Delta Engine Failure

I flew back from Philadelphia late Sunday night.  I can usually say “the trip was uneventful, blah blah blah” but that wasn’t the case this time.  It started off uneventful enough.  We left Philly a little late, but no big deal because I had like a three or four hour layover anyway and I was just going to watch the Eagles in the Atlanta airport (btw, go Eagles).  So I did that and then I got onto my Atlanta to San Jose plane.  We took off a bit late, but still nothing out of the ordinary.  But then about 10 minutes into the flight, we were climbing out of the Atlanta area and we were at like 15,000 feet when I heard a loud “clunk” on the right side of the plane.  It was not a sound I’d heard before on an airplane, especially considering that the landing gear was already up (lowering and raising the landing gear can make some weird noise sometimes).  I was seated very close to some of the stewardesses (they were still seated) and they let out some short shrieks, so I knew something was up.  I don’t think there’s too much that can faze an airplane employee on a flight.  So I was a little freaked out.

However, even after the clunk, the only thing that happened was a noticeable drop in velocity.  For a second or two, it felt like someone had tapped the breaks a little too hard in a car.  But we were still flying along pretty normally and about five seconds later, you would have had no idea anything happened.  So three or four minutes after the sound, a flight attendant got on the loud speaker and made an announcement that went something like this (paraphrasing): Hi, this is Kyle, you made have heard a noise on the right side of a plane.  It was an engine failure.  The pilots are currently busy running checks and tests, but we will make an announcement as soon as we can about what’s going to happen.  Thank you. I was, surprisingly, not very freaked out.  Neither was anyone else around me from what I could see.  I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I knew that these jets can fly around on one engine so, as long as we had one engine, we’d be okay.  A few minutes later they updated us and said that we were running on one engine and that we’d be heading back to Atlanta.  It took them about 25 minutes to get us back to Atlanta because I guess they needed to find a spot in the busy runway schedule.  So we landed on the ground and some fire trucks came over to check out the plane — supposedly it’s part of a SOP for this situation because there wasn’t an ongoing fire in the engine as far as I know.  Anyway, we got off the plane and a few hours later we got back on a new plane and flew down to Costa Rica.

So today I did a little research.  I wanted to see how often these things happen, how dangerous it really is, etc.  I found something VERY interesting from a few months ago:

An Aug. 6 Delta flight from Las Vegas on a Boeing 757-232 jet with Pratt & Whitney PW2037 engines had a problem at the start of its takeoff, according to the NTSB. The pilots heard a loud bang and saw that the right engine had lost power. The flight returned to the gate. There was no fire and no injuries, the NTSB said.


The FAA believes the problem is a “manufacturing quality” issue, said spokeswoman Laura Brown. “We’re working aggressively on an appropriate response,” Brown said.

Okay, so, here’s the thing: Atlanta to San Jose flights are, normally, a 757. The one last night definitely was a 757. I have no idea how to find out if it was a 757-232, but in my research related to the Boeing 757, I found the following on Wikipedia:

Prior to July 2007, American Airlines was the largest operator, operating a total of 141 757s. American Airlines has retired their 757 fleet that was inherited via American’s buyout of TWA, due to the fact that they use Pratt & Whitney engines rather than Rolls-Royce like most of American’s 757s.

If Delta was using a Pratt & Whitney-powered 757-232 against the recommendation of the NTSB, I will seriously question ever flying on Delta again. It would be utterly absurd for them to put their customers in harms way in such a reckless manner. I’m not sure of the best way to figure out what happened, but I am going to ask around and see what the deal is. However, the bottom line is that it was good to get home.

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Disclosure: I may steal this idea at some point for one of the sites I run. Seems like a good idea to me.

8 thoughts on “Delta Engine Failure

  1. Unknown Webmaster

    2 out of the 4 times I have flown with Delta Airlines, something has gone awry.

    One time a pilot go sick, and we sat on a runway for a good 2 hours while waiting for a replacement (I were told by an employee that they could have avoided it if they had planned things properly).
    Oh yeah, they served me a half frozen pizza and some salad with ice on top while waiting.

    The last time our travle plan were supposed to be like this:
    Frankfurt (Europe)->Atlanta (USA)
    Loaf about for an hour.
    Atlanta->San Francisco

    They had some trouble with the boarding system, and the takeoff got delayed 2 hours. When we landed in the US we missed our connecting flight by 10-15 minutes (they pilot hit the gas).

    Then we had to stand in line at the “ticket reissuing counter” for 30 minutes, and then spend another 30 minutes while they figured out that the 40 persons were indeed traveling as a group as they said they were, and that it was indeed weird that nobody had held back the plane.

    Then we had to “not leave the area” i.e. sit on the floor while they booked us a hotel. To their credit the hotel were nice, but having to leave our luggage at the airport (for no apparent reason) put a lid on the joy.

    As soon as something isn’t just run-of-the-mill their whole tayloristic system comes to a screeching halt, and while most of their people seemed to understand that things were being done in a very ineffecient way, but they didn’t have the power to fix them.

