feet (11,880 m) and still 170 miles (273 km)
  • away from Lajes, engine #2 failed completely from lack of fuel. As scary as it sounds,
  • an Airbus can actually fly on one engine, and the pilots were well aware of that, of
  • course. But now that they realized the threat was more than real, they decided to try and
  • save the fuel in engine #1 and shut off the transfer pump. The plane can’t keep to the
  • same altitude with one engine as with two of them, so they started gradually descending.
  • Worried that the second engine wouldn’t last either, the pilots sent a distress call
  • to Santa Maria Oceanic traffic control. They call it Mayday in aviation.
  • Thirteen minutes later and 75 miles (120 km) away from the base, engine #1 ran out of fuel,
  • as well. When interviewed about that situation later, Captain Piché told the reporters:
  • ''When you don't have that other engine, sooner or later you're going to go down, you know''.
  • All that mattered to him was to save the lives of the passengers and crew. They only had
  • one option now – to glide for the rest of the distance to the base. Mr. DeJager, who
  • was the co-pilot on Flight 236, remembers they were flying as if in a simulator dealing
  • with new problems that arose every minute. It was clearly not a common situation, so
  • they had to think fast and make quick decisions to control it all somehow. The plane lost
  • its main source of electrical power, but it still had the emergency ram air turbine. It
  • only produced enough energy to power 30% of the plane’s systems, and so the flaps, alternate
  • brakes and spoilers all turned off. The intercom system also shut down, so co-pilot DeJager
  • had to shout safety instructions to the cabin crew. And as much as the crew wanted to reach
  • the air base, they couldn’t rule out the possibility of a water landing, and told the
  • passengers to put on life vests. The real panic in the cabin started when the oxygen
  • masks dropped out at 6:31 UTC.
  • All emergency services were activated on the ground, waiting for the plane to land safely.
  • The pilots realized they only had 15 to 20 minutes and one attempt to touch down safely
  • and save the passengers. The fact that they could now see the air base in the distance
  • gave them some hope. The passengers, meanwhile, were praying to come out of this alive. One
  • of them, who was flying to Lisbon with her husband, later remembered they grabbed each
  • other’s hands real tight, hoping “not to fall in the ocean”.
  • The aircraft was barely controllable, gliding down on small propellers which gave it only
  • minimum hydraulics. The pilots realized it was going way too high and way too fast for
  • a safe landing. The captain made one 360 degree turn and a few “S” turns to get at least
  • somewhat lower. You can only imagine the panic in the cabin at that time: the worst nightmare
  • of any aerophobe was coming true.
  • At 06:45 UTC, the plane finally touched ground at the airbase, but it wasn’t exactly a
  • smooth landing. They were coming in too fast, and even though the pilots used emergency
  • braking, the plane only stopped 7,600 feet (2,316 m) from the threshold of a runway that
  • was 10,000 feet (3,048 m) long. The anti-skid and brake modulation systems were all off,
  • eight out of 10 wheels locked up and tires were exploding one by one. At this point,
  • as one passenger recalls, some people were applauding the pilots, and others were sobbing.
  • They all had two things in common: shock and terror. Some people were so paralyzed by fear,
  • they needed help getting off the plane. Believe it or not, the plane, with two dead engines
  • and no fuel, glided for 75 miles (120 km) and landed safely. The crew of Air Transat
  • 236 was the first in history to ever pull off a landing like this. 14 passengers and
  • two crew members needed some medical help, and two people got seriously injured during
  • the evacuation. But the most important thing was that no one died on that flight!
  • The pilots were heroes who saved hundreds of lives. But, it was extremely important
  • that they find out how they got into this situation to begin with. The Aviation Accidents
  • Prevention and Investigation Department of Portugal, together with the Canadian and French
  • authorities started the investigation. It turned out that just five days before the
  • incident, on August 19, 2001, maintenance staff installed a new right engine. It didn’t
  • come with a hydraulic pump, so they decided to take one from a similar engine and attach
  • it to the new one. That was, of course, contrary to manufacturers’ instructions. And even
  • though the difference was insignificant to the human eye, you now know what it all led
  • to. There was a leak in the fuel hose, and it could have killed 306 people! When Air
  • Transat admitted their fault, the Canadian government fined them around $250,000, which
  • was the largest fine in the history of Canada as of 2009.
  • A few months after the incident, when the aircraft had been repaired, it resumed flights
  • with Air Transit and was nicknamed “Azores glider”. And, as of December 2018, it’s
  • still active, with a different airline.
  • The miracle that happened over the Atlantic, thanks to the professionalism of the crew,
  • inspired an episode of a Canadian TV show, Mayday. The episode aired in 2003 and was
  • called “Flying on Empty”. In 2010, a biographical drama about the pilot, Robert Piché came
  • out, named Piché: The Landing of a Man.
  • Are you afraid of flying, or do you enjoy it? Let me know down in the comments! If you
  • learned something new today, then give this video a like and share it with a friend. But
  • – hey! – don’t go anywhere just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you to
  • check out. All you have to do is pick the left or right video, click on it, and enjoy!
  • Stay on the Bright Side of life!

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Description

“Would the lead steward please come to the flight deck... immediately”. Sounds like one of those in-flight announcements from a dramatic plane crash movie. No one would ever want to hear this in reality. Unfortunately, it’s exactly what the passengers on Air Transat Flight 236 heard as their plane ran out of fuel somewhere above the Atlantic.

It was supposed to be a regular flight for Air Transat from Toronto, Canada, to Lisbon, Portugal. The weather was fine that August evening, and Flight 236 took off without delays. It had 306 people on board. The Airbus was fairly new, with only 2 years of active service. It had two powerful engines, and 5 tons more fuel than is required when it took off. Yet, 8 hours later, when the plane should have touched down in Lisbon, it was nowhere to be seen...

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TIMESTAMPS:
No warning signs of an emergency #
The first alarming message #
Fuel imbalance? What the... #
Engine #2 fails completely #
Panic in the cabin #
The only attempt to touch down safely #
The landing: shock and terror #
How they got into this situation #

Music by Epidemic Sound https://www.epidemicsound.com/

SUMMARY:
- At # UTC, after over 4 hours of a totally normal flight, the first alarming message came through. The onboard computer informed the pilots that the oil temperature had dropped and the oil pressure was higher than normal on engine 2, that same right engine.
- At # UTC another warning came through – this time about a fuel imbalance. The pilots, again, thought it was a false alarm and followed protocol for the situation.
- At # UTC, the pilots made the decision to divert the plane to the Azores and land it at Lajes Air Base. 3 minutes later, they informed Santa Maria Oceanic air traffic control they had a fuel emergency.
- At # UTC, when the plane was at 39,000 feet (11,880 m) and still 170 miles (273 km) away from Lajes, engine #2 failed completely from lack of fuel.
- They only had one option now – to glide for the rest of the distance to the base. Mr. DeJager, who was the co-pilot on Flight 236, remembers they were flying as if in a simulator dealing with new problems that arose every minute.
- All emergency services were activated on the ground, waiting for the plane to land safely. The pilots realized they only had 15 to 20 minutes and one attempt to touch down safely and save the passengers.
- At # UTC, the plane finally touched ground at the airbase, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth landing. 14 passengers and two crew members needed some medical help, and two people got seriously injured during the evacuation.
- It turned out that just five days before the incident maintenance staff installed a new right engine. It didn’t come with a hydraulic pump, so they decided to take one from a similar engine and attach it to the new one.
- There was a leak in the fuel hose, and it could have killed 306 people!

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