How Do Planes Fly with One Engine

While many individuals are often concerned with the dangers associated with flying, one of which includes engine failure, the failure rate of engines is less than 1 per 100,000 flight hours. Generally, most commercial aircraft are designed with two engines in the instance that one fails, and although the thought of one engine failing can ensue panic, there is no need to worry. For the purpose of this article, we will be outlining passenger jets in particular, many of which are fitted with multiple engines.

Being a passenger on a plane when an engine goes out can be a scary experience, but being a pilot can be just as stressful if proper procedures are not met. In either case, most planes can continue to fly perfectly despite engine failure. In fact, most planes will still make it to their final destination. However, if for whatever reason the onboard crew has established it is an emergency situation, they should have little to no problem reaching the next safest location to land. For example, the Boeing 777 has two engines, but is ultimately designed to be able to fly for 5 ½ hours on just one engine.

If one engine fails, it is also important to note that the plane may face a slight loss in power, which will result in losing a bit of maximum altitude. However, what happens if all the engines fail during flight? Well, this is where it gets tricky, though it is a situation you most likely will never find yourself in. As you can probably guess, a total loss of power in the engines translates to an absence of thrust and power generation. In order for a plane to remain airborne and overcome drag, thrust and power are essential factors.

Luckily, planes do not just suddenly crash if all engines fail. Instead, experienced pilots will act accordingly and take the plane into a controlled glide, a powerless maneuver that enables pilots to control the plane as it slowly descends. While gliding, the pilot must radio Air Traffic Control (ATC) and find the nearest runway or safe place to land. If the pilot cannot reach a runway, more drastic measures must be taken, such as landing in an open field or big body of water. It is also possible for pilots to attempt restarting a failed engine mid-flight, but this may not always be optimal.

In general, the number of engines on any given aircraft depends on the model and its purpose. Nonetheless, there are usually between one and four engines. When talking about tens of thousands of pounds of thrust, the difference between one and four engines is tremendous. As their name suggests, single-engine aircraft are smaller models designed with just one engine, those of which are propeller or piston types. As previously mentioned, passenger aircraft are typically fitted with two. Some passenger jets may even have four engines, with some notable examples including the Boeing 747, Airbus A340, and Airbus A380. These models have additional engines as a result of how massive they are and how many passengers they are capable of carrying. More than that, the more engines in a plane, the less of a potential issue an engine failing will cause.

Airplane engines fail for many reasons, all of which are outlined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). To begin, an engine may fail as a result of fuel issues like delivery, exhaustion, contamination, or mismanagement. Similarly, worn hoses and fittings or faulty parts that require replacement can lead to engine failure. Pilot error is also a common cause, such as induction icing resulting from forgetting to utilize the proper heat generation during descent and fuel starvation due to incorrectly accessing fuel tanks.

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