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Home > Emergencies > Airbus A330 (CX 780) Emergency Landing in Hong Kong
Airbus A330 (CX 780) Emergency Landing in Hong Kong
Flying - Emergencies
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:27

Dear Captain Lim,

Can you give me a few lines of the latest incident concerning an Airbus A330 which has to make an emergency landing at Hong Kong with no engines.

Will you be suspecting a fuel leakage or some other things? Twin Engine planes require ETOPS compliant. This incident is indeed scary if it happens further out of land.

Appreciate a few lines when you have the time.



Dear Bombe,

It was at first unclear if in fact the A330 landed in Hong Kong Airport with no engines. Yes, there are many conflicting reports about this emergency landing.

The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported,

“Both engines on the Airbus A330-300 malfunctioned on its approach to Chek Lap Kok, the pilots told a colleague.

For at least several seconds of the plane's descent, it was flying with no power in either engine, effectively gliding at high speed towards the airport.

The captain and first officer lost the use of the left-hand engine shortly after the aircraft reached cruising altitude after taking off from Surabaya in Indonesia on a four hour 40 minute flight to Hong Kong.

They either shut the engine down or left it idling after unknown problems developed early in the flight.

With the plane able to fly and land safely on one engine - provided it is in range of an alternative airport - the Airbus, carrying 322 passengers and crew, continued towards Hong Kong.

Shortly after it began its descent, however, the second engine began to cut out inexplicably, leaving the pair to cope with dips and surges in power and the prospect of the plane plunging into the sea short of Chek Lap Kok.

Working together, the two pilots somehow managed to half glide, half fly the aircraft towards the runway in a tense and extraordinary 20 minutes as the power in the right-hand engine came and went.

The second engine cut out and restarted several times as the two pilots struggled to bring the aircraft in to land at Chek Lap Kok without lurching off course, the colleague said.

The pilots struggled to control the plane's approach as the dips in power left them flying too low while surges took them too high as they approached the airport at what the colleague said was "far in excess of the normal approach speed".

As the plane was making its final, perilous approach over the sea, they managed to get enough thrust in the right-hand engine to carry it safely to the runway.

Landing at a high speed, the pilots managed to use reverse thrust as well as other braking devices to bring the plane to a stop, setting the tires on fire as they did so but bringing the aircraft to a safe standstill.”

However, a Cathay Pacific spokesman said that the left hand engine of the aircraft had shut down as the aircraft made its landing approach at Hong Kong International Airport. The other engine was functioning.

So the plane did make an emergency landing on one engine and not without any engines!

Whether the failed engine was due to fuel leak or some other things will be unknown until the investigation is over as they would have to scan through all the facts from the Flight Data Recorder first.

Yes, this engine failure may affect the airlines' future ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) ratings for a specific route. For example, in order to achieve a particular ETOPS rating, the A330 of the airlines must prove to have less than 0.05 per million in-flight shut-down. That means, in 20,000 flights, there should be only one in-flight shut-down or else their flying over the sea may be curtailed.

The current approval standard for 180-minute ETOPS is 0.02 shutdowns per 1,000 hours of engine operation. That’s an in-flight shutdown (IFSD) rate of one in every 50,000 of flying hours.

Airbus A330 (CX 780) Emergency Landing in Hong Kong


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CX 780 -Engine Problems
Dear Captain Lim

Thank you for your response. I just have couple of more questions. I understand that ETOPS rating for that particular Airbus is classified 180 minutes, but Surabaya to Hong Kong requires around 4 hours. I think the pilot is stretching it a bit, don't you think... Although no-one knows for sure, what triggers the engine problem, if pre-flight check was performed with no problems, the only highly likely scenario may be either the engine sucks into something, or the technical aspect of the aircraft such as fuel frozen which have been reported before, although not from Cathay, could be one of the possibility. During your career, have you experience anything like this?.... Again, appreciate all your comments

Best Regards

10fps , 16 Apr, 2010
CX 780 - Engine Problems
Hi Bombe,

I am not clear if the Airbus A330’s ETOPS in the instance case is 180-minutes even though the aircraft is capable of doing so from the manufacturer’s point of view. It all depends on the technical support or number of IFSD (in flight shut down) in the past for a particular airline.

It is difficult to comment on whether what the pilot did was right or wrong as we do not have the full facts of the case. One can only speculate on the number of causes for the engine failure but this is best left to the Inquiry Board after they have retrieved all the information from the Flight Data Recorder.

In my career, I have not experienced such a case yet (touch wood!smilies/kiss.gif)
Captain Lim , 17 Apr, 2010

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