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I was recently on a flight aboard an Airbus A380 where the flight was delayed 2 hours. The reason was claimed to be a start valve fault on engine #4, where it was stuck closed. According to the captain, they were able to get the engine started after manually starting the engine at the gate. How does this work?

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Perusing the A380 Training Guide, Edition 01, 01 Sep 2008, Section 5 - Engine Starts, Subsections 5.8.6 (Engine Start Valve Stuck Closed),

5.8.6 Engine Start Valve Stuck Closed

  1. ECAM actions – ENGINE MASTER OFF.
  2. Check MEL, and in conjunction with, advise LAE of situation in preparation for Start Valve Manual Operation.
  3. For Start Valve Manual Operation on Engines #2 and #4, the adjacent engine (if already running) will require shutdown, to enable LAE’s access to the manual start override procedure on the port side of the affected engine.
  4. As the CAB Pb on the RMP is common to the Cockpit, Ground and Cabin Crew, advise the Cabin Crew to refrain from using the Cabin Interphone during the procedure.
  5. When ready, accomplish normal engine start sequence:
    a) Engine Start Selector to IGN/START.
    b) Engine Master Lever to ON.
    c) Command LAE to OPEN START VALVE AND KEEP OPEN.
    d) At 50%N3, command LAE, START VALVE CLOSE.
    e) Monitor engine parameters closely until stabilized.
  6. Advise Cabin Crew upon completion of procedure.
  7. In flight, only windmilling start will be available.

Glossary (correct if needed, please):
ECAM = Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor
LAE = Licensed Aircraft Engineer
CAB = Cabin
Pb = Pushbutton
RMP = Radio Management Panel
IGN = Ignition
N1/N2/N3 = N1 is LP (Low Pressure stage), N2 is IP (Intermediate Pressure stage), N3 is HP (High Pressure stage)
MEL = Minimum Equipment List

  1. ECAM will display "ENG MASTER X ........ OFF" (X will be the engine with stuck valve) (A320 display, only shows two engines, instead of four) (The message will appear in the lower left quadrant.)

  2. Check the Minimum Equipment List (MEL) to determine if loss of engine is GO, GO IF, or NO GO, if failure is not in the MEL, it is classified by default as NO GO. Advise the on-site Licensed Aircraft Engineer (LAE) of the warning message in preparation for completing the Start Valve Manual Operation procedure.

  3. If the engine with the stuck valve is #2 (left side inboard) or #4 (right side outboard), the adjacent engine will be required to be shutdown before commencing the manual start procedure. (This is because the engineer has to access the left side of the engine and for safety's sake the other engine, which would be gehind him must be shut down. If the fault is on the left outboard (#1) then the engineer would be on the far side of the engine from the #2 so #2 does not need to be shutdown.)

  4. Since the Cabin Pushbutton (CAB Pb) on the Radio Management Panel (RMP) is common to the Cockpit, the Cabin Crew area AND the Ground circuit, the pilot should advise the Cabin Crew to not use the Cabin Interphone during the procedure. (If the pilot and the engineer are discussing starting the engine (or not) they don't want a flight attendant to be talking about starting pre-flight stuff at the same time, if the engineer heard the word start, he might wrongly assume it was the pilot.)

  5. When pilot and engineer are ready, begin the normal engine start sequence with changes:

    a) Turn the Engine Start Selector to IGN/START. (This is a panel from an A320, so only two engines are shown.)

    b) Flip the Engine Master Lever (For the faulted engine) to ON. (This is a panel from an A320, so only two engines are shown.)

    c) Over the interphone, command the engineer to manually open the start valve and keep it open. (I haven't yet looked for and found a schematic for an example engine, sorry. As shown in other diagrams/answers, it might be a socket wrench, etc.)

    d) Watch the Engine Warning Display. (Again, A320, only two engines.) (This is an A380, showing N3) Once N3 is spun up to 50%, over the interphone, command the engineer to manually close the start valve.

    e) Monitor the engine parameters closely until all are properly stable.

    f) After the engineer has closed up the engine and vacated the area, start the other engines, if one was shut down per step 3.

  6. Over the cabin interphone, notify the cabin crew that the procedure is complete. ( so they can resume using the interphone if needed. )

  7. If the engine failed in-flight and upon restart a stuck valve warning was shown, all of the above would not be possible. At that time, the only way to restart the engine would be to attempt a windmill start (using the flow of air through the engine to turn the engine), there are other procedures for that.

Also, I do not yet have the engine schematics to show what the LAE actually does.

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    $\begingroup$ And chance of you putting together a short version in normal english for those of us who don't speak "Commercial A380 Pilot"-ese? $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr May 15 '14 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ Not so short, but.... $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 15 '14 at 12:14
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On the 747 with P&W engines at least, there was a procedure where a mechanic could manually open and close the start valve at the engine if energizing the start valve from the cockpit failed. Obviously you had to have communication with the mechanic to tell him when to close it. I never had to do it for real, and only a few times in the sim.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be safer to just get a different craft? It seems like if it's having that problem on the ground it might have it in the air, which would be problematic, no? $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr May 12 '14 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Once running the engine is self-sustaining: If you keep feeding it fuel and air it will keep making power (a cross-bleed start valve stuck closed is akin to the starter motor failing on a piston plane: If you can hand prop it and get it going it'll run fine - it's just annoying to have to start it that way). Should the engine fail in flight for some reason jets can usually be restarted without the need for cross-bleed power (the airflow through the engine will spin the turbine up). $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 May 12 '14 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 Oh, right, I keep forgetting about that whole "500mph wind flowing through the engine" bit :D. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr May 12 '14 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Airlines typically don't have a spare aircraft on hand, they try to arrange it so that all aircraft are working, and if they did they probably would want to keep a reserve aircraft for something more serious than just a failed start valve. Also, the cost and time delay of ferrying another to a remote station would be cost prohibitive. $\endgroup$ – Terry May 13 '14 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 Windmill starts are not as reliable as some people would think. It can be difficult to get enough airflow through the turbine to spin it up. The pilots of Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701 didn't get their airspeed high enough (pilot error). My company flight tested a Citation CJ1+ and we were unable to achieve a windmill start at all even with proper airspeed/altitude out of the book. Enough to make me think twice about considering an unassisted air start an "assured thing." $\endgroup$ – TypeIA May 14 '14 at 20:32
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To expand a little on this. Some start valves have an override that requires a tool, for example a 3/8 drive ratchet (First picture). While others use a push button to override the normal electrically operated solenoid (Second picture).

Here's an accident report of what happens when it all goes wrong.

767 GE CF6 Engine

737-200 JT8D Engine

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  • $\begingroup$ great link, makes for some good reading. $\endgroup$ – Thunderstrike May 14 '14 at 14:12

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