What Are Ram Air Turbines and Why Are They Important?

While aircraft construction has been the result of more than a century of thorough research and experimentation, accidents and malfunctions still happen. When they do, backup devices such as the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and Ram Air Turbine (RAT) are able to take the lead so that the plane can safely complete its flight. RATs are an important device to get to know if you happen to own or operate a turbo fan engine powered aircraft. As the third line of defense in case of power loss, this device uses a turbine and surrounding air currents to keep the engine running, even when fuel has run out. Already having been used to successfully bring passengers and crew to safety during historical events like the “Miracle on the Hudson,” RATs are critical safety devices that have become standard on most turbine-powered airplanes.

How Does the RAT Work?

A Ram Air Turbine is essentially an auxiliary propeller that the crew can deploy if the plane loses both its primary and auxiliary power sources. Often, it will be located in compartments in an aircraft’s wings and fuselage where the turbine can interact directly with the airstream, generating power from the constant flow of air that passes through it. Using the motion of its rotating blades, the turbine powers either an electric generator or a hydraulic pump which, in turn, powers the aircraft’s electrical and/or control systems. Since the RAT employs a turbine, it is only used on turbofan-powered aircraft, those of which are already designed to use the energy generated by rotating fan blades. Overall, the amount of power that a RAT generates is dependent on the speed of the plane at the time of its usage, so it is most effective for gradually slowing the plane before it can safely land.

When Has the RAT Been Used in the Past?

There have been several incidents in which an aircraft has deployed its RAT to provide emergency power, with one major example being Air Canada Flight 143. Commonly known as the “Gimli Glider,” Air Canada Flight 143 was a Canadian scheduled domestic passenger flight between Montreal and Edmonton that ran out of fuel midway through its flight on July 23rd, 1983. Since both the primary and auxiliary power units rely on fuel to operate, the crew chose to deploy the plane’s RAT. Luckily, despite experiencing disruptive airflow that made the airplane harder to control, the crew managed to safely glide the Boeing 767 down from 41,000 feet to make an emergency landing at RCAF Station Gimli in Manitoba. With no fatalities and just 10 minor injuries among 69 passengers and crew, this was the first in several successful deployments of the RAT in emergency situations, including a similar event involving an Airbus flying from Toronto to Lisbon in 2001.

While both of these occurrences were the result of running out of fuel, power loss can also be caused by bird strikes and other unique incidents. One example of this was perhaps the best-known bird-strike event, in which a departing Airbus A320 lost all power over New York after striking a flock of geese. In an amazing display of bravery and skill, pilots Chesley Sullenburger and Jeffrey Skiles successfully ditched the aircraft in the Hudson River with no fatalities, causing it to later be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”


Ram Air Turbines are an excellent example of the many safety measures that aircraft manufacturers take to safeguard equipment in the case of power loss and other major issues. If you are an aircraft owner or operator in need of RAT supplies and/or other aviation equipment, Cogent Sourcing is ready to support you with your fulfillment needs. As a leading distributor of aircraft components that have been tested for their durability in the harsh conditions of flight, you can rely on our inventory of over 2 billion parts. Begin procuring the parts you need from our team of market experts when you submit a Request for Quote (RFQ) form on any item(s) of interest. With representatives on standby 24/7x365, you can expect a custom solution to your parts needs in 15 minutes or less!


Recent Twitter Posts

Semiconductor's Certifications and Memberships

Thanks for Visiting Us today!

Don’t forget That If You Use Google Chrome as Your Web Browser, You Can Install the ASAP Semiconductor Plug-In to Stay Up to Date On Our Latest Deals and Promotions.

Request for Quote

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it.