Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flying an A330 like a glider

About six years ago I was learning to fly gliders. I spent about 40 flights, and though I never got the opportunity to finish my training and obtain a license, my coach had taught me how to appreciate the nuances of flying. He always believed that flying a glider was far tougher than a power-plane (since you have no engine support in a glider), but a good pilot must always learn to fly gliders since it kept them closer to the physics (and nature) of flying. He always said that a pilot who understood gliding should be able to bring down any powerless aircraft to safety (given the conditions, of course). He also cited an example of a pilot doing so, but I forgot the details.

I rediscovered the case. Captain Robert Piché and First Officer Dirk DeJager safely brought down an A330 (Air Transat 236) after all the engines stopped due to a fuel tank leak. The first engine failed at 39000 feet and the second at 33000 feet. From there on, the pilots adopted the principles of gliding to safely bring it home with no casualties or structural damage to the aircraft. Though they were also blamed for not detecting the leak properly and not following the checklist, credit must be given for the application of safety and presence of mind to bring it safely. My appreciation to them.

Oh and you can watch the National Geographic feature on the flight:







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