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Home > Training > My experience with engine cowling falling off in flight...
My experience with engine cowling falling off in flight...
Pilot Career - Training Schools
Thursday, 20 March 2008 07:19

Hi Capt Lim,

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for this wonderful website. This is a true contribution to the world of aviation enthusiasts!

I would like to share my experience with you and if you may allow it, also with all your readers. I am a Cadet Pilot, studying in Malaysian Flying Academy (MFA). My first solo happened last year on a Piper Warrior 28-161.

During my first solo, right after take-off, at around 200 feet, my engine cowling "exploded open". It was flapping, causing a lot of noise and limiting my visibility. As you may understand, I was already sweating due to my nervousness on my first solo and I would never imagine this situation to happen!

I contacted tower straight away and advised them of my situation. Communication was a bit hard due to the noise and I had to be frequently advised of the traffic as I had trouble looking forward. During final approach this became worse. I had to stretch my neck to look from the co-pilot seat. When I established short finals at around 100 ft above the runway, my engine cowling smashed into my windscreen, reducing the visibility to zero.

But I landed successfully and soon was showered with water from my batch mates and instructors. The satisfaction of being able to land a plane with almost zero visibility during my first solo was like nothing compared to something else.

But what would happen if the windscreens of a Boeing 777 were to be smashed or obscured, reducing visibility to zero? Imagine your wipers as unserviceable. How would you land the plane? Would an ILS CAT III approach be allowed? From my understanding, this is not allowed for civil flights. Is that true - even during this kind of emergencies?

Anyway, keep up with this wonderful site!

Your regards,

Firqin Robroek.
Batch A18
Malaysian Flying Academy

Hi Firqin,

Well done for landing the Piper Warrior with the damaged windscreen! It was indeed difficult for you on your first solo to handle such an emergency.

On a Boeing 777, a smashed or obscured windscreen would be an emergency. However, it could easily perform an auto landing on a runway with an ILS that is certified for the purpose. Whether a CAT III ILS is allowed or not is not the issue for the Boeing can virtually land "blind". What would restrict it from doing so are the reliability of the ground equipment. But in an emergency where forward visibility is completely blocked, an auto land by the plane would be the only means of getting down safely.

On June 24, 1982, a British Airways Boeing 747 lost all its engines due to volcanic activity over Indonesia. Its windscreens were completely sandblasted and this obscured the pilot's visibility. The captain was able to make an emergency landing in Jakarta.

Watch the introductory part of the video below to see how the captain did it without the assistance of the auto landing system. For the interesting story, go here "All Engines Failed" to watch the complete episode.

All Engines Failed


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