Singapore Air Jet Loses Power on Both Engines at 39,000 Feet

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Singapore Airlines Ltd. said a long-distance aircraft went into a descent to restore power in its engines after they malfunctioned in bad weather at cruising altitude on a flight to Shanghai late last week.

The Airbus Group NV A330-300 aircraft was flying at 39,000 feet and was about three and a half hours into a flight from Singapore on May 23 when both engines lost power, though one unit regained normal operation “almost immediately,” the carrier said in a statement. SQ836, with 182 passengers and 12 crew, landed safely in Shanghai after regaining power.

“The pilots followed operational procedures to restore normal operation of the second engine by putting the aircraft into a controlled descent, before climbing again,” Singapore Air said in the statement. “The engines were thoroughly inspected and tested upon arrival in Shanghai with no anomalies detected.”

The airline, Airbus and U.K. engine-maker Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc all said they were working to determine the cause of the incident when contacted by Bloomberg.

Ash Clouds

The plane lost 13,000 feet before power returned, FlightRadar24, which tracks aircraft movement, said on its Twitter feed.

Statistics on engine failure are only collated when damage occurs, usually following the ingestion of ash, in which glass-like particles damage turbine blades, said Paul Hayes, safety director at London-based consultants Ascend Worldwide, though the Singapore plane wasn’t near areas of known vulcanism.

While aircraft have also lost power after running out of fuel, in such a case the engines wouldn’t normally restart unless the flow had been switched to a new tank. In 2001, an Air Transat Airbus A330 which was forced to divert to Lajes Air Base in Portugal after losing power while bound for Lisbon from Toronto was found to have developed a fuel leak.

Even operating on one engine presents a risk, with the flight paths of two-engine jets that serve inter-continental routes dictated by extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards, or ETOPS. This requires them to stay within a prescribed distance of the nearest diversionary airport.

Extra Miles

In 2009, the A330 became the first model to get the go-ahead for ETOPS flights with a potential diversion of more than 180 minutes, according to Airbus, corresponding to as many as 1,700 nautical miles on a single engine. The change opened up new routes across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

Flight safety across Asia is back in the spotlight after several high-profile plane crashes in the past 15 months. A Malaysia Airlines plane flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur in March 2014 lost contact with the ground and then switched off its transponder before flying miles away into the Indian Ocean off Australia’s coast. No debris from that flight MH370 has been found.

A second Malaysian plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine while flying over disputed territory that some airlines were avoiding, while late last year an AirAsia Bhd. jet crashed in Indonesian waters after flying into a storm.

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