I have a retired 747 pilot saying that a catastrophic jet engine failure could be restarted. I have little or no training, but I believe that the word "catastrophic" means that there is no recovery. My reference is the 747: The Jumbo Revolution documentary which is on youtube.com and cable TV.


closed as too broad by Dave, Federico, usernumber, mins, rbp Oct 1 '15 at 20:48

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    $\begingroup$ This question is too broad if you can specify a little more on what "Catastrophic" failure they are referencing we may be able to offer an answer. Or if you can put in the time within the documentary of the specific quote in order to provide some context. $\endgroup$ – Dave Oct 1 '15 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ I think you've already identified the problem with this question: what does "catastrophic" mean? (Maybe you could link directly to that point in the Youtube video, if it's on there legally?) I think that for most pilots it would mean that the engine is physically damaged and components are broken, in which case there's no way a restart would be possible. But even documentaries like to make things more dramatic, so it's possible that the retired pilot was just exaggerating. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 1 '15 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ If the document is on Youtube, can you give direct link to the relevant passage? YT allows linking to specific time. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Oct 1 '15 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Definitely depends on the definition of catastrophic. If it's ingested foreign debris and caught fire, maybe, depending on how the fire was suppressed. If it's thrown a blade, no way. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 1 '15 at 22:58

I have no desire to dispute what a fellow retired 747 captain said, so I'm wondering if there was some miscommunication between you and the captain. Or perhaps his definition of catastrophic is different than mine. My understanding of catastrophic would preclude any attempt to restart the engine.

During my time on the 747 I had three engine failures. One simply quit during descent, and I had the flight engineer restart it. One we shut down when the oil pressure started dropping precipitously. There was no thought of trying to restart it as that could well have trashed the engine. Neither of these two shutdowns was catastrophic.

However, on one occasion, shortly after takeoff from Lima, Peru, the #1 engine failed with a loud report, shaking the entire airplane. We were told later that the boom had been heard throughout Lima. The tower reported fire flaring out of both the front and rear of the engine for a few seconds. After dumping fuel and landing, an inspection of the engine showed a lot of re-solidified melted metal on the inside of the tail cone.

That was a catastrophic failure.

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    $\begingroup$ My interpretation of "catastrophic" generally aligns with yours: "A loud bang followed by either a fire or parts of the engine normally required for operation departing either via the exhaust or out the side of the nacelle." -- my assumption is that restarting after such an event is unlikely at best. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Oct 1 '15 at 19:04

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