What Kind of Plane Am I Flying On?

On February 20, a United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu raised panic on February 20 when their plane, the Boeing 777-200, Experienced a correct engine failure Immediately after takeoff, a massive explosion and raining debris rages over a quiet Denver suburb. The passengers caught the video, It has been shared a lot on social mediaOf aircraft Pratt & Whitney The engine, its casing exploded, its turbine oscillated and turned into flames. The aircraft, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew members, returned to Denver and landed safely.

A terrible incident occurred on the same day in the Netherlands with a Boeing 747-400 cargo jet. While the engine of that aircraft is different from Boeing 777 In Colorado, it was manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, and it ignited and spewed metal parts before the aircraft made its own emergency landing.

Those events were the latest in a string of dramatic high-altitude failures over the years. In 2018, another flight from United Airlines, which was heading to Honolulu, experienced an almost identical engine failure as Colorado saw. So in 2020 Japan Airlines flew from Tokyo to Okinawa. Both aircraft were Boeing 777-200s equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines.

Other aircraft have had major incidents: The Midwest engine explosion of Southwest Jet in 2018 One passenger caused Jennifer Riordan’s death. (That aircraft was equipped with engines manufactured by a joint venture of Boeing 737, CFM International, General Electric and France’s Safran aircraft engines.) And then there were both. Destructive Crash of Boeing 737 Max Planes, Which jointly killed 346 people and set the entire fleet on hold for nearly two years.

On Sunday, United, the only American carrier whose 777s are powered by that particular Pratt & Whitney engine, ordered all of them to be thoroughly tested before they could fly again, while Boeing said its worldwide Of the 777 jetliners, 128 should be temporarily out of service. . A preliminary investigation pointed to metal fatigue in the engine’s fan blades and the FAA should inspect the Boeing 777’s Pratt & Whitney engines on Tuesday before the aircraft returned to the sky.

Statistical, commercial Air travel has proved to be very safe, And episodes seen in Colorado on Saturday are rare. But keen fliers who feel an extra shock to the fliers may now ask how commercial aircraft are maintained and serviced, and how much they can learn about the aircraft they board the ship Are scheduled to fly before. Here are some answers.

Depending on the airline you fly to, it is often as simple as determining the aircraft you have assigned, taking a closer look at your reservation. Most airlines list this information on their online booking page, near the flight details.

If you don’t find it there, the websites, including SeatGuru, provide seating maps and customer reviews of most airplane models, and FlightRadar24, Which lets visitors track any flight in real time, both making it easy to see the make and model of the aircraft assigned to any chosen flight.

If you are looking for an engine model of an airplane, you have to dig a little deeper. Airfleets.net Will give you that information, but you will need the tail number of your aircraft. It is a series of six numbers and letters, starting with N, and you can search it for your flight on SeatGuru or FlightRadar 24, or, if you are already at the gate, in fact on your plane. Looking at As the name itself suggests, the number appears on the tail of the plane.

But don’t be surprised if your airline makes a last minute change that puts you on a completely different plane. Such switch-ups are common, which makes it pointless to book an itinerary based on the preferred model of aircraft.

“What you book today is not necessarily the plane you are going to take at the time of the trip,” said Brian Kelly, founder and chief executive of the Travel Loyalty website. Number man.

Kovid-19, which has followed the flight schedule of many airlines, has made this practice more common. But this makes it easier for passengers to change flights if they are uncomfortable boarding the aircraft assigned to them.

“There is no consumer law that says if you don’t want to fly on a certain plane, they have to accommodate you, but most airlines have waived their change fees,” Mr. Kelly said. “It is easier to change flights than before.”

Constant. Before each flight, pilots inspect the aircraft and its equipment; The Federal Aviation Administration states that in-depth inspections of the aircraft should be carried out at least every 100 flight hours. After approximately 6,000 flight hours – the time depends on the aircraft – the planes are called a C check, which will remove them from service for a full week or more, while technicians conduct a thorough inspection of all their parts. The AD check, the most intensive maintenance trip, involves completely destroying the aircraft to check for damage in each nook and cranes; These occur every six to 10 years.

