Need Opinion: Possible Mechanical Failure?

From:         kbennett@access.digex.net (Keith R. Bennett)
Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA
Date:         24 Jun 93 00:37:47 PDT
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I know very little about aeronautics, but would like your (collective)
opinions about an incident that occurred while I was flying.

I was on a flight from Indianapolis to Washington National on U.S. Air
flight #1506, June 15th.  About 15 minutes before landing, the lights
in the plane went out, except for the emergency lights on the floor
aisle.  The engines became silent, and our downward motion accelerated
quickly.  The plane remained level.  We eventually landed without incident.

Not being an expert, and not being in the cockpit, I had no way of knowing
whether there was any danger or not.  My gut feeling, however, was very
clear.  It was *very* distressing.

Is there any way for me to find out if a mechanical failure occurred?  I
have written to U.S. Air Consumer Affairs but question whether they will
be honest in their response.

After we landed I asked the pilot what happened.  He said that he had been
told to go down to a certain altitude while passing Dulles Airport, and that
he wasn't given as much time as usual to do that.

I have been on a few dozen flights in my life, and have *never* experienced
such a drastic loss of power.  If the pilot's explanation was correct, is
it acceptable for air traffic control to be giving such short notice that
such drastic measures need to be taken?

Other possible explanations that have crossed my mind:

1) The engines failed and it took a few minutes for the pilots to get them
going again.

2) The pilot wasn't on the ball and had to make a sudden adjustment.

3) Something on the wing (flap, aileron, I don't know, you tell me)
got stuck and in a position of drag or downward motion, and the pilot
cut the power to slow the altitude loss until he could get it unstuck.

What do you think?  Thanks for your opinion...

- Keith
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Keith Bennett                              Bennett Business Solutions, Inc.
C++/C Software Development                 1605 Ingram Terrace
kbennett@access.digex.com                  Silver Spring, MD USA 20906-5932