Reading some reports, about the failure of crew members to fully understand the fault on engines, rarely, but it happens, the crew can misjudge the engine on fire, shutting down the good one. On airlines where you fly, is there any standard procedure to avoid this event, I mean, shutting the good engine, instead of the bad one?

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    $\begingroup$ The question that Simon points to is itself marked as duplicate, however the answer given in it before it was so marked is the answer that I believe would be given here, so I agree with this duplicate marking. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell After reading your comment I've just nominated the linked question to be reopened. I don't see any reasonable way that a question about shutting down an engine can be a dupe of one about bank angles. It looks like over-generalizing to me. Others may disagree, of course :-) $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about a standard procedure, but I was taught to say aloud "dead leg, dead engine", meaning that the leg you are not pushing with to maintain directional control is the one with the problem. Only works on twins of course, and only if they have lost power. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ This video might be interesting: note that both pilots have to agree (affirm) before 1) thrust to idle, 2) engine master switch off and 3) engine fire switch on. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ As a PPL, I was watching a CFII in a twin-sim when he was given an engine out situation. He ended up shutting down the good one. When we talked about his thinking later, one major factor was that in his mind, one engine was dead... and you don't bother giving control inputs to a dead engine. (kinda seems common-sense, right?) So he ended up going through the shutdown sequence, but on the good engine. Obviously, task saturation was another major factor. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


Procedures exist

If you read about the Kegworth crash you will see that the pilot started to follow a procedure he has been trained on but was interrupted by an ATC call and failed to complete the procedure. The procedure involves checking the engine vibration meters and reviewing decisions.

So, yes, procedures exist.

Procedures vary

Procedures vary depending on exact aircraft model and on the airline operating the aircraft. Some airlines use more memory checklists than other airlines. So it isn't possible to list a specific procedure that is used by all pilots of multi-engined aircraft.

Identifying problems

Pilots don't start from the point "we need to shut down engine No 2" they start from some observable event like "smoke in the cockpit" (as in the example incident above)

There are instruments on the instrument panel that show engine temperatures, vibration and other parameters that should usually make it evident which engine is not performing normally.

Here's an example procedure - note that this isn't the one for the airline and plane model in the incident above but it is probably similar enter image description here enter image description here

Note the points

  • Eliminates No 2 engine as source ...
  • ...
  • Eliminates No 1 engine as source ...
  • $\begingroup$ There are also the instruments which might be able to tell the pilot(s) if an engine is goofing up. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ The main problem as I recall was that their systems knowledge was not up to date on the 734 and they had received no type training. On 731, 732 and 733, cabin conditioning air was drawn from engine 2. On the 734, it is drawn from engine 1. They could smell smoke co-incident with the engine failure and the bad systems knowledge was a strong driver in their decision that engine 2 had failed. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon: Yes, however the Q was "are there procedures" - so I decided the actual contributing factors in this incident were not especially relevant to my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I still have a question: Suppose, engine number 1 fire (twin engined aircraft). For any reason (poor training or poor CRM), the crew shut the engine number 2 down. TO AVOID THIS, is there any procedure (standand one) to be followed, to avoid this to happen? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ @user12207: See update $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:12

The point is to be sure that the affected engine is shut down. Boeing has inserted a recommendation for that in their Flight Crew Training Manual (FCTM), mentioning explicitly:

  • Mistakes were done in the past.
  • Don't hurry in the engine shutdown.
  • PF must coordinate with the PM in the procedure.

The procedure also includes to retard thrust on the affected engine slowly. It gives time to feel something unexpected, like the aircraft loosing power on both engines (for a twin).

You can find such recommendation in the Boeing 737 NG FCTM and the 777 FCTM, like this one, page 308 (this is logical page 8-8 in both manuals).

Recommended technique for in-flight engine shutdown
Extract for convenience:

enter image description here

These FCTM are usually customized by operators / airlines before being used for crew training, so the recommendation may be improved or edited to better fit the company standards, but that's the idea.

The recommendation is not to be confused with the checklist for shutting down an engine, which depends on the cause of the problem. The checklists are part of the non-normal checklists (referenced in the extract above as NNC). E.g. if there is a fire detected, the crew will apply the related NNC which is found in the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH), like this one, page 170. Extract for convenience:

enter image description here

While the NNC in the QRH just provides steps like:

Thrust lever (affected side) . . . . . .  Confirm. . . . . . . . . .  Idle

the FCTM recommendation provides a way to train crews to ensure the affected side is properly identified.

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    $\begingroup$ This is similar to what I was taught, and some have the PIC guard the good engine(s) before the bad one is shut down as well. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 14:58

The design of the cockpit itself shows that there is a procedure.

If you look in places like Airliners.net the upper panel in an Airbus, you will find that the extinguishers have a cover to prevent the unintentional activation.

Beyond that, a common approach is asking the pilot monitoring for confirmation about which engine has problems before pressing the button. Of course, to make it work, it has to be emphasized in the training process. I have been a witness in a situation where the pilot asking for confirmation had already the finger on the switch...if that is not corrected, you can be sure that, whatever the answer of the other pilot should be, he would press that button.

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    $\begingroup$ According to the 737NG flight manual that mins shared, the PM should have his hand on the switch/button when confirming with the PF that the correct one has been selected. Therefore, witnessing a situation where this happened doesn't seem all that unusual. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 17:47

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