Pilot describes landing plane similar to United flight 328 on just one engine

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — There have been many questions about what it must have been like inside that United 328 cockpit Saturday when an engine exploded, forcing it to return to DIA. 

It’s a scenario pilots train for extensively.

We’ve heard the stories from so many passengers who were understandably rattled, thinking they could die when United 328’s engine exploded. But if you want to know what it feels like to land a huge aircraft with just one engine, just ask pilot Rick Ruiz. It happened to him while flying a large cargo aircraft. 

“The first thing every pilot says, or thinks is, ‘What’s it doing?’” said Ruiz. 

The engine on the Boeing 767 he was flying went out. He tells us the failure is noticed quickly. 

“You’re going to have dissimilar thrusts: thrust on one side, not on the other. That’s going to cause a movement, and that will cause the nose of the aircraft to go to the left or the right,” said Ruiz.

It’s at that point Ruiz said he used the plane’s rudders to stabilize the aircraft with the plane’s tail keeping it flying in a smooth forward direction. 

The 777, which had its engine explode just outside Denver, returned to the airport safely. Ruiz says landing a plane with one engine requires extreme teamwork. Help from an auxiliary power unit, a smaller engine that is activated in the tail, is also needed.

Ruiz said, “You just turn on your auxiliary power unit, and it’s going to pick up the slack on the electrical system.  At that point, you’re back to having a perfectly operable aircraft minus (one) engine.”

Ruiz says losing an engine is very rare. Still for some, it can lead to some nervous moments. Pilots, however, remain calm and usually safely land the plane. Pilots continuously train and retrain to deal with all different kinds of scenarios to help keep passengers safe, according to Ruiz.

In the case of United 238, the National Transportation Safety Board says “metal fatigue” may have caused one of the engines blades to crack, causing the catastrophic breakdown and fire near Denver.

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