Hi there. I had a problem when flying in a 737-700 and would like to know if anybody else has any information about this plane. A copy of the fax (w/ further information) that I sent to VARIG follows:
São Paulo, September 20, 1999.
VARIG - Via Fax
Re: Boeing 737-700 Right engine stops in mid-flight
On August 29th, I left Congonhas Airport (CGH) on Nordeste (a company belonging to the VARIG group) Flight JH-342, on a Boeing 737-500, on my way to Salvador. Not very long after take-off, the captain said that there was an alarm going off in the cockpit and that we would return to Congonhas to have the problem checked out. He was fairly convincing, explaining that "our" cars also have lights on dashboards that go on inadvertently. He also said that we were returning just as a precaution and in a short while we would be in the air again. However, as soon as we touched down and began to taxi, we were informed that we would be put on another plane. In spite of the fact that the problems that I encounter flying are proportional to the number of flights I take, I follow a personal philosophy that says that everything that starts out wrong, ends up wrong, so, if I can quit, I do. So, I decided to pass on the flight, return home, and delay the trip.
Due to the failure of that plane, I ended up boarding in VARIG Flight RG-326 (GRU-SSA) on September 11th and, consequently, becoming one of the passengers of VARIG Flight RG-930, from Salvador (SSA) to São Paulo (GRU) on September 14th, when I faced a unique situation, not to mention considerable danger. Actually, I have flown an average of 50,000 miles a year during the last six to seven years and this was the first time that I have encountered such a problem.
After approximately 30-40 minutes of flight, a loud and dry sound echoed throughout the entire plane and the right engine simply stopped working. I don’t need to say that in such a situation, which I never had encountered before, I was overcome with fear. Assigned to Seat 3A, editing a document in my notebook, my first reaction was to turn it off, place it securely in the seat pocket, stop by row 6, where my companion was seated, and discretely invite her to follow me as far back in the plane as possible, where I found two empty seats - a place where some air accident survivors have sat, according to the statistics.
Properly seated in the last row on the left side and pretty scared, I asked the flight attendants if they knew what happened and the answer was that they knew as much as the passengers. I asked them if they had experienced a similar situation and they said no. Minutes passed by, how many I don’t know, but I imagine 10-15 until the captain, in a quick speech, stated that we had a problem in the right turbine and that we were returning to Salvador.
Thirty minutes of fear passed until our arrival at Luis Eduardo Magalhães Airport, thinking about the chances of the same thing happening with the other working engine, remembering a phrase that a teacher of mine used to say: " the pilot that has two, actually, has one, the pilot that has one, has nothing".
It was a time during which I tried to remain calm, literally "with my heart in my throat". Whenever I saw the flight attendants seated in the galley, I tried to talk with them to distract myself. By the way, these flight attendants deserve much more than the "Non-Stop Dedication" cards that VARIG sent me. Their calmness, the attention they gave everyone that called them, the briefings on the emergency doors.... everything was perfect! During the last announcement, something was included stating that everyone must remain calm since they were prepared for an emergency situation. They carried out their real role - safety agents, far beyond my demanding expectations. I give them my sincere thanks. If I could give to them, through this letter, "Non-Stop Dedication" cards, I would appreciate that you do this for me since these attendants did their jobs so well.
The shock was so great that I even preferred to let some time pass before composing this fax. Besides this, in order that I could supply/request more precise information, I wanted to learn more about the possibility of electronic equipment interfering with the function of the engine since my companion’s "neighbor" (exactly to the side of the right engine) and I were using notebooks. Also, I remembered the suspicion that a cellular telephone was responsible for the reverse of one of the engines of a Lauda Air 767 in mid-flight causing the death of 223 people (http://www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de/-ladkin/Incidents/LaudaAir/LaudaRPT.html). In the meantime, during my research, I discovered that in the last year, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) recommended that American airlines that have Boeing 737-700s do a maintenance check, with the objective of fixing a part that shows wear, resulting in the failure of the right engine since two planes of this same model had the same problem in Russia and Norway during the past year (http://aafo.com/news/737/gbox.htm). The documents I’ve found also showed that FAA Officials were worried about the fact that the parts sprayed by the "problematic engine" could get through the fuselage and injure the passengers seated near it. As if this wasn’t enough last year another American 737-700 had a different type of problem causing the engine to catch on fire between Tampa, Florida, and Birmingham, Alabama (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/nation-world/html98/altengi_070898.html).
Therefore, in virtue of the fact of this being a safety question, and there being too many coincidences with what happened with the first two cases of a sudden failure of the right engine during flight, I request that VARIG reply to this fax explaining what happened with its Boeing 737-700 (Flight 930 - Salvador/Buenos Aires [GRU-EZE]) on September 14, 1999.
I would like to further suggest that this company follow the example of United Airlines, regarding delays at Chicago O’Hare, and at least send a letter apologizing to those who were present on this flight and who are part of its frequent flyer program, i.e., its faithful clients.
I am sure that I can count on your prompt reply that will surpass bureaucratic barriers that surround a company of VARIG’s size. I thank you in advance for your response.