Just how serious was the BA A319 incident?

As I write, the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch has still not told us what happened to the British Airways A319 at Heathrow last Friday (24 May).



But it has informed us, rather vaguely through a non-expert spokesperson, that information released by the US National Transportation Safety Board about the event is inaccurate or misleading.


So what did the NTSB say? It said this: “AnAirbus A319-131, registration number G-EUOE, during departure fromLondon-Heathrow airport, had the engine cowls from bothInternational Aero Engines V2500 engines separate and fall on to the runway.The pilots reported that they shut down one engine, there was a fuel leak, andthat they were returning. The pilots subsequently reported that one engine wasshut down and the other engine was on fire. The airplane landed, was shut down,and the passengers were evacuated via the emergency slides.” 


Both engine cowls did indeed detach, at least partly. The starboard engine was definitely trailing light smoke. We believe one engine was indeed shut down, but which one? It sounds logical that it was the one trailing smoke, but pilots will keep a smoking engine going if it is the only one providing power at the time.


And how did the pilots know there was a fuel leak? There’s no immediate flight deck indication for a fuel leak, so the logic is that they shut an engine down and noticed the fuel flow to the dead engine still continued. 


Maybe.


It seems – although since there is no official AAIB statement it is difficult to be certain – that the NTSB statement they reject is that the pilots reported that one engine was shut down and the other on fire.


Whatever happened, the pilots had some serious work to do, and they clearly did it well. They got the passengers safely back to Heathrow within minutes of taking off from there, and ordered an emergency evacuation.


We believe the AAIB may issue an interim statement in the next 24h, but even that is not official.




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7 Responses to Just how serious was the BA A319 incident?

  1. Roger 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Why is the NTSB reporting on an incident that happened to a British carrier at a British Airport doing a European flight on a European jet using engines from a company registered in Switzerland that uses parts from several different countries including a lot from the UK?

  2. David Learmount 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    The IAE V2500 engine, although components are made all over the world, is considered an American certificated engine, therefore the NTSB, under ICAO Annex 13, is expected to play a part in the investigation. But the AAIB leads this investigation by virtue of geography.

  3. Aero Ninja 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    That is the issue, isn’t it. Why is the NTSB shooting out statements if it is only assisting in the investigation?

    I don’t deny that this could be a much more serious incident than initially thought, assuming an engine out, fuel leak, engine on flame emergency landing type of situation can be considered not too serious, but why is the NTSB, the observer in this investigation as your colleague Mr. Kaminksi-Morrow has described them, already making statments? More importantly, why aren’t they letting the lead investigator, the AAIB, do the talking?

    And why are we making a big fuss out of this? Why can we not wait until the AAIB does make a clarifying statment, assuming one does come within the next couple of days? People keep saying it is best to get accurate information out and it is somethign worth waiting for but now we seem to be on a witch hunt before the investigation has really started.

    If it is really a coverup on behalf of BA, something I find a bit difficult to believe, I am pretty certain that with this amount of scrutiny, it shall not remain covered up for long.

  4. John 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Given the risk of further engine failure, why was the aircraft allowed to return to Heathrow, passing over heavily populated areas instead of being diverted to Stansted or Luton?

  5. David Learmount 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    If the pilot asks for a particular airport having declared first a “Pan” emergency, then upgraded it to a Mayday, the controllers provide what has been requested. Especially when the emergency involves fire, which it did. If there is a fire on board the priority is speed: get the aeroplane on the ground fast in case it spreads.

  6. David Connolly 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    According to the AAIB, unlatched,(unstitched) cowls “off time” could have cost an A-319.
    Still, liberated of choice, close-shave worse could have happened.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Air_Lines_Flight_855

  7. David Hatcher 3 July, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I am unable to comment on the events other to say, the Fan Cowls were incorrectly latched and secured.

    Re the fuel leak:

    When an engine is shut down, whether by the condition levers or by the “Fire Handles” – both the HP and LP fuel SOV’s close. As the LP SOV is on the low pressure fuel system and is located in the wing the fuel supply to the engine is isolated hence there wouldn’t be any FF indication for that engine.

    Smoke:

    The No2 ( right ) engine must have been shutdown and I suggest the light smoke may have been as a result of the engine wind milling resulting in low oil pressure to the shaft/s bearings and with loss of breather pressure, the smoke may have been oil escaping via the bearing seals into the still hot section.

    Eliminating the Problem:

    As a quick and simple measure for eliminating further Fan Cowls detachment.

    The latching and securing of the Fan Cowls could be made subject to an ” Independent Inspection”

    Why not strictly requiring an “Independent Inspection” but once the cowls are detached it does effect the control of the a/c and in this case the engine.

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