It sounds like some of you would like to know a bit more about the flight.
We took off out of SFO and began heading east over the mountains. Our pilot was actually one of the more talkative lot. He gave us a complete rundown of the various statistics associated with our flight. Very amusing and informative. The statistic about getting 2.3 gallons to the mile was the most memorable. The cabin crew were also quite experienced and professional.
Anyway, as you can see from the data on this web site, we ran into a bit of trouble at around 4:45 EST. I was sitting in seat 9F, right next to the exit door over the wing and right across from a “jump seat” used by a member of the cabin crew during takeoff and landing. I’m pretty certain that I heard the engine shut down…kind of hard to describe the sound, but sort of like the sound you would hear if you stuck a broom stick into a ceiling fan and gradually slowed it to a stop.
Immediately after whatever it was that I heard, the in-flight movie froze and soon after that, the cabin crew was told to stop beverage service. Folks around me asked the crew what was up, but they claimed not to know.
About 10 minutes later, our cheerful pilot announced quite bluntly that we had lost the number 2 engine and that we were going to land in Vegas. (Perhaps somebody can verify for me that when you are in seat 9F, you are next to the number 2 engine…I have no idea which engine is number 2, but it sure sounded to me like it was the engine right outside my window that was the one which quit.)
We then began our long slow descent down to Vegas over miles and miles of pretty much empty desert. People (including me) were a bit tense…I could see some folks breaking out in a sweat. One of the cabin crewmembers strapped into the jumpseat across from me to prepare for landing. Over the next 30 minutes, the crewmember told us stories about previous experiences with engine losses on earlier model airplanes from their earlier career and also that engine loss happens about once a week somewhere in the wide world of aviation. Don’t know if these stories were true or not, but they had a calming affect on the nearby passengers.
We flew over Vegas and then down south of Vegas where there is a lot of nothing. I assume that we dumped fuel at this point. The pilot then did a long slow 180 degree turn back towards Vegas and executed a perfect landing. The entire fire crew was there to greet us. The passengers applauded and pretty much everybody shook hands with one of the pilots on the way off the plane. The entire crew did a great job of handling the situation, and there was no panic or anything on the part of the passengers. Just grave concern.
I would say the only real difference flying with one engine rather than two is that whenever the plane encountered turbulence, there was a lot more side-to-side movement. Also, the long slow 180 turn near the end of the flight was subject to a bit more “shimmying back and forth” than normal. The airframe complained a bit during landing…I’m guessing there’s a bit more assymmetry in the forces it experiences during a single engine landing as opposed to a dual engine landing.
The only other difference flying with one engine is that you spend the rest of your flight really hoping and praying the other engine is having a good day.
That’s about it.