An Air Algerie Boeing 737 yesterday diverted to Cairo while flying between Madina in Saudi Arabia and Annaba in Algeria. The diversion was prompted by an engine flameout which necessitated the engine be shut down.
As most aircraft have at least two engines, if one is lost, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. However, with twin-engined aircraft, the priority usually becomes to land as soon as possible. In the case of yesterday’s diversion, the Boeing 737-800 remained in the air for around two and three-quarter hours before landing in Cairo.
So what happened?
Air Algerie flight 4411 departed from Medina in Saudi Arabia at around 03:36 local time (00:36 UTC). The aircraft, A Boeing 737-800 registered as 7T-VKH, had been flying for around one and a quarter hours when it turned to divert toward Cairo at around 04:13 local time (02:13 UTC).
According to the Aviation Herald, the aircraft experienced an engine flameout on its right-hand engine, a CFM56. The aircraft was roughly 30nm northwest of Cairo at the time of the incident. However, rather than landing overweight, the aircraft instead opted to spend almost three hours burning fuel before landing in Cairo. The aircraft finally landed in Cairo at 06:55 local time (04:55 UTC).
Dzair Daily reported that one and a half hours into the flight a “deafening explosion” was heard causing “terror and panic” in the cabin.
Did the pilot make the right call?
Online some have been questioning the pilot’s decision to burn fuel for three hours rather than landing immediately. In fact, one commenter on the Aviation Herald said: “What is so hard to understand that when you are instructed to land at the nearest suitable airport it is in terms of time?“.
They went on to reference an August incident involving a Smartwings Boeing 737. In that incident, the aircraft flew for over two hours from the Aegean Sea to Prague with only one engine, as opposed to landing immediately.
In this case, the pilot remained within close proximity of Cairo Airport while holding. Should the problem have developed any further, the pilot then could have easily made the call to land overweight in Cairo. However, had the second engine failed, the outcome could have been different.
What happened to the passengers?
Air Algerie didn’t leave the passengers stranded. Instead, they were loaded on to a scheduled Air Algerie flight from Cairo to Algier. The flight was operated by an Airbus A330. It made a stop en route at Annaba to offload its extra passengers. They reached their destination with a total delay of around 12 hours.
Should the pilot have landed sooner, but overweight, or was he right to continue burning fuel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!