There are additional, mandatory programs for maintenance and service checks prescribed by the specific manufacturer of several parts of each aircraft. And surprise inspections are also being done.

“The FAA conducts random checks on all certified operators in which we can view maintenance records, aircraft, or both,” said Ian Gregor, a public affairs specialist for the FAA.

In the case of United’s 777-200, the metal exhaustion that caused the engine’s fan blades to close was invisible to the naked eye. But those blades should be inspected through thermal acoustic imaging, which may reveal microscopic cracks until relatively recently; In March 2019, the FAA ordered additional investigations on the Pratt & Whitney engine following an engine failure on a separate joint flight.

“We’ve known about metal fatigue since the Industrial Revolution,” said Mark Bair, chief executive of Aviation Management, Which produces safety manuals and aviation safety management software. “It’s just something that happens. But this demonstration really showed how incredibly safe these aircraft were, as the aircraft continued to fly quite normally. “

Not in the United States. “FAA rules apply equally to all airlines,” Mr. Gregor said.

This does not mean that a violation does not occur.

“It’s not unheard of for airlines to work with maintenance issues or to cut corners,” said Loretta Alkalya, a former FAA lawyer and former professor and assistant professor at Queens Vaughan College of Aeronautics in Queens, NY. Less carefully than others. “

When an airline violates the rules, the FAA initiates enforcement action, which includes penalties. These Are published Can be read on their website and by the public.

Passengers seeking more information on the airline’s safety rating can check Airline rating, Which assesses the rate of safety on a seven-star scale based on accident and pilot incident data, audits from the International Civil Aviation Organization and even Kovid-19 compliance. The site also has a feature Compare Selected Airlines.

Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot and host of the aviation website, said, but the safety records of all American airlines are equally excellent Ask pilot, That paying attention to whether one airline poses more risk than another is a waste of time.

“You can drive yourself insane by a fraction of a percent that differentiates the lethal rate of one carrier from another,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, they are the same.”

The 777 involved in the Colorado incident had been flying since 1995. A joint flight to Honolulu in 2018 that also experienced engine failure was made in 1996; A boeing plane Crashed into Java Sea in Indonesia Was 26 years old in January. Should travelers be wary of flying on aging planes?

“The data doesn’t really bear it,” Mr. Baird said. “And many older airplanes are upgraded with new equipment or systems.”

In addition, the more aircraft that fly, the more maintenance checks are performed. “Commercial jets are built more or less indefinitely,” said Mr. Smith, the pilot. “The larger the aircraft gets, the better and better care is needed, and the inspection criteria increase exponentially.”

Mr. Kelly of The Point’s Guy explains on his site that Anyone can check the age of the aircraft On FlightRadar24, As long as they have paid for a silver membership to the site. For his part, however, he states that he does not consider the aircraft’s age at the time of booking. “The 737 Max was a new airplane,” he said, “and it was very problematic. I wouldn’t say that older aircraft are any less safe than the new ones.”

The pilot will call for a maintenance team, who will try to fix the problem on the ground (often while passengers wait at the gate). If the problem is minor, but cannot be corrected immediately, the aircraft can still fly – aerial operators follow a document called Minimum Equipment List, a list of systems and parts that may be idle and the aircraft may still be Can fly

If the maintenance issue is significant and the aircraft cannot be flown until it is repaired, it will not be taken out of service. Safety issues with parts and aircraft prompt FAA to issue Airworthiness instructions, Which informs all airlines using the same equipment as those who perform the inspection, and potentially requiring corrective action.

Before the aircraft returns to operation, the crew will conduct several series of tests, the possibility of a flight or two, before the supervisors sign the work of the mechanic.

And what if an issue arises mid-flight, as it did on February 20? The pilots are prepared for those moments, said Dan Boob, a former pilot and expert in aviation history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“When you’re flying, you’re always guessing what might go wrong so that you can get in front of it,” Mr. Bub said. “Pilots regularly undergo training for all types of scenarios. And when that happens, your training goes in. The pilots worked as a textbook to land that aircraft safely.”


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