A Delta Airlines Boeing 757-300 on route from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) had to divert to Denver International Airport (DEN) following an inflight engine shut down.
The 16.4-year-old aircraft registration number N591NW operating as Delta Airlines flight number DL-1343 was on route cruising at 36,000 feet 100 nautical miles southwest of Denver, Colorado when the starboard side engine (PW2043) failed.
The flight crew immediately shut down the engine and diverted the plane to Denver International Airport where they safely landed on runway 16R some 30 minutes after the incident.
Delta dispatched a Boeing 767-300 to pick up the stranded passengers and take them to Los Angeles, following a delay of seven hours according to The Aviation Herald. The incident occurred on Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 and has AiroInside reporting that the affected aircraft was still on the ground in Denver 28 hours after diverting the Mile High City.
This is not the first time N591NW has had to have an engine shutdown
While operating as flight number DL-1559 from Los Angeles, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, on February 12th, 2015, the same aircraft encountered another issue. With 236 passengers on board, the flight crew had to shut down one of the 757s Pratt & Whitney 2043 engines.
While flying at 30,000 feet 750 nautical miles northwest of Hilo, Hawaii, the crew received an engine indication and began going through their checklist. After failing to extinguish the engine indication, the crew decided to turn off the engine and descend to 20,000 feet while diverting to Hilo International Airport (ITO).
What causes engine failure in aircraft?
Other than the obvious one of running out of jet fuel, engine failure in jet engines can be caused by mechanical faults such as turbine or oil leaks, fuel contamination or fuel pump issues.
External issues affecting engines can include volcanic ash or bird strikes, as was the case with US Airways Flight 1549 that Captain Sully Sullenberger successfully landed on the Hudson River. This was after a flock of geese took out both engines on the Airbus A320 he was piloting.
Weather too can have an impact, with icing in the engine or fuel supply causing the engine to lose thrust. Modern planes can now combat this issue using anti-icing systems.
How far can an airliner fly on one engine?
Like all Boeing and Airbus twin-engine aircraft, a 757 can fly on one engine until it runs out of fuel. Unlike a car where you pretty much know how many miles to the gallon you get on a highway, flying is very different.
Imagine you have a flight that requires 33,000 pounds of fuel from takeoff until landing with a little left over in case you are put in a holding pattern or need to divert due to inclement weather.
Now, all of a sudden, you lose power to one of your engines and think you are going to use less fuel because you are flying on one engine rather than two. Well, guess what? You would be wrong, as that engine that is no longer working acts as a huge speed brake, slowing you down.
This now means that your sole running engine is working harder to compensate and that you cannot climb above 30,000 feet where the air is thinner. Now flying at 20,000 where the air is thicker, and having that large windbreak slowing you down, you would need more than 50,000 pounds of fuel to complete your journey.
Unless, like the Delta flight where the engine went out over the Pacific Ocean, you would put the aircraft down at the nearest airport and wait for it to be repaired, which is what the captain did when he diverted to Denver.