Airplane Engine Fire

Q: I flew on a two-engine plane (19 passengers) a few years back. One of the engines caught fire. The fire was extinguished (from what I understand, engines have fire extinguishers) and we landed safely. How much of a danger was that fire and how reliable is a plane that is flying with only one engine?

All commercial airliners have fire, heat, and/or smoke detecting systems for the engines, and usually other areas as well. It’s hard to say how dangerous your situation was. Engine fires in and of themselves are not all that terrible, but this varies depending on exactly what was happening. All commercial airliners, including a small turboprop like your Beechcraft, are certified to fly with an engine inoperative. Some perform better than others, but all are certified to do so safely.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.