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Pilots idle their engines during flight

Why pilots idle their engines during flight

An airliner before departure
The engines give the plane the necessary thrust so that it can take off 

Anyone who has ever flown has probably already observed this: it suddenly becomes quieter in the cabin. What happened – did the engines fail?

The most important thing first: If it gets quieter in the cabin, the engines have NOT failed, there is no danger! Modern technology makes this scenario more than unlikely . Because just if the engines were to fail completely, that does not mean that an aircraft is in free fall. First of all, it is very rare for both engines to fail at the same time. If only one stops working, this loss can easily be compensated for by the pilot. However, should both engines fail at the same time, today’s aircraft are designed in such a way that they can continue flying for a certain period of time without the power of the engines.

When the flight noise gets quieter

To put it plainly: Anyone who has often landed in a commercial aircraft at night has probably experienced gliding. If you listen carefully, you can even hear the engines being shut down inside the plane: suddenly the noise of the flight is significantly quieter.

But what if the engines really do fail, such as during the “Miracle of the Hudson,” the spectacular landing of US Airways Flight 1549, where the turbines failed because they had sucked in wild geese on takeoff? The captain, now revered as a hero, landed the plane safely in a gliding flight on New York’s Hudson River and all 155 passengers survived.

All pilots must practice gliding

Pilots also train in this case, says Biedenkapp. “During training, engine failures are practiced on training aircraft. The engine is idled at an altitude of about 3000 feet above an airfield and the only way to land safely on the ground is to sail.”

This maneuver isn’t exactly easy, but it’s definitely doable. It always depends on how high the plane flies. In the case of the Hudson River, for example, gliding was difficult because the plane had just taken off. When taking off, however, the aircraft needs the greatest thrust: not a good prerequisite for gliding. Therefore, the forced landing on the Hudson River was an outstanding pilot achievement.

 

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