Bleed Air

Position: Over FMG (Mustang) VOR
Altitude: 31,000 feet
Fuel Flow: 5,400 lbs./p/hr
Equipment: A320
Compass Heading: 150 degrees
Pax on board: 134


Two days at home, and then sent back to the cloud mines.

When I was a kid, my mother used to say, "No rest for the wicked." Yikes! I hope that does not apply here. I try to be a good person, even when no one is watching.

We have just crossed over the Mustang VOR on our way to KPHX for a 52 minute stop en route to KDEN. As we were climbing out of the KSEA area, Fi-Fi's diagnostic computers went ballistic when a bleed air line in the left wing ruptured or split. Just like the simulator, it happened at a time when both pilots needed to be concentrating on the flight path, energy state of the aircraft, and other aircraft in our vicinity.

I have been here, done this before... Several times. Reaching over my head, I shut down all sources of bleed air to the left wing, and then isolate the left side pneumatic plumbing. That took my attention out of the flight path for about ten seconds. The co-pilot and I agree that we can deal with the problem down the airway in safer airspace.

Fi-Fi is nervous about the left wing having no anti-ice capability, though. She reminds me (twice) that the left wing has no ice protection and that it would be inadvisable to fly into icing conditions. Gotta love this airplane... Nothing but blue skies ahead.

Climbing out of 25,000 feet, I started the email chain to Dispatch and Maintenance Control, subsidiaries of Mother, advising them of the left wing bleed air leak and my intentions to continue the flight. In a few minutes, my dispatcher says everyone agrees with my plan to continue. Because I closed the left engine bleed air valve, our pressurization system lost some of it's redundancy. Common sense dictates that a lower cruise altitude is in order.

My stubby number two pencil and $10 hand calculator backs up Fi-Fi's twin $5,000,000 navigation computers estimate of a 1200 pound increase in fuel burn at 31,000 feet. We can do that... I send my cheap fuel figures to Dispatch and ask them to please check my math.

The atmosphere is smooth at 31,000 feet. This is an altitude that we do not operate at much, except for climbing/descending. Most contrails are above us and above them is the sun's brilliant white orb. All of this set in a dark blue sky. My God, it is beautiful.

We are probably going to be late arriving KDEN, unless the maintenance techs can find the problem immediately, or, possibly, we get another aircraft. Fingers crossed...

Life on the Line continues...