On November 11, 2018, Air astana 1388 incident engine took off from Almaty, Kazakhstan, headed for Lisbon, Portugal. The Embraer E190 jet carried 6 crew members and no passengers. Only 15 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft began to experience severe flight control problems that would lead to over an hour of struggle between machine and man. This flight quickly turned into a nightmare for the pilots, who displayed remarkable skill and resilience to regain control of the stricken jet in an incident that many aviation experts have hailed as a feat of extraordinary airmanship. Following beefdaily.com.vn !
I. What is the Air Astana 1388 Engine Incident?
At 9:31 AM local time, Air Astana flight 1388 departed Almaty International Airport enroute to Lisbon, Portugal with 6 crew members on board. The aircraft was an Embraer 190 regional jet, a widely used 100-seat airliner known for its efficiency and reliability. As the flight progressed over southwestern Russia just 15 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft suddenly and unexpectedly began rolling uncontrollably to the right. Despite full opposite control inputs from the pilots, the aircraft continued rolling right, eventually reaching an extreme angle of over 45 degrees. With the autopilot disconnected and manual control inputs proving ineffective, the jet began pitching and banking erratically, sometimes rolling from 45 degrees left to 45 degrees right within seconds. This made it nearly impossible for the pilots to control the aircraft’s attitude and altitude.
As the situation quickly deteriorated, the pilots began troubleshooting to identify the cause of the anomalous flight control behavior. They suspected autopilot or computer failure, unaware that the true culprit was an accidental reversal of the aircraft’s aileron cables by maintenance personnel. This reversed the input-response relationship between the pilots’ control yoke and the aircraft’s primary roll control surfaces. Essentially, left was now right and right was now left – a situation guaranteed to induce spatial disorientation and loss of control.
II. What Happened During the Air Astana 1388 Engine Incident?
For over an hour, the pilots of Air Astana flight 1388 fought valiantly to stabilize and control their Embraer jet as it rolled, pitched, and banked wildly through the skies over Europe. As the aircraft gyrated erratically, the pilots were subjected to intense physical discomfort and spatial disorientation. Yet through remarkable skill and resilience, they managed to avoid panic and employ various strategies to mitigate and overcome the inverted control response:
- The pilots used asymmetric engine thrust to counteract unwanted rolling motions. By manually increasing and decreasing power to each engine individually, they induced corrective yaw and roll. However, this led to 46 recorded engine overtemperature events.
- They eventually discovered that the flight spoilers could be used for emergency roll control. By selectively deploying the spoilers, they regained a modicum of roll authority.
- As the aircraft structure was subjected to excessive aerodynamic and physical loads beyond design limits, the pilots prepared for ditching at sea to avoid endangering lives on the ground. They stoically requested vectors over the ocean from air traffic control.
- Throughout the ordeal, the pilots displayed extraordinary crew resource management, resolving to continue working the problem while supporting each other both emotionally and operationally. First officer Richard Slenczka said: “When I die, I want to die with you. I’m not going to give up.”
After 78 harrowing minutes aloft, Captain Eric Pinchev and First Officer Richard Slenczka managed to land the severely damaged aircraft safely at Lisbon Portela Airport, to the visible relief of air traffic controllers. The pilots had achieved the near-impossible, overcoming an unprecedented flight control emergency through skill, resilience, and determination. Their aircraft, on the other hand, would never fly again.
III. Why Did the Air Astana 1388 Engine Incident Become So Notable?
The extraordinary airmanship displayed by the pilots during this incident earned them aviation industry recognition and catapulted the event into the public spotlight. Several key factors contributed to the level of attention and praise this emergency garnered:
The pilots overcame spatial disorientation and faulty mental models to control an aircraft not designed for inverted flight, a remarkable feat of skill and adaptability. According to aviation psychologist Dr. Guy Boy: “That they managed to nurse the aircraft with the wrong control logic for over an hour is nothing less than amazing.”
The excessive aerodynamic forces imposed during out-of-control flight caused permanent damage to the aircraft’s structure. The wings, fuselage, and flight control surfaces were so warped that the aircraft was declared a total loss.
The incident exposed failures in maintenance procedures and internal safety culture at the airline. The manufacturer, Embraer, initially tried blaming the pilots, though they were later exonerated. The regulatory agency was criticized for lack of oversight.
The pilots spent over an hour in life-threatening danger, preparing for death while also protecting lives on the ground from potential impact. Their composure and selflessness won widespread admiration.
The cockpit voice recorder transcript exposed the human drama in the cockpit, while aviation experts analyzed the technical and regulatory issues. The Mayday documentary series also covered the incident.
The Air Astana 1388 emergency tested the pilots’ abilities far beyond expectations, revealing incredible skill and resilience under fire. Their performance established a new benchmark for airmanship under adverse conditions.
IV. Where Can You Watch Documentation of the Air Astana 1388 Engine Incident?
Several documentaries provide expert analysis and commentary on this incident:
Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript & Commentary:
- A pilot breaks down the CV transcript, providing context and explanations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7Uem4gjNY0
Mentour Pilot Analysis:
- Aviation expert MentourPilot analyzes the technical side of the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAs9Jg2zTeY
Mayday S21E03 – “Fight For Control”:
- This vividly recreates the emergency while assessing contributing factors: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7vx3iq
The extensive documentary coverage testifies to the enduring impact of Air Astana flight 1388 on aviation safety standards and recognition of piloting skills. The pilots confronted seemingly insurmountable odds, yet managed to wrest back control of their aircraft to complete an improbable landing with no loss of life.