The incredible length of time a plane can fly after engine failure

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A TRUE nightmare scenario for any plane passenger is mid-flight engine failure.

Once you’re up in the air, you’re coming down one way or another, but a mechanical fault is not an ideal deciding factor.

Some planes can fly for as long as five hours with only one engineCredit: EPA

However, planes are designed with such problems in mind, so passengers don’t need to worry about it as much as they probably do.

Each different plane has its own ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards) rating, which determines how far it can fly with only one engine.

Pilots will be well aware of the rating, so should there be a problem, they can locate a safe place within their ETOPS limits where they can radio for an emergency landing.

Back in the early 1990s, the Boeing 777 boasted the longest ETOPS rating, with a possible one-engine flight time of 180 minutes.

However, with planes making longer distances across vast bodies of water, that limit needed to be extended.

In 2003, a Boeing 777 proved that was capable during a test flight from Seattle to Taipei.

According to Traveller, the plane flew for more than five hours with only one engine and arrived safely at its destination.

The aircraft was hoping to achieve one-engine flight times of only 220 minutes, but managed to exceed that by 80 minutes.

Since then, planes have been developed that can fly even further with only one engine, including the Airbus 350-900, which is certified to fly for up to 370 minutes using just half of its power.

In terms of distance, that allows for diversions as far away as 2,876 miles – for context, that’s further than the flight distance from London to Cairo, Egypt.

This is good news for passengers, with no planes flying any routes that would take them further than an available airport, meaning there would always be the opportunity to land safely.

However, there are even rarer circumstances when planes have double engine failure.

While it is a massive statistical improbability, it’s also not as life-threatening as it first may sound.

Planes are designed to glide rather than just fall straight out of the sky, giving pilots some time to develop a strategy.

Typically, if both engines failed at a plane’s average cruising altitude of around 36,000ft, it would be able to travel for around 60 miles before coming into contact with the ground.

It could give the pilot as much as half an hour to find somewhere suitable to land, should they need it.

That’s the equivalent of the entire flight between Gran Canaria and North Tenerife.

There are some great examples of pilots successfully and safely landing planes when both engines have failed, including Air Transat flight 236, from Toronto to Lisbon.

The plane suffered double engine failure approximately 65 nautical miles from Lajes Air Base in the Azores.

The plane was able to glide to the base and successfully landed 17 minutes after the second engine failed.

Another example is the famous US Airways flight 1459, made famous by the film Sully.

Captain Chesley ‘Sullly’ Sullenberger was able to land his plane safely in New York’s Hudson river after a birdstrike took out both of his engines on take off.

All 155 people on board the flight survived.

Other smaller planes have had to make similarly dramatic landings after encountering difficulties.

Howie Guidry was taking his single-engine craft out for its first flight after an annual inspection when the engine’s power failed over the state of Louisiana near Galliano.

When he realised he couldn’t make it back to the airport, Guidry decided to land on the highway.

Keith Gros, who was driving for local company Breaux Petroleum, spotted the low flying aircraft and took action by blocking the road so it would be clear for landing.

Gros’ boss, Derek Breaux, said: “The plane engines were out so it was silent coming down.

“Keith spotted it as it swooped into his line of sight and knew it was a plane right away.

“So he started to slow down, put on emergency flashers and blocked traffic to give room to the pilot for a safe landing.”

Howie, who has nearly 20 years of experience in flying, remembered from his training that if he had to make an emergency landing he should use the biggest highway around.

“I had to make fast decision to get on the ground safely,” Howie told local press.

“Through my years of training, my flight instructors always told me, ‘Fly the plane until you get on the ground. Fly it, fly it. Don’t give up’.”

Meanwhile, this passenger’s plane ran out of fuel as he was over the Atlantic Ocean.

And these passengers were horrified to hear a loud bang as a loose bolt ripped a hole in the side of their aircraft.

Typically, if both engines failed at a plane’s average cruising altitude of around 36,000ft, it would be able to travel for around 60 milesCredit: Getty