  2. macleod51

    Ever since I graduated and got a job (and moved to Vegas), I’ve had to do a lot more flying. Not a huge fan, though I’ve gotten pretty used to flying and am no longer easily frightened by much that can occur on an airplane.

    With that said, I’d probably cry and enter a fetal position in the aisle had that happened on my flight.

  3. Nancy

    Nat –

    Michael’s brother (my stepson) works for Delta. If you give me the flight info, I bet I could find out what kind of plane that was.

  4. Poker Cats

    I think this AP story from the October incident fills in some of the details you are wondering about, particularly the part about inspecting the planes on scheduled service, not pulling all of them from service.

    Delta to inspect 757s after engine failure
    18-10-2008 – 06:43
    Delta Air Lines Inc. said Friday it will inspect the engines on its 132 Boeing 757 jetliners after one engine failed and another on an American Airlines plane developed cracks.

    The National Transportation Safety Board has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to order the inspections, citing “serious concerns that warrant immediate action by the FAA.”

    As of Friday the FAA had not made a decision. It has said it needs to determine if all Pratt & Whitney PW2037 engines need inspections, or just those made during a certain time period.

    Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said Delta will inspect its planes during scheduled maintenance, rather than pulling the planes out of service to do the checks.

    The NTSB began examining the engines after Delta pilots heard a bang and lost engine power during the takeoff roll at the Las Vegas airport on Aug. 6. The plane returned to the parking area and no one was hurt.

    Investigators found that four turbine blades had broken loose and hurtled into the jet’s engine. They also found several broken, cracked or missing lugs that hold turbine blades.

    The NTSB said the engine’s case is designed to contain one broken turbine blade, but not the four that came loose on the Delta flight. And it was just good luck that the blades flew down, because if they had flown left they “would have been directed at the fuel tank in the wing, which could have resulted in a fuel leak and fire,” the NTSB wrote.

    Delta told the NTSB that it had discovered damaged lugs while doing work on an American Airlines jetliner with the same PW2037 engine. It was not clear when the work was done, but American no longer flies 757s with those engines, a spokesman said. The NTSB also said damaged lugs have been found in four other PW2037 engines. It said Pratt & Whitney has not shared information about those other four incidents.

    American got 19 Pratt-powered 757s when it bought TWA, but it returned those planes to leasing companies because the engines differed from those in the rest of its 757 fleet, making them more expensive to maintain and operate, spokesman Tim Smith said. The last 757 with that engine left American’s fleet in October 2007. He said American, a unit of AMR Corp., did not get rid of the TWA planes because of concerns about the engines.

    The PW2037 engines are used on 289 aircraft at airlines that also include UAL Corp.’s United and Northwest Airlines Corp. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said on Friday that it is not doing immediate inspections but will work with the FAA “until something is determined” about what is needed.

  5. Yorkshire Pud

    Jesus, scary stuff! I have never experienced anythig like that on a plane although I have a friend who once took off, had to turn around, get off the plane whislt a team of mechanics messed with the engine then got back on the same plane for an 8 hour flight! There is no way I would have gotten on the same plane without a ton of booze in me!

  6. Steve D

    I was actually on the Aug 6, Delta flt out of LAS,
    and was sitting, window seat right behind the engine.
    The plane got about 100 yds or so down the runway, full engine throttle when a large boom sounded, along with an explosion, and flames shooting out of the engine. the plane quickly came to a stop. The fire appeared to go out within seconds, and after about 1 hour on the runway, the plane made it back to the gate. Apparently i was the only one who witnessed the exposion (which was basically the turbines breaking apart and shooting out the back of the engine), because when i told alot of the other passengers what i saw, they were horrified. This was later backed up when the pilot deemed it a catostrofic engine failure.
    A new plane arrived 3hours later, but there was no crew to fly it. so a total of 9 hours later, we took off. for the 9 hours we each recieved a $7 food voucher, and were told on the new flight that we were required to pay for our dinners.
    i guess an engine failure + 9 hour delay only = $7 food voucher. we did get a $100 crdit toward a future delta flt, which i probably won’t use after reading all the safety issues Delta has.

  7. Teresa Y.

    I was just on a Delta flight from SFO to JFK and we experienced “engine failure” at 30,000 feet about half way into out flight. The same thing happened…a loud sound, the engine puttered and died, and then the plane lost thrust. I was concerned at first, but then freaked out when the 2 flight attendants in front of me RAN to their seats, strapped themselves in, and then held hands and PRAYED! Shouldn’t they have more experience than that in situations like this?! We ended up landing in Omaha with $14 food vouchers and an 8 hour delay.

    We were on a 737 plane…do you know if they are also equipped with the “bad” engines?

  8. Timothy Turner

    Delta sucks!!!!! I flew my daughter from Nashville, to Duluth, Mn. Delta lost a engine over Indy. She set there for over 4 & 1/2 hours, but when she got to Duluth, it was 35 degrees, and she did not have any clothes!! Delta sent them to Detroit!
    How many engines has Delta lost????? A month later, I heard on the news, that Delta had lost another engine in a southern state, and six more over Europe!!!!!!

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