Pilots forget to start the second engine

David Parker Brown has written a post on the AirlineReporter blog about a recent incident where two regional jet pilots in the USA forgot to start the second engine – a very careless and obvious mistake. Brown began his post by first pointing out just how complicated flying a airline aircraft is and how airlines usually use one engine during taxi to conserve on fuel. This is followed by written and verbal checklists along with a dose of common sense that ensures that pilots are prepared for takeoff with both engines.

However, Brown then mentioned a Wall Street Journal article about two recent incidents where pilots for USA based commuter airlines had forgotten to start their second engine during take off but luckily no one was hurt and the takeoffs were successfully aborted. In the first incident, American Eagle pilots got distracted talking to the control tower and after they started to take off, they received an automated warning that showed the second engine wasn’t operating properly. They assumed the engine had malfunctioned – until mechanics found that it was never started. In the second incident that involved Trans States Airlines, the pilots didn’t realize the second engine wasn’t on until they were lined up for takeoff and already at full throttle.

What are the lessons here for general aviation pilots? Simply put, if airline pilots who fly nearly everyday for a living can become distracted and miss something as critical and obvious as starting the second engine, a general aviation pilot who flies more irregularly could certainly make a similar mistake. In other words, always remember your checklists and always exercise common sense when in the cockpit – especially if you have not been flying regularly.  

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3 Responses to Pilots forget to start the second engine

  1. Timberati May 22, 2010 at 15:58 #

    Matthew, have you read The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande ? I confess that I have not. I've seen interviews about the subject and his point was that checklists are extremely useful for complicated processes.

    • Matthew Stibbe May 22, 2010 at 17:27 #

      I haven't read that yet, but I did download a sample to my Kindle last week and I'm going to check it out. (If you'll pardon the pun.) Matthew

  2. Chris Parkes June 12, 2011 at 03:06 #

    Interesting – can we also factor in that commuter airline pilots are rushed off their feet and fatigued a lot of the time?

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