On 22 August, a SmartWings Boeing 737-800 (OK-TVO) operated flight QS-1125 from Samos, Greece to Prague, Czech Republic with 170 passengers on board. The aircraft was flying at 36,000 feet over the Aegean Sea about 100nm northeast of Athens, Greece when the crew drifted the aircraft down to 24,000 feet and continued to Prague at that level for a landing without further incident about 2:20 hours later.
Initial reporting by The Aviation Herald
The Aviation Herald reported that the aircraft’s left-hand engine shut down spontaneously while flying at 36,000 feet. The crew descended the aircraft to 24,000 feet, worked the related checklists and attempted to relight the engine twice, first using windmilling and then using cross-bleed, the engine however did not restart. As there was sufficient fuel on board the crew decided to continue to Prague nonetheless.
Crew continued to Prague for another 2 hours 20 minutes on one engine
The pilots, however, continued their journey to Prague for another 2 hours and 20 minutes on one engine. On pprune.org, a member comments that in case of an engine failure, the pilots are required to find the nearest suitable airport:
An In Flight Shut Down (IFSD) event is defined (by EASA and the FAA) as follows.
When an engine ceases to function in flight and is shutdown, whether self-induced, crew initiated or caused by some other external influence (i.e. In Flight Shutdown / IFSD for all causes; for example: due to flameout, internal failure, crew-initiated shutoff, foreign object ingestion, icing, inability to obtain and / or control desired thrust).
Crew didn’t mention to air traffic control that they were flying on one engine
Marc, an air traffic controller working at the Budapest ACC commented on the article published on The Aviation Herald: “I was in contact with this A/C when they overflew Hungary. Not a word did they mention about engine failure we were informed about a “technical issue”. That is in most cases an air con failure for the 737 to fly at 240 or 250. So they came in at FL240 as they reached the Austrian border we sent them to Vienna Approach.
10 minutes later they called us back to inquire us why we haven’t told them about the engine failure. It turned out that the failure was announced over Prague, Vienna then called us back but we didn’t know either. Serbians were also unaware and I also asked my colleague who was working at KFOR (Kosovo) airspace – it is also operated from Budapest – but he didn’t know either.
I think that tells a lot about this airline. And just to add: This evening I had 2 A/C in 20 minutes from this operator on my frequency cruising at 250 so it’s not so unusual to see the like that.”
“It was safe to operate,” the airline told Czech newspapers
The airline confirmed the incident to Czech newspaper iROZHLAS, stating that it was perfectly safe to operate the aircraft on one engine all the way to Prague.
SmartWings spokesperson Vlaďka Dufková denies that the company violated safety regulations and explains to newspaper Zdopravy.cz: “The crew proceeded in accordance with the safety and operational procedures for these cases and the aircraft landed safely. The commander of the aircraft is one of the most experienced in the company, the crew had the situation under control and certainly would not underestimate anything.“
Czech civil aviation authorities have launched an investigation
A spokesman working for the Czech CAA confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the incident: “we have decided to launch an investigation as the procedure followed doesn’t seem standard.”
The CAA launched a two-level investigation. First, they will investigate the engine failure, which seems to be related to fuel contamination. Then, they will investigate the pilot’s response: “we are investigating from the perspective of the supervisory body over the company’s procedures, whether there was a breach of procedures when the flight went all the way to Prague“.
- Smartwings B738 over Aegean Sea on Aug 22nd 2019, engine shut down in flight, aircraft continued to Prague (avherald.com)
- Smartwings B738 over Aegean Sea on Aug 22nd 2019 (pprune.org)
- Boeing Smartwings se 170 lidmi letěl několik hodin jen s jedním motorem. Podle firmy to bylo bezpečné (iROZHLAS.cz)
- Boeing Smartwings letěl přes dvě hodiny s jedním motorem. Bylo to bezpečné, tvrdí firma (Zdopravy.cz)