Down to one generator on a 767

The Delta 81 Boeing 767 was full. It was sitting idle on the ramp, ready for its flight to Atlanta. Well, almost ready: there was frost on the wings, and anything icy must be removed before flight. The waiting was induced by the de-icing crew which seem to be overloaded with the job. Brussels Airport is not that well prepared for de-icing, as compared to say, Copenhagen.

I found myself sitting on the left side of the airplane, with splendid view on the gigantic wing of that 767. The sun was starting to eat away all that frost. The captain, who was sitting in the nose of the airplane in the shade, came on the PA announcing the delay because of lack of de-icing capacity. I was reading in one of those ATPL books that came along with the ATPL theory course I had started on in 2009. It dealt with airplane engines and power generators.

After a little reading, full of patience, I looked out to the wing, seeing that all frost had melted. I got up from my seat, and walked to the cockpit, requesting entrance.  I explained to the captain that on my side, the wing was defrosted. He asked his second-in-command to come verify, and indeed, he did confirm, so after ten minutes we were in the air … without de-icing. Probably my closest thing to “Having the fish”

Seven hours in the flight, the engines was spooling down, the airplane turned and the nose sunk under the horizon. The passenger’s moving map was indicating we were just passed New York city, on course to Atlanta. Strange to start descending now already… I kept reading in my ATPL book, this time about generators. After a while, the captain came in the PA to announce that we would divert to New York JFK because of a “technical issue”, and requested the cabin to be prepared for landing. No further info given. Spoilers came out, and the nose sunk even deeper. In-flight entertainment system was switched off abruptly. A professional cabin preparation ensued, but there was no sign of distress from the cabin crew, so it couldn’t be that bad. Twenty minutes later, we landed uneventful bur rather hard on one of JFK airport’s runways.

At the gate, we were not allowed to deplane because we were an unexpected international flight. So for the second time I walked to the cockpit asking what was wrong. It turned out that their Nr 1 (lefthand) IDG (Integrated Driver Generator) had failed in flight. A generator foresees the airplane of electric power, including the cockpit and the in-flight entertainment system. They have two IDG’s in a 767: one on the left and one of the right engine. Standard procedure is that they then bring the APU (auxiliary power unit in the tail of the airplane) online which has its own generator, but they couldn’t get the APU started in air, even when descending to a lower altitude. They blamed that one on possible residual ice in the APU turbine. So they were down to one generator (excluding the emergency hydraulic and ram-air turbine generators), so their checklist called for an immediate landing, which they did at Delta’s maintenance hub at JFK.


I am absolutely no believer in co-incidence, but this one was close! As a matter of fact, I was reading in that ATPL book about the IDG on that very flight…

At JFK, the local maintenance crew did repair the failing generator: added oil. And repaired the APU: exchange the igniter, so after four hours on the ground, we resumed our flight towards Atlanta, where I missed my connection of course …

While just on the ground at JFK, I tweeted about this diversions, and it got picked up by FoxNews immediately. Wow: they were scanning Twitter like a fox …

tweet DL81

fox tweet